College Basketball Nation: ACC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks' previous appearance in Time Warner Cable Arena was as a 12-year-old brought out for the Charlotte Bobcats' (now-Hornets) halftime entertainment scrimmaging with the rest of his little league teammates.

Saturday against Davidson, the Charlotte native was the Tar Heels' main attraction, recording a team-high 19 points with a game-high 12 rebounds in their 90-72 win.

It seems as the sophomore’s waistline shrinks, his game continues to grow. And it’s a concept he’s still getting used to.

[+] EnlargeKennedy Meeks
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonKennedy Meeks was all smiles after recording a double-double in North Carolina's win on Saturday.
“Kennedy was huge inside,” said UNC coach Roy Williams, no pun intended. “He’s got to get his mind correct that he does have a different body, that it can do certain things.”

Meeks flashed the raised fist to Williams to signal he needed a break with just under four minutes left in the game. Before Williams could replace him, Meeks denied a pass and came up with a steal at halfcourt that he took in for a dunk.

“I guess I wasn’t as tired as I thought I was,” Meeks said.

He finished off some buckets with a flex for the cameras. He blocked two shots, had two steals and three assists in playing a season-high 31 minutes.

Meeks showed flashes of this potential last season, but couldn’t consistently pull off such performances in part because of his conditioning. It’s not so much a problem this season.

His new diet includes drinking more water with fewer carbonated and sugary drinks. He’s eliminated pizza, too. It’s helped him get down to about 270 pounds from 319 when he arrived on campus last year from West Charlotte High School.

He was so eager for a good showing in front of the block of 15 friends and family members in attendance that he started off the game flat.

Sophomore guard Nate Britt said the bounce in Meeks’ step was obvious as early as his pregame dance routine when the team gathers in a circle before taking the floor.

“You could tell that we were in Charlotte and he was happy to be home,” Britt said.

But early on Meeks appeared headed for the dreaded homecoming dud performance.

Three minutes into the game, after two blown defensive assignments, Meeks found himself being benched.

“I was like, 'Aw, man, this isn’t going to be good,'” Meeks said. “I was holding my head down but I have great teammates.They kept encouraging me to just post hard and stuff will fall through, and it did.”

The Wildcats tried double-teams on the post that for the most part Meeks either bullied through or passed out of without problems. In other words, he didn’t become, what the character-limited scoreboard overhead displayed, “Kennedy Meek.”

“Coach [Steve] Robinson always tells me every day, be aggressive and good stuff will happen for you,” said Meeks, who is the only Tar Heels player to score in double figures in each of their first three games.

It wasn’t just his scoring that helped the Heels. With the pace of the game more to Davidson’s liking early, Meeks helped get the Heels out running with his ability to turn a rebound into a quick outlet pass. Williams said he’s the best at doing that than anyone he’s ever coached and it helped the Heels get transition baskets they would not have scored otherwise.

“We know that his outlet passes are some of the best in the country,” freshman forward Justin Jackson said. “If the bigs get the ball, then we just get out.”

Even that was an adjustment. Meeks said his teammates haven’t always run out after rebounds, so he didn’t have the option of making a quick throw down the floor.

“Now they know I’m looking every single time, no matter who is in front of them or who is behind them,” Meeks said. “I think they’ve prepared themselves more for that.”

The Heels head to the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas next week, where the competition level will increase and they could potentially face two ranked teams, including No. 3 Wisconsin. The Heels will need Meeks to continue to be a strong post presence and it seems he's prepared to deliver.
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It won’t always be as easy as it was Sunday night for North Carolina forward Brice Johnson and center Kennedy Meeks. After all, Robert Morris was woefully undersized in the post. Even playing zone defense against the Tar Heels didn’t help mask its deficiency.

Johnson scored a game-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the No. 6 Tar Heels' 103-59 victory. Meeks made his first six field goal attempts and scored 21 points with a game-high 12 rebounds.

But their performances were as much a function of their growth as it was simply taking advantage of a weaker opponent.

[+] EnlargeBrice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsThe production of Brice Johnson, left, and Kennedy Meeks in the season's first weekend should have North Carolina fans all smiles.
“I guess it just comes with experience with me and him being there a lot last year,” Johnson said. “… It carried over to this year -- it’s just gotten a lot better.”

Johnson has led the team in scoring in both games this season, including just 12 against N.C. Central. Meeks has been the second-leading scorer in both games, including 10 points and nine rebounds in the opener.

Any prediction of where the Heels can end up this season includes the scenario where the tandem of Johnson and Meeks are playing at a high level.

“Since last year they have been offensive go-to guys,” junior J.P. Tokoto said. “… They finish pretty much everything. It takes about two to three guys to get them stopped and it results in a foul most of the time, so they are going to be very, very [instrumental] to our success.”

Guard Marcus Paige said the team even talked about as much identifying their frontcourt scoring as one of the keys to their season.

“They’ve shown that they can do it and they’re willing to do it,” Paige said. “I mean that’s big for our team. If they can keep up -- maybe not 20 [points] and 12 [rebounds] every night, but this level of production -- against quality opponents then we’re going to be pretty happy with that.”

Carolina was undefeated last season in the seven games both Johnson and Meeks scored double figures -- including two of its biggest wins of the season against Louisville and Michigan State.

Meeks singled out the Louisville game for when the pair really learned how to complement each other’s play. It was the first games where both played extended minutes in the same lineup.

“That’s when we really started clicking with the high-low and him cutting to the basket and me being in the short corner,” Meeks said.

He added that both take pride in their ability to make interior passes and they’re always looking for each other. Two of Johnson’s three assists against RMU came in passes to Meeks and the lone assist for Meeks was a dish to Johnson.

It’s one of the reasons their results can’t be easily dismissed by the level of competition. Paige said the high-low that Meeks and Johnson worked would be effective against all zones they might face.

“That passing can be done against bigger, more athletic guys as well,” Paige said. “It’s an unselfishness and a willingness to throw the ball inside a lot. That’s not going to change.”

Coach Roy Williams hopes nothing changes from their fast start. Both Johnson and Meeks have the talent to rank among the best big men during his tenure at Carolina. They could be out to prove it this season.

“What we have to do is see that over the course of the season,” Williams said. “I thought last year those guys had some good games -- some really good games -- every now and then. But it’s got to be on a consistent basis like Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Tyler Hansbrough and Sean May. Those guys [gave] it to you every night.”
Syracuse University's men's basketball and football programs are under NCAA investigation for allegations, including providing extra benefits and academic issues, that date back at least 10 years, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Syracuse will go before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Oct. 30-31, sources said.

The majority of the allegations -- and the most serious -- involve the men's basketball program. Among the allegations facing the men's basketball team are receiving extra benefits and academic issues, a source said. Those allegations go back about 10 years and are as current as the 2013 season, a source said.

"There were things going on consistently (with the men's basketball program) for a long time," a source said.

Jim Boeheim has been Syracuse's head basketball coach since 1976.

The football team is also facing allegations involving extra benefits, but only for a two-or-three-year stretch around 2004 or 2005, a source said. From 1991-2004, Paul Pasqualoni was Syracuse's football coach, followed by Greg Robinson from 2005-08. Pasqualoni is now a defensive line coach with the Chicago Bears, while Robinson is defensive coordinator at San Jose State.

To read the rest of Brett McMurphy's report click here.

Where are UNC's outside shooters?

August, 29, 2014
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There are plenty of reasons North Carolina should be excited about this season.

Marcus Paige is one of the best point guards in college basketball. (Ask Connecticut how invaluable that can be.)

The Tar Heels' big men Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson should be among the best scoring and rebounding duo of post players in the ACC. Meeks also has proved to possess an added weapon of the outlet pass, which is crucial for a team that likes to run as much as Carolina does.

Junior forward J.P. Tokoto is the lone player returning in the league who made the all-defensive team last season.

And with a recruiting class ranked No. 3 by RecruitingNation, the Heels have depth at every position.

It all adds up to Carolina likely vaulting into a preseason top-10 team on paper. It should compete for an ACC title and be right up there among the Final Four contenders.

There’s just one not-so-slight problem that could keep the Heels from accomplishing those feats. For now, forget the fact that they had one of the worst free throw shooting teams in program history last season. That was partly because of James Michael McAdoo, who shot over 100 more free throws more than the next closest teammate. McAdoo is gone along with his 53.7 free throw percentage.

The question that should scare those in Chapel Hill is where is the outside shooting going to come from outside of Paige?

Paige is their lone proven shooter. He led the team in 3-point percentage last season converting 38.9 percent of his attempts. With the departure of Leslie McDonald, Paige is the only returning player on the roster to reach double digits in 3-pointers. His 2.5 average makes per game is second in the ACC among returnees only to Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney.

Paige accounted for almost 60 percent of the Heels' made 3-pointers last season. That’s why they ranked 339th nationally out of 345 NCAA Division I teams with just 4.3 made 3s per game.

Tokoto was 8-for-36 (22.2 percent) and Nate Britt made 3 of 12 (25.0 percent), but obviously neither player commanded a full closeout from opposing defenders. Tokoto’s midrange game improved toward the end of last season, but that may be his limit. Britt’s shooting from behind the arc is a total mystery given his switch from shooting left-handed last season to right this season.

With limited options from 3-point range, Carolina’s 434 attempts were the fewest 3-pointers in program history since the NCAA adopted the line in 1986-87. (That does not include 302 attempts in the 1982-83 season when the ACC played with an experimental line.)

Carolina might have to wait until the 2015 class to get a pure shooter on its roster. But it would settle for any of the freshmen emerging as a threat.

At 6-foot-7, Justin Jackson has no problem shooting over smaller defenders. He’s comfortable at shooting guard or small forward and has shown enough promise that he could develop into a viable 3-point option alongside Paige. If freshman wing Theo Pinson and point guard Joel Berry II can make enough to keep defenses honest, it could change the entire scouting report for opponents.

Many teams played zone against the Heels last season, a few resorted to exotic defenses such as a box-and-one to contest Paige on the perimeter, but allow anyone else to shoot from deep. (Texas even ran a triangle-and-two, choosing to defend Paige and McDonald.)

Carolina should again expect to see a lot of zone this season as teams pack it in and dare anyone but Paige to prove he can shoot from outside.
Glancing over the many challenges of North Carolina’s schedule prompted coach Roy Williams to say, “This one may be a little off the charts.”

The Tar Heels face a nonconference slate that’s highlighted by the Battle 4 Atlantis with a field that could lead to potential matchups against Oklahoma or UCLA and Florida or Wisconsin. The marquee games continue at home against Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago’s United Center against Ohio State.

Both of those games are sandwiched around a trip to Lexington to face Kentucky on Dec. 13.

In a released statement, Williams said the advantages of being successful against a tough nonconference schedule can be “enormous.”

“If you have some success, you can say that I am more prepared than just about anybody to get into conference play and that’s what we are trying to do,” Williams said. “In the pre-conference, get ready for conference play, but also to play some of those national-type games to measure yourself to see how you can do outside the league as well. It is planned to try and get better, get better, get better so that you are hopefully playing your best basketball at the end of the season, when it’s the most important.”

North Carolina opens against its other Durham rival, N.C. Central. The Eagles are coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance last season.

The “All in the Family” portion of the schedule includes dates against former Carolina players or coaches. It starts at home on Dec. 7 against East Carolina, coached by Jeff Lebo, who lettered from 1985-89; Dec. 16 versus UNC Greensboro, coached by Wes Miller, who lettered from 2004-07; Dec. 27 against UAB, coached by Jerod Haase, who played for Williams at Kansas and served on his UNC staff when he arrived in 2003 until 2012; Dec. 30 against William and Mary, coached by William Shaver, who lettered from 1972-75.

The ACC schedule is highlighted by a tough, five-game stretch that entails four road games including at Louisville, Pittsburgh and Duke. The Heels haven’t had a stretch like that since Dean Smith’s final season in 1997. It will mean 19 days away from home between facing Virginia on Feb. 2 and Georgia Tech on Feb. 21. The silver lining during that span is that the Heels have a week off between the Boston College and Pitt road games.

The Heels play Louisville, NC State, Georgia Tech and Duke twice in league play. Their road-only games are Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College and Miami. Their home-only opponents are Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Syracuse.

North Carolina landed a top-five recruiting class and, with the return of national player of the year candidate Marcus Paige, will likely be ranked in the preseason Top 10. The season begins, in earnest, on Oct. 3 with the team’s annual “Late Night with Roy” celebration.

At least 20 of the Tar Heels’ regular-season games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

“The season is a long journey,” Williams said. “… We are going to have some incredible opportunities or incredible challenges; it depends on the way you want to look at it.”

I'm excited to see: the ACC

August, 21, 2014
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Before we talk about the upcoming season, let's first glance back to 2010-11.

Back when the Big East Conference lived up to that "Beast" nickname. Back when a record 11 of 16 league teams received NCAA tournament bids.

Half of the Big East finished ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll that season.

Connecticut, which finished just .500 in the league and ninth in the standings, did not lose a game outside of conference play the entire season en route to capturing the 2011 national championship.

Think about that a minute: from ninth-best in the Big East to national champions.

I'm excited to see whether the ACC has that kind of depth this season.

It could.

The league could have three teams ranked in the preseason top 10 and at least four in the top 15. (Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia.) That last happened 10 seasons ago when Wake Forest, Duke, Carolina and Maryland achieved the feat in the 2004-05 campaign.

Having four potential heavyweights at the top of the standings is fun in and of itself -- especially with Louisville making for a new rival as it replaces a Maryland program that had become stagnant.

But just having four contenders is not why the league should be so competitive this season. The strength comes in the teams that should be fighting in the middle tier:

Syracuse: I don't expect Kaleb Joseph to simply step in and do what Tyler Ennis did at point guard last season. But if he can at least stabilize the position, coach Jim Boeheim will have enough talent around him. Fellow freshman Chris McCullough could make an immediate impact at power forward, and Tyler Roberson is ready for an expanded role with C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant gone.

Pittsburgh: It's time the ACC got used to what the Big East knew: Coach Jamie Dixon always finds a way to have the Panthers in the mix. Cameron Wright and James Robinson form an experienced backcourt, and, if forward Durand Johnson comes back strong from his knee injury, Pitt will again prove to be a tough out.

Notre Dame: Guard Jerian Grant led the team in scoring and assists before being sidelined after just 12 games because of academic issues. Grant's return gives the Irish instant credibility. Pat Connaughton and Demetrius Jackson will help make them one of the best 3-point-shooting teams in the league.

NC State: Could have one of the better backcourts in the league with sophomore Anthony Barber and Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey. There's no way to replace T.J. Warren, but coach Mark Gottfried signed a solid class with three top-100 recruits led by power forward Abdul-Malik Abu.

Miami: It might seem odd to expect the Canes to make a leap with just three players and 15 percent of their scoring returning from last season. But transfers Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) will help them get better in a hurry, not to mention redshirt freshman guard Deandre Burnett, a four-star recruit who was sidelined with a wrist injury last year.

Florida State: The Seminoles could be the sleeper of the league. They return six of their top nine players from last season, including leading scorer Aaron Thomas. Coach Leonard Hamilton's teams are always tough defensively, and, with a trio of 7-foot rim protectors, they'll be tough to score on again.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons return their leading scorer (Codi Miller-McIntyre) and leading rebounder (Devin Thomas). Now, if first-year coach Danny Manning can just get them to win on the road, where they have been just 2-32 against league opponents the past four seasons, he'll have them turned in the right direction.

Even Clemson, which lost K.J. McDaniels to the NBA but returned almost everyone else of note, could pull off a few surprises.

North Carolina and Duke have carried the mantle for the ACC for far too many years. This season there will be plenty more teams that can shoulder the load.
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Fans with tattoos commonly get their favorite team's logo or maybe its mascot, but rarely do they tattoo an image of the head coach on their body.

But that's exactly what 28-year-old Richard Miner asked for Wednesday when he walked into Tymeless Tattoo in Baldwinsville, New York, and had tattoo artist Kyle Proia ink his best Jim Boeheim on Miner's leg.

"I'm a lifelong Syracuse fan," said Miner, a chef at a barbecue restaurant in Syracuse. "He's done remarkable things for the program for more than four decades."

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Finally, it seems North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige will enter a season where things are exactly how he expects them to be.

That didn't happen when he signed out of high school. Paige thought he'd play backup to Kendall Marshall at point guard and slowly make the transition to the college game. Instead Marshall bolted for the NBA, which sent Paige into the starting lineup from the opening tip.

It didn't happen as a sophomore. P.J. Hairston figured to be the Tar Heels go-to scorer on the floor, but was never reinstated after receiving impermissible benefits. That forced Paige to take over the scoring burden.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Paige
AP Photo/Eric GayMarcus Paige, who led the Tar Heels with 19 points, hit some big shots down the stretch against Providence.
For the nine games Leslie McDonald was ineligible, Paige was the Heels' only 3-point threat. For the entire season, he was the only player UNC fans felt comfortable seeing at the free throw line.

"There were some things that happened in the offseason that obviously shook up our team a little bit -- a lot of bit -- and just kind of changed the whole dynamic of leadership, of scoring options all that stuff," Paige said. "This year we haven't any of that. Our roster has been set. Everybody is good to go. It's been a lot more relaxing from that standpoint. I'm more at ease with what's going on."

Entering his junior season, Paige is burden-free. And that may actually mean he does less next season as the Tar Heels accomplish more.

Paige became the first player to lead the Heels in both scoring (17.5) and assists (4.2) since Jeff McInnis (16.5 ppg, 5.5 apg) in 1995-96. But with the offensive weapons added to the roster, he doesn't think he'll have to score as much next season.

"Our scoring will be more balanced this year, there's guys that are ready to make leaps, especially offensively," Paige said.

Starting with sophomore center Kennedy Meeks, who has dropped nearly 50 pounds from where he arrived on campus and is down to 271. Meeks' conditioning will allow him to stay on the court longer. He showed snapshots of his potential last season including his 13-point, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the win over Louisville.

Paige pointed to forwards Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto as having bigger roles and he said the freshmen trio of Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson were all talented scorers as well. He said it should amount to the Heels not having as much trouble scoring in halfcourt as they did last season.

"I expect to shoot a higher percentage from the floor and from the 3-point line," Paige said. "I shouldn't have to take as many tough shots as I had to take last year at times to try to create points. We struggled to score a lot in the half court last year against tough defensive teams. I think I won't have to do that as much."

But for the times he will have the ball and the Heels need a basket, Paige said he's been working this summer on scoring in isolation and creating his own shot.

Paige doesn't expect a repeat of last season's tendency to have quiet starts offensively before erupting in the second half.

"Coach [Steve] Robinson told me to set the tone with my intensity and my aggressiveness and if they have to scale me back they'll do that," Paige said. "That's kind of the mindset I'm going to have going in, but I wouldn't expect to average 20 [points] a game or anything this year because we're too talented for that."

Paige could again find himself playing off the ball for portions of the game with either sophomore Nate Britt or Berry running point. He could also see a lineup when he is at point guard and joined by the 6-foot-6 Pinson or 6-foot-8 Jackson at shooting guard.

That's the kind of versatility that gives Paige high hopes for the coming season.

"I don't think there's any team that I'm looking at like, 'We can't beat them,' or 'we don't have the talent to matchup with them,'" Paige said. "We'll definitely have our tests with our schedule, but I think that will help us out and I think we're a legitimate Final Four contender if we can put all our pieces together."

Paige was asked about the ESPN.com college basketball coach poll that ranked UNC's Roy Williams 16th: "That's kind of ridiculous honestly. There's no chance that's remotely close. I may be biased, but, no way."

3-point shot: A tough transfer

June, 30, 2014
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Andy Katz reports on why Dominic Artis isn't headed to St. John's, how Louisiana-Lafayette plans to springboard off Elfrid Payton's NBA lottery status, and the upcoming first days in new conferences for Louisville, Maryland and Rutgers.

3-point shot: Return pays off for Napier

June, 27, 2014
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In today's 3-point shot, Andy Katz reports on how returning to school for another year could have boosted the draft stock of Jahii Carson and James Michael McAdoo the way it did for Shabazz Napier, who was taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.

Williams: McCants doesn't ring true

June, 7, 2014
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams told ESPN's Jay Bilas that he was in "shock" and "disbelief" when he learned former guard Rashad McCants had told "Outside the Lines" that tutors wrote his term papers, he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC, and he remained able to play largely because he took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible.

In a 35-minute, on-camera interview Saturday that was attended by 11 former basketball players as a show of support, Williams said the experiences McCants shared did not match what he knows about his players' academic efforts and records and the basketball program he oversees.

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3-point shot: Potential rules changes

May, 21, 2014
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Andy Katz discusses Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim's thoughts on the 30-second shot clock experiment and the NBA draft age limit, as well as Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins eventually succeeding Boeheim.

The NBA installed a 24-second shot clock in 1954. It took men's college basketball another 30 years -- until 1985 -- to follow suit.

Decades of painful stalling strategy would have seemed to make the shot clock a no-brainer, but the college game put up an admirable resistance. Tennessee's infamous 11-6 victory over Temple happened in 1973, 12 years before the first men's shot clock. When the NCAA rules committee finally gave in, it did so nervously: The first version of the college shot clock was 45 seconds, nearly twice the length of the NBA clock. Eight years later, it changed to 35 seconds.

Now, two more decades later, we might finally, mercifully lop another five seconds off the clock.

On Thursday, ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson reported that the ACC would experiment with a 30-second clock in exhibitions in the coming season. ACC commissioner John Swofford said the coaches and athletic directors were on board; Pitt coach Jamie Dixon told ESPN's Andy Katz a shorter clock is "where the game is headed." The experiment will be just that -- a brief lab trial staged in otherwise meaningless games. The ACC will report back to the NCAA men's basketball rules committee. A tentative toe will be dipped into the frightening waters of change.

[+] EnlargeShot Clock
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesThe college basketball shot clock has been set at 35 seconds since 1993.
The 2012-13 season was its slowest and lowest-scoring in decades at 67.5 points per game, despite upticks in points per possession, which is why the new freedom-of-movement rules were designed before the start of last season, when scoring increased to 71.0 points per game. If you believe the college game is too slow, this is encouraging news. It is a step in the right direction.

What's the worst that could happen? If you believe the college game is fine the way it is, the idea of a shorter shot clock is a little bit scary. Your answer to the first question is "a lack of personality."

The theory is not without some merit: A longer clock allows stylistic flexibility. It gives smaller schools a chance to compete with the big boys. It means up-tempo pressure and methodical offense can exist within the same sport. Variety is the spice, etc. If you lose time, won't everything get watered down? What if the shorter possessions hurt the quality of play? Speed isn't everything, right? What if the game gets shorter and worse?

The only problem with the first theory is that it is the same argument employed against the original college shot clock. It was more institutional then; now the worry is stylistic. It is still the same rough fear. And the stuff about quality of play is almost insulting: These are Division I athletes, coached by men who make millions (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars a year. Give them a season. They'll figure it out.

A shot clock hasn't always made the game faster. The 45-second clock worked like a charm; teams quickly blew past the limits of the incentive. But the 35-second clock correlated, if not caused, a drastic, decades-long drop in average possessions per game. Coaches tightened their grips. Scoring went down not because offenses got worse, but because games got slower. The trend finally abated last season, but compared to 30 years of sloth, the uptick was marginal. This is another argument against a shorter clock: The last time we went down this road, the game got slower. Correlation or causation?

The game is slow. That much we can agree on. A yet-shorter clock might solve the problem. It might introduce new ones. The game might get faster, but at what cost? Asking doesn't really matter, because the only way to find out is to change the rule and see what happens. Go to 30 seconds. Go to 24. The NBA tried it out in the mid-'50s, with players most modern college athletes would dust. Let's experiment. What's the worst that could happen?

3-point shot: Coach K's NBA draft thoughts

May, 14, 2014
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Andy Katz looks at Mike Krzyzewski's call for change in the NBA age-limit rule and the ACC title game's move to Saturday.

For the third time since the ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, more teams have been added to the mix. The battle for conference supremacy started with just nine games deciding the outcome back when that was the extent of ACC membership.

The league has ballooned to 15 teams and now that the Big Ten expanded too, a slate of 14 games over three consecutive nights from Dec. 1-3 will determine bragging rights.

The ACC was 6-0 when just nine teams played in the Challenge. It was 4-2 after ACC expansion and 11 teams played. Since going to 12 teams the Big Ten won once and the Challenge has ended in consecutive ties.

The ACC still holds an advantage winning 10 of the 15 meetings overall, but it has not won the Challenge since 2008.

Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) will make their respective debuts in the Challenge this season. Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech did not participate last season for the ACC. Boston College will sit this one out this season.

As Maryland changes allegiances from ACC charter member to Big Ten expansion team, it becomes the Big Ten team with the most wins. The Terrapins have participated in every challenge and has a 10-5 record, and trails only Duke (13) for most Challenge wins. Five Big Ten teams (Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin) are tied with seven wins in the series.

From top to bottom, here are the best matchups of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge:

1. Duke at Wisconsin: It just might be an early Final Four preview. On paper, both have the rosters that could be playing the final weekend of the season. The Badgers, led by center Frank Kaminsky, return most of the rotation that got Bo Ryan to his first Final Four during his Wisconsin tenure. Duke restocks with the No. 1 recruiting class led by center Jahlil Okafor and guard Tyus Jones. The Blue Devils were 0-4 versus top 10 teams away from home last season in a year that ended with a NCAA second round flameout against Mercer. Wisconsin will be an early test to see if Duke will write a different narrative this season.

2. Iowa at North Carolina: Expect a high-scoring game because the Hawkeyes and Tar Heels both want to run early and often. Forward Jarrod Uthoff and center Gabriel Olaseni give Iowa a formidable frontcourt duo that will put up points in Fran McCaffery’s system despite their roster losses from last season. The Hawkeyes have never won on the road (0-5) in the Challenge. UNC will be a much more athletic team than it was last season with the addition of freshmen Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson. The game could offer a small bit of redemption back home for guard Marcus Paige, who is a Marion, Iowa, native, after the Heels were bounced by Iowa State in the NCAA tournament.

3. Ohio State at Louisville: The last time Thad Matta squared off against Rick Pitino, Xavier upset the Cardinals in the 2004 NCAA tournament en route to the Elite Eight. It was the run that helped Matta land the Buckeyes job. Matta will learn what he’s working with in an early road test for a young, but talented team. The game will also serve as a homecoming for Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, a Louisville native, who had an offer from Louisville. Ironically, next season, the Cards will rely heavily on sophomore guard Terry Rozier, a Cleveland native, who is expected to have a breakout year with the departure of Russ Smith. Montrezl Harrell’s decision to return to school was like a recruiting coup for the Cards.

4. Virginia at Maryland: A new twist to an old rivalry. The two foes have literally played the past 100 years, and as ACC rivals the game had the exalted status of the final regular season game for the better part of the last four decades. It could easily be the most intense game of the Challenge since both teams know each other so well. The backcourt battle pitting Virginia’s London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon against Maryland’s Seth Allen and Dez Wells could determine the outcome.

5. Michigan State at Notre Dame: From 1908 to 1979 the Spartans and Irish had a healthy basketball rivalry, meeting 94 times. It’s the first meeting between the schools since MSU beat the Irish in the Elite Eight en route to its 1979 national championship. The Spartans bring back Branden Dawson, who considered turning pro. The Irish welcome back Jerian Grant, who withdrew from school at the start of conference play due to an “academic matter.”

6. Syracuse at Michigan: Think of how great this game would have been with guard Tyler Ennis and forward Jerami Grant still suiting up for the Orange and guard Nik Stauskas, forward Glenn Robinson III and center Mitch McGary playing for the Wolverines. Instead, they form an all-star lineup of NBA early entries. In a rematch of the 2013 Final Four game, only a combined five players (Syracuse: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney; Michigan: Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert) remain who played in the game.

7. Nebraska at Florida State: If the Cornhuskers plan on improving on last season's NCAA appearance, they have to learn to win games like this. The Huskers were just 3-8 last season on the road and Tallahassee can be a tough place to play. The Seminoles missed the NCAA tournament last season due to several close nonconference losses, a trend they’ll need to reverse this season.

8. Pittsburgh at Indiana: The Panthers haven’t played the Hoosiers in Bloomington since 1941 and Pitt's experienced guards Cameron Wright and James Robinson won’t be intimidated by Assembly Hall. Noah Vonleh’s decision to turn pro possibly set IU back in its bid to rejoin the nation’s elite. But guard Yogi Ferrell and newcomer James Blackmon Jr. means the Hoosiers' cupboard isn’t bare.

9. Illinois at Miami: The Illini could be a darkhorse in league and an early road win could prove it. Guard Rayvonte Rice will be even harder to stop if he can improve his 3-point shooting from 29.5 percent last season. The Canes return just three players from last season, who accounted for just 15 percent of their scoring. Transfers Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) should make immediate impact for Miami.

10. Minnesota at Wake Forest: Guards Deandre Mathieu and Andre Hollins give Minnesota backcourt stability. The Deacons counter with their top duo of leading scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre and leading rebounder Devin Thomas, who should help Danny Manning make a smooth transition in his first season as coach.

11. Rutgers at Clemson: The Mack and Jack show is back for Rutgers. Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack were the top two scorers from last season and a formidable duo. Clemson returned everyone of impact except leading scorer and rebounder K.J. McDaniels. Guard Rod Hall will likely expand his scoring role after leading the Tigers in assists.

12. NC State at Purdue: The Boilermakers are the hottest team in the Challenge with five straight wins. Junior 7-footer A.J. Hammons gives Purdue a solid centerpiece to build around. NCSU has the monumental task of replacing 2014 ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren. The Wolfpack's fortunes could rest with talented, yet erratic, point guard Anthony Barber.

13. Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Both teams hope to get a boost from guards lost to injury last season. Tech’s Travis Jorgenson played in just four games before tearing his ACL. Northwestern’s oft-injured guard JerShon Cobb, its leading scorer returning, missed the last five games with a foot injury. The Yellow Jackets have only won once on the road in the Challenge.

14. Virginia Tech at Penn State: The Nittany Lions return most of their rotation that lost eight games by five or fewer points. Senior guard D.J. Newbill, who led the team in scoring, is now the unequivocal leader with Tim Frazier gone. Buzz Williams begins Hokies rebuilding project with a good starting point -- guard Devin Wilson was on both the coaches and media all-ACC freshmen teams and ranked third in the league in assists.

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