College Basketball Nation: College Basketball

Afternoon Links: 'No way'

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
What we're reading while we sink into a deep, existential, Derrick Rose-induced depression. Submit links via Twitter.
  • We've written a couple times in the past couple of months about the NBA age limit, that it's almost certainly here to stay. But, but ... the age limit is unpopular, right? It is! College basketball hates it. NBA ownership, which devised the current rule in the first place, wants to extend it to age 20. The other half of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement -- the National Basketball Players Association -- is, under new executive director Michele Roberts, more outwardly against the age limit than any recent predecessor. In November, she told the Mag's Pablo Torre that "it doesn't make sense to me that you're suddenly eligible and ready to make money when you're 20, but not when you're 19, not when you're 18," and that the players would not agree to an age change "easily." In case you thought Roberts' stance had softened since November, ESPNW's Kate Fagan checked in with wide-ranging interview today: "How does the union feel about raising the NBA age limit? 'No way. Completely against it,' Roberts said." Does that sound like a person who would accept a two-year age rule? No. Is the NBA going to go back to the days of preps-to-pros? Almost certainly not. The age limit is stuck where it is, barring some unforeseen surprise.
  • This is worth noting again because college administrators and even some coaches have started "discussing" the "dialogue" of maybe making freshman ineligible to compete in Division I college athletics. On Tuesday, the Big Ten "confirmed that it had circulated the 'white paper,' a memo that details the specifics of a potential 'year of readiness,' to its membership and that the league will share the document externally as it pursues additional feedback." Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke opened called for a return to the "first 70 years" of the NCAA. ("I, for one ,as a Big Ten AD, am tired of being used as a minor league for professional sports," Burke said.) But the Big Ten won't actually institute freshman ineligibility without support from other conferences, commissioner Jim Delany said. Why? Because it would be equivalent to pulling an Ivy League. On Monday, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg that instituting freshman ineligibility in the Big Ten alone would be "recruiting suicide." The Big Ten wants to discuss a "return to academic priorities," whatever that means, but it doesn't want to suffer a competitive setback to do so. Priorities, indeed. The larger point is that college basketball so hates the one-and-done rule it's trying to roll back the clock to John Wooden's era. Instead of offering an enriching entree to higher education to elite hoops prospects -- however brief and problematic that exposure might be -- it would push them toward agents and trainers and overseas money even sooner. It would delay the careers of hundreds of players who wouldn't go pro after college but might well do so after one surprising freshman year. And for what? To feel better about the NCAA's "mission?" To prop up the dessicated husk of amateurism? This is a bunch of frustrated college administrators seeing conditions they can't change and rage-quitting like a 10-year-old playing FIFA. It would be hilarious, but these guys actually seem serious.
  • Maryland's student section was fantastic during Tuesday night's 59-53 win over Wisconsin in basically every way a student section can be fantastic. Part of that fantastic-ness was a rehearsed and expertly executed flash mob which caused us to look up from our laptop screen and, just for a moment, wistfully remember how much fun it was to be in college.
  • Apparently, LeBron James' son is really good at basketball. Naturally, college basketball coaches have expressed interest in said son's talent. The only problem? He's 10 years old. James -- who knows a thing or two about being thrust into the spotlight at an early age and thriving in spite of it all -- isn't amused: "Yeah, he's already got some offers from colleges," James said. "It's pretty crazy. It should be a violation. You shouldn't be recruiting 10-year-old kids."
  • Think playing at Kentucky would be fun? Of course! The Wildcats are 27-0, off to the best start in SEC history, chasing a long-dismissed dream of finishing a national title run without a loss. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Dana O'Neil's latest gets across the sacrifices that come with this success, the difficulties of the pressure-cooker that is life as a hoops star in Lexington.

Note: In honor of Bracket Builder week here at ESPN, we're running a live bracket-oriented Twitter event all day; you can follow along here. Also, at 2:30 ET, Joe Lunardi will join me for a special bracket-focused edition of ESPN Tip-Off Live. Feel, feel, feel, feel, feel, feeeeeel … feel the bracket heat.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- As much as North Carolina coach Roy Williams shared stories with his current players about the man and coach who was Dean Smith, he’s never brought up dedicating the season to his memory.

At this point, he really doesn’t have to.

“Whether you know him or not, his impact on Carolina basketball is great,” sophomore center Kennedy Meeks said. “Whether you talk about him or not, it’s still going to be impactful for the team just in his style of play. I just think it’s important for us to honor him.”

On Saturday, North Carolina pummeled Georgia Tech 89-60 in its first home game since Smith passed away at 83 on Feb. 7.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Hicks
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeIsaiah Hicks and North Carolina weren't short on emotion in Saturday's win over Georgia Tech.
Sunday’s public service for Smith will signal the end of official events the school has scheduled, but it’s really only the beginning for this team. Even though most of the current players were still wearing diapers during Smith's final season as the Tar Heels' coach in 1996-97, junior guard Marcus Paige said in a sense it seemed like the team was playing for him.

“It felt like it today, the first however many games after he passed it felt like it. I guess it’s continuing to feel like it,” said Paige, who recorded his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. “It would be great to make some noise, go on a run because that’s one thing you automatically connect to our program is Coach Smith. To do it for him, and honestly for us, it would be great.”

Paige was the lone player who represented the current team at the reception following Smith’s private memorial Feb. 12. He earned a greater sense of not only Smith but the program as a whole mingling with the likes of James Worthy, Jim Delaney and Jerry Stackhouse.

“I was debating whether or not I even deserved to be in that room with some of those people,” Paige said. “To experience the love that everyone had for Coach Smith was a great experience, something I’ll never forget.”

Many former players from across different decades -- including J.R. Reid, Ed Cota and Marcus Ginyard -- occupied the section generally filled by students behind the home team basket Saturday.

Smith’s presence was felt in all aspects of the game. Thousands of placards were handed out to fans who entered the arena bearing his name with a collage of pictures of Smith on one side, and on the other, an outline of the four corners play with the phrase later coined the "Carolina Way" written over it: “Play hard, play smart, play together.”

The Heels ran out of the tunnel wearing throwback uniforms from the '70s and '80s, and Smith's initials will be on a patch on their jerseys for the rest of the season. There was a moment of silence beforehand, when the announcer labeled him a “most precious jewel."

Carolina won the tip, and on the first possession of the game, Williams held up four fingers in the air. The Heels ran the four corners offense, made famous by Smith, which essentially led to the shot clock in college basketball. Brice Johnson scored on a backdoor cut, marking the first of 10 assists for Paige.

“I felt like Coach was on cloud nine after we got that,” forward J.P. Tokoto said. “In the locker room, he was very happy with the way we executed it.”

The Heels only practiced the play once, and Williams waited until some of the former players and others invited to observe had cleared out from the gym. He didn’t want their intentions leaked onto social media before the game.

“I wanted it to be something very sincere from our team -- University of North Carolina basketball team -- to Coach Dean Smith,” Williams said.

Carolina’s recent play has also reflected a sincere effort that had been inconsistent throughout the season. The players acknowledged the intensity they showed in the loss to Duke on Wednesday established the level that they need to maintain.

It’s their unspoken way of honoring Smith.

“We drew a line in the sand after the Pitt game like we have to bring it every night,” Paige said. “We’re not exactly where we want to be in the standings, but there’s a lot of basketball left to be played and we can make some noise. But we have to play.”

Hard. Smart. Together.

Afternoon Links: Zip 'em up

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
What we're reading while Kobe Bryant's self-aware description of his inability to be a good friend hits way too close to home. Submit links via Twitter.
  • Wednesday night brings yet another edition of one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and one of the two greatest (your Louisville-Kentucky mileage may vary) in college basketball: Duke vs. North Carolina. Every year, on the day of the big game, the Duke student newspaper prints a "GTHC" centerfold for members of the Cameron Crazies to take with them to the game. (You can figure out the acronym on your own.) On Wednesday, "GTHC" was replaced by a tribute to the late Dean Smith. Super cool.
  • Wednesday night also brings yet another edition of perhaps the most underrated rivalry in college basketball, Cincinnati vs. Xavier. This season marks the rivalry's first return to campus sites since the 2011 Crosstown Shootout Punchout. ("We zipped 'em up" will live on in our hearts forever.) Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Joel M. Beall has a tale of the tape for the unitiated, pitting the two schools' historic stars, fan support, and best campus bars: "I've had many a libation at both the Catskeller and Dana's, and thoroughly enjoy both venues. But let's be honest. Catskeller offers a variety of food and drink, along with pool tables, multiple TVs, shuffleboard and arcade games. Dana's is basically a backyard shed with a dart board that has only two darts." To us, that description sounds like an argument for Dana's. But to each his own.
  • Kentucky guard Devin Booker took a hard spill onto the baseline Tuesday night, slamming into a Tennessee cheerleader in a manner not-dissimilar to the way, say, Willis McGahee tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. (Note to the youngsters with weak stomachs: Don't Google that.) Fortunately, the cheerleader was unharmed, confirming her intact status when Booker apologized via Twitter Wednesday.
  • If you happened to see the final two minutes of VCU's blowout win over Saint Louis Tuesday night, you might have wondered why the Siegel Center (especially the VCU bench) was going nuts over a 3 that put them up by 21 with less than 90 seconds to play. The answer? Because that 3 was the very first field goal attempt of walk-on Tony Burston's basketball career. No trillions here.
  • Grantland's Jordan Ritter Conn checks in with a long profile on the transfer, and subsequent transformation, of Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer. There is lots of interesting detail on exactly what Mark Few, Zags strength coach Travis Knight and, yes, Steve Nash, did to help Wiltjer improve his body -- and how that differed from what Wiltjer was doing at Kentucky: "Not only was Wiltjer physically underprepared [to keep up with an athletic regimen designed for Kentucky's hyper-athletic recruits], but, says Knight, 'his body was actively fighting itself.' His bodied carried small inadequacies that manifested themselves in harmful ways. His hips were weak. His alignment, says Few, 'was just not right.' By subjecting himself to the same workouts as his teammates at Kentucky -- all-world athletes who were in peak physical condition -- Wiltjer wore himself down. He had chronic pain in his knees and hips, pain that resulted in awkward, unnatural movements. Knight broke Wiltjer's redshirt year at Gonzaga into three-month chunks. The first three months were dedicated almost exclusively to relieving Wiltjer's pain. 'It was physical therapy, really,' says Knight. They worked to strengthen Wiltjer's hips. Hurdles, yoga, stretching. This alleviated the pain in his knees. They worked on getting low, in a defensive stance, and staying there. 'At first, it was hard enough to do that just supporting his own body weight,' Knight says. They did squats and movement drills in sand. Wiltjer would crouch in a defensive stance while Knight pushed and pulled on him, forcing him to strengthen the core muscles that maintain his balance. They also worked on lateral movement. Steve Nash, acting in his role as general manager of the Canadian national team, gave Few his own suggestions for Wiltjer’s development. Among them: learning to dance. Wiltjer never enrolled in formal dance classes, but he and Knight practiced 'dancelike movements,' forcing him to move his feet in unconventional patterns." Also: Wiltjer first got the idea to transfer to Gonzaga thanks to a conversation with Canadian teammate Kelly Olynyk, whose own year away from the floor (thanks to a redshirt) turned him into an All-American on a top-seeded Gonzaga team. Throw in the remarkable evolution of center Prezmek Karnowski, and it begs the question: Who in college basketball has developed big men more effectively than the fly fishing extraordinaire? (Oh, and speaking of Grantland, here's Mark Titus's review of his first experience at the NCAA's media mock selection committee.)

3-point shot: Villanova's Hilliard in spotlight

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
Andy Katz hands out awards for the player and team of the week, and he gives a nod to a couple impressive performances.
North Carolina endured an emotional week with the death of program patriarch and legendary coach Dean Smith last Saturday.

Coach Roy Williams said that ever since he received the text message informing him of his mentor’s death, “my world has sort of been spinning in a different way than it normally does.”

At Friday’s news conference previewing Saturday's game at Pittsburgh, Williams made it a point to say his team wasn't looking for any sympathy.

That’s why it’s not an excuse for the Tar Heels’ 89-76 loss to the Panthers. North Carolina's slide after a 7-1 start in ACC play began well before they were beaten down in the Petersen Events Center.

Technically, their 8-4 record in the conference puts the Tar Heels (18-7) just one game in the loss column out of second place. But the way they're playing makes it seem far more distant. North Carolina has lost three of four games heading into Wednesday’s game at No. 4 Duke.

[+] EnlargeJ.P. Tokoto
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicAfter a tough week, it was a long day for J.P. Tokoto and the Tar Heels at Pittsburgh.
If the Heels thought their loss at Pitt was embarrassing, they should think about what will happen if things don’t change immediately. The last time Duke played at home at Cameron Indoor Stadium, it dismantled No. 10 Notre Dame by 30 points.

Williams sensed the need to jump-start his team even before a Feb. 7 victory at Boston College. He shook up the starting lineup, inserting guard Nate Britt and forward Isaiah Hicks for junior forward J.P. Tokoto and sophomore center Kennedy Meeks.

It proved to be the right touch against the Eagles. But it provided no lift against the Panthers (17-9, 6-6), who ran out to a 10-0 lead Saturday.

With the injuries that have piled up this season -- reserve senior center Desmond Hubert is the latest, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- Williams doesn’t have many options left if he believes another lineup change is a solution.

North Carolina’s problems during this regression have largely come in two areas: turnovers and defense.

The Heels had just four turnovers against the Panthers, which marked the fourth time in ACC play that they’ve been in single digits. However, they have just a 2-2 record in those games because their defense hasn’t held up.

Generally speaking, shooting 49 percent and scoring 76 points on the road should be enough to get the job done, but UNC allowed Pitt to shoot a season-best 64 percent from the field. The Panthers ranked last in the ACC in 3-point percentage at 30.1, yet the Heels allowed them to make 8 of 15 attempts from behind the arc.

And Duke is a far more efficient team offensively than Pitt. The Blue Devils rank fourth nationally in adjusted offense, according to Ken Pomeroy. The Panthers jumped from 36th to 21st on Saturday.

Tokoto has embodied the Heels' recent struggles. He hasn’t looked the same defensively since freshman reserve Theo Pinson went down with a broken foot at Wake Forest. As Tokoto's minutes went up immediately after Pinson’s injury, Tokoto's defensive resolve has seemingly decreased.

He was the primary defender on Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 35 points against the Heels. He was the primary defender on Syracuse's Trevor Cooney, who scored 28 against the Heels.

Tokoto used to set the tone defensively for Carolina. What he did in making NC State’s Trevor Lacey ineffective in the first half of the Heels’ victory changed the outlook of that Jan. 14 game.

The Heels need that version of Tokoto to spearhead their defense. Otherwise, if they don’t regroup before the postseason starts, they’ll surely be headed for another quick exit in the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend for an unprecedented third straight season.

Pitt students honor Dean Smith with a quiet, powerful tribute

February, 14, 2015
Feb 14
The University of Pittsburgh's Oakland Zoo is routinely thought of as one of the top student sections in the country.

And for good reason. They're always there. They're always loud. They're always prepared. And they always make it tough on opponents at the Petersen Events Center.

Well, almost always. There's no doubt the Pitt students let the North Carolina players hear it during Saturday's game between the Panthers and Tar Heels. But before the game? Before the game they were all class as the school held a moment of silence for the late Dean Smith, the legendary UNC coach who passed away a week ago Saturday.

This was Carolina's first game since Smith's death and during the moment of silence, members of the Oakland Zoo held up a banner with one of the coach's most endearing quotes: “You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.”

The moment was captured perfectly by North Carolina writer Adam Lucas.

Two more angles:

And after the game, the Oakland Zoo met with UNC coach Roy Williams.

A simple but meaningful gesture. And another sign that the Oakland Zoo is one of the very best at what it does.
All of a sudden, those half-court shooters on "College GameDay" can't miss.

On his final shot attempt before the buzzer Saturday morning, SMU freshman Shameek Malviya saved the best for last and became the second student in three weeks to win $18,000 from State Farm.

Myron is on to something. In the 10 seasons from 2005-14, just four students won money for making a half-court shot on GameDay: North Carolina's Alex Bloom (2007), Duke's Tim Catlett (2008), Butler's Kevin Schwartz (2013) and Notre Dame's Casey Murdock (2013). There wasn't a single winner for four straight years.

And now, with Malviya joining Virginia's Tyler Lewis, there have been two winners in just three weeks. In case you missed it, here's Lewis' half-court shot in front of a delirious crowd at UVa's John Paul Jones Arena on Jan. 31.


Afternoon Links: Clock talk

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
What we're reading while we agree with this from the comfort of our padded computer chair. Submit links via Twitter.
  • For many, the idea of a shorter shot clock -- which the NCAA will experiment with in the 2015 NIT -- is the best and most obvious way to speed up a college basketball game that has, during the past two decades, grown increasingly cautious and slow. But how many coaches actually support it?'s Jeff Goodman asked, and the answer is: a lot. "Of 460 Division I coaches polled by ESPN on the topic, 270 (59 percent) said they would prefer the shot clock to shorten to 30 seconds. Thirty percent said they would rather it remain at 35 seconds, and 10 percent were in favor of it being changed to 24 seconds -- which is also what is used in NBA and international play. The remaining 1 percent was made up of coaches who wanted the clock set at 28 seconds or 45 seconds." First of all, who wants the shot clock to go to 45 seconds?! That's hilarious! Second of all, the number of coaches in favor of 24 seconds is surprisingly low. As Central Florida assistant Tim Thomas told Jeff, "There are [15-year-olds] in FIBA competition all over the world that are able to play with a 24-second shot clock. But we can't?" Either way, it's good to see widespread support for change, even if the details of that change (to a 30-second clock) feel somewhat incremental.
  • One more great Jerry Tarkanian read, one we didn't manage to get to yesterday, comes via Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel, who sums up the remarkable life that was Jerry Tarkanian's by doing what Tark himself did best -- telling stories: "There was the time a transfer showed up from Oral Roberts driving a big, expensive Lincoln. 'I told him, You can keep the Lincoln, but you have to leave the Oklahoma license plates. I don't want to see a Nevada plate. That way they won't think I bought it.' There was the time he negotiated his UNLV contract and somehow became a full professor … with tenure. There was a time at an all-star game when an opposing coach walked in with a suitcase everyone suspected was full of money, only to find an NCAA investigator sitting in the stands. Tark went up to the NCAA guy and told him to go steal the suitcase and buy himself a condo in Florida … 'what's the coach going to say?'"
  • Mark Fox coached his Georgia team so hard Wednesday night that he transformed into a prepubescent boy.
  • No. 11 Utah has a solid home matchup with a hungry Stanford team this evening, and the Cardinal's chances of stealing a win from one of the nation's best teams in its own building could rely on Delon Wright's knee. The Utes guard tweaked his knee during second-half warmups against Colorado, and while he rejoined that blowout in the second half, he's experienced some minor soreness in the days since.
  • ESPN Insider Fran Fraschilla checks back in with another of Fran's Film Sessions, this time focusing on Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina started off Dean Smith's final season as head coach making a dubious kind of history.

During the 1996-97 season, the Tar Heels began ACC play 0-3 for the first time ever. And the young squad that featured sophomores Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison were headed to a fourth loss, trailing NC State by nine points with 2:34 left in the game.

That's when Dean Smith worked his comeback magic in a way that not only saved the game, but turned around the season. Smith called timeout and from junior forward Makhtar Ndiaye's recollection, he didn't diagram any plays. Smith spent the entire huddle reaffirming players whose collective body language suggested they were ready to accept defeat.

"He said, 'It seems like I want this more than you guys want it,'" Ndiaye said. "We kind of looked at his face and he was very determined. We were like, shoot, we have to do something."

[+] EnlargeNorth Carolina's Dean Smith
Getty ImagesDean Smith cuts down the net following North Carolina's win over Louisville which sent the Tar Heels to the 1997 Final Four. It was the last win of Smith's career.
Carolina scored the remaining 12 points in the game -- after scoring just two field goals during the first 18 minutes of the second half -- and the rally served as a springboard.

"The attention that he has and the way he looks into your eyes you have no choice but to believe," Jamison said. "When coach Smith says something was going to happen, it happened."

WIN No. 877

There was one thing that Smith absolutely didn't want to happen. When he became, at the time, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history, Smith wanted to sneak off to the locker room. The players all but forced him to stay out on the court.

"He was saying thank you, thank you, OK that's enough, let's get ready for next game," Carter said. "We were like forget that game, we were just part of history. It was like it meant more to us than him."

Ndiaye said Smith was more fun than the public knew, that's how he convinced the venerable coach to "raise the roof," after the game, which was a popular dance at the time.

"He had a lot of fun with our group, we got him a little bit out of his shell," Ndiaye said. "Those things are precious now when you look back."


When Carolina lost to eventual national champion Arizona 66-58 in the Final Four, none of the players had any indication that it would be Smith's last game on the sideline. Quite the opposite, they left the floor in Indianapolis believing they would be back the next season to get Smith his third title.

"Yes we lost our opportunity to play for the national championship, but we felt like -- I know I did personally -- we let coach Smith down," Carter said. "Just for what he brought to the table for us and how he prepared us and we let him down and it was tough. To sit there and watch them celebrate it was just tough to swallow. And I sat there in disbelief."

But he sat there knowing the core of the team would be back and, with Smith's guidance, they could make it back to the Final Four. It's what fueled the Heels that summer and why Smith's next announcement would come as such a shock.


The Tar Heels had just completed their traditional mile run outside on the track and Smith summoned them to the office in what they thought would be a routine discussion about the season. Smith singled out senior captains Shammond Williams and Ndiaye in the meeting room first and handed them both a note.

Ndiaye said the note thanked them for being great players and it urged them to lead the team and help assistant coach Bill Guthridge in his transition. To head coach.

"It was something that was difficult for him because he was always a man of his word and he didn't want to disappoint anyone," Williams said.

Carter said the players could sense something was wrong when assistant coaches Dave Hanners, Phil Ford and Guthridge all had solemn looks on their faces and Smith was "disheveled" and fumbled with the words as he started to speak.

"You could just tell by the look in his face not that he felt like he was letting us down, but he was just tired like he couldn't give any more," Jamison said. "Coach Smith was superman to us, to hear him say he couldn't do it anymore was devastating. It was like the last thing you expected to happen."

Afternoon Links: Another farewell

February, 11, 2015
Feb 11
What we're reading while we prepare ourselves for the musical explosion of the millennium. Submit links via Twitter.
  • Just a few days after the passing of North Carolina legend Dean Smith, college basketball finds itself mourning the loss of another iconic figure: UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 84. Dana O'Neil reflects on Tarkanian's complicated, conflicting legacy both as a coach and a larger-than-life figure: "When no one recruited junior college players, he made recruiting junior college players OK. When no one thought a school in the middle of the desert could be popular, Tarkanian turned UNLV into a desert-hot ticket, complete with his own Gucci row. But along with the Runnin' at UNLV, Tarkanian put the Rebel in the school nickname. And that is where the legacy becomes complicated. To some he is a hero, a man who fought the establishment and won. To others, he is a cheater, a man who tried to beat the establishment and lost. In reality, he was all of that."
  • Andy Katz remembers how Tarkanian changed -- heck, created from whole cloth -- the still-thriving culture of entertaining, uptempo UNLV hoops. And Yahoo's Jeff Passan relates a pretty hilarious, and totally characteristic, Tark story.
  • VCU is holding a special promotion for its home game against La Salle on Wednesday. It's called Headband Night, and thousands of white headbands will be distributed to fans as the enter the Siegel Center. Why? As an homage to guard Briante Weber, whose historic career was ended by a devastating knee injury two weeks ago. Weber got word of the ceremonial plans, and he seems appropriately touched.
  • Indiana travels to College Park to play a slightly flagging Maryand team in front of its brutal home crowd Wednesday night, but the big news of the day is the team's addition of Jordan Fuchs, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward … who also happens to be a tight end on a football scholarship at IU. “Jordan is someone we’ve been aware of for some time now and had he not gotten injured in the Purdue game and had to recover from that, we would have brought over to evaluate earlier,” Tom Crean said in a release. “We worked with him since last week and with Coach [Kevin] Wilson’s blessing we are adding Jordan at this time. He has considerable basketball experience and brings size, athleticism, toughness and a tremendous competitive attitude.” Inside the Hall notes that, as a dual-sport athlete in high school, Fuchs had scholarship offers to play basketball from Iowa State, SMU and Florida. Meanwhile, SB Nation's Spencer Hall ruminates on the unusual dynamic between IU's coach and fans.
  • The Dance Cam is always a distraction. You're sitting there, and it's the second half, and you realize you should probably get a head start on your story, and you're kind of freaking out, and then all of a sudden the arena jumbotron starts showing various fans dancing to Whitney Houston, and you can't help but watch. Last Saturday, that scenario played out at Virginia, only this time the dance-off was easily the best I've ever seen -- and the Washington Post, having checked out the replay Tuesday, got in touch with the UVa student whose laserlike glare drove the dance competition to new heights. She lost to a dude who did the robot and that fishing lure thing. She wants a rematch.

Tipoff Live, 2:30 p.m. ET

February, 11, 2015
Feb 11
Join college basketball reporters Eamonn Brennan and C.L. Brown as they discuss the biggest games of the week and take your questions live.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- During one of Matt Doherty’s early days as a freshman at North Carolina, he showed up to the basketball offices proudly wearing his McDonald’s All-America practice jersey.

Doherty was still stung by what Dean Smith had told him during his recruiting visit. The former North Carolina coach, who passed away Saturday at the age of 83, had told Doherty that he’d be lucky to play as a junior, when other coaches recruiting him said he’d have an impact as a freshman.

Doherty was determined to prove Smith wrong and the jersey was his way of reminding the legendary coach of his talent. The two crossed paths when Smith happened to walk out of the office, and his words again stuck with Doherty.

“He saw me, he looked at my shirt, and says, ‘Ah, that’d be a nice shirt for your brother John to have,’” said Doherty, the starting small forward on the 1982 national championship team who also coached the Tar Heels from 2000-03. “In other words, that was old news. Everyone here is a McDonald’s All-American, get over yourself. You’ve got to earn your stripes here.”

[+] EnlargeMichael Jordan, Dean Smith
Raleigh News & Observer/Getty ImagesDean Smith was very careful about managing the egos and responsibilites of freshman, including one named Michael Jordan.
The past decade of college basketball has introduced the ready-made freshman, players such as Jahlil Okafor, Andrew Wiggins, and Kyrie Irving, who could instantly improve a starting lineup and greatly change a team’s outlook.

Dean Smith’s teams were not designed to depend on how fast the freshman class could develop, although the opportunity was always there for freshmen to play.

King Rice arrived in Chapel Hill in 1987. It was the perfect opportunity to play immediately because Kenny Smith, a four-year starter, had just graduated. The Heels sorely needed a point guard and Rice had all the prep accolades to indicate he could take over at the position.

But he didn’t crack the starting lineup. Smith moved Jeff Lebo to point guard and started Ranzino Smith at shooting guard.

“Coach Smith basically said if you’re ready you’ll have a chance at Carolina,” said Rice, now the head coach at Monmouth. “But unfortunately, I was not ready. I was not even close to being ready.”

King had plenty of company. From 1972, the year the NCAA first allowed freshmen eligibility, until Smith’s retirement in 1997, only 11 freshmen started their first game for the Tar Heels. The list of four-year starters under Smith was an even more exclusive list of just eight players.

During Roy Williams’ 12-year tenure as North Carolina’s head coach, he has had 11 freshmen who started their first game, including in each of the past three seasons.

Freshmen under Smith lived a far less glamorous existence than their modern contemporaries. They had to carry luggage on team trips and line up last during water breaks and for pregame food buffets.

J.R. Reid, the 1988 ACC Rookie of the Year, said he even had to carry around a film projector “that they didn’t even use.” Shammond Williams, who played on three Final Four teams, said once he was made to run with an upperclassman who had missed a flight.

Running was a popular theme for freshmen. Whenever a ball went out of bounds during practice, the freshmen were responsible for chasing it down.

“He’d blow that whistle, yell, ‘freshmen,’ and we’d run and try to beat each other and be the first to get the ball,” said Antawn Jamison, the unanimous 1998 national player of the year. “We’d have bumps and bruises just from chasing loose balls into the bleachers.”

Jamison also recalled Jeff McInnis, a junior at the time, being a prankster and abusing the rule. McInnis would intentionally throw balls to the side just to make the freshmen chase them down.

Roy Williams used to carry on the same practice, but he figured it was easier to allow the managers to throw in a new ball to keep practice moving at a swift pace.

Smith also believed in the practice, that is continued by Williams and many other coaches, of not allowing freshmen to speak to the media until they’ve played in a game.

The irony is that the one-and-done era of college basketball has turned elite high school players into stars. More high school games are nationally televised now than during Smith’s tenure. And recruiting is covered so heavily that most players are polished in dealing with the media before they ever hit campus.

Imagine the reaction to Smith leaving Michael Jordan off the Sports Illustrated cover if it happened in today's environment.

The magazine picked the Tar Heels as the preseason No. 1 team to start the 1981-82 season. Sam Perkins, James Worthy, Jimmy Black and Doherty joined Smith on the cover shot.

“He knew Michael was going to start,” said Williams, who was an assistant on the ’82 national championship team. “But he didn’t think he’d done enough to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so he put four players on the cover.”

Jordan referenced the slight during his 2012 Hall of Fame induction speech as another log that fueled his competitive fire.

Reid viewed his freshman season in 1986-87 as a turning point for media coverage. He believed that was when high school sports were slowly gaining more attention nationally and it started contributing to a sense of entitlement among incoming freshmen.

“I understand him not really liking it that much and I got it in practice sometimes,” Reid said. “I could deal with it because I knew players that were probably better than me had to go through the same situation. This was the 'Carolina Way.' You had to have thick skin early on as a freshman.”

Vince Carter admitted he didn’t understand the process that Smith used to mold freshmen. He was as athletically gifted as any player Smith had recruited and he figured his physical traits would more than make up for the deficiencies in his game.

“I was like, 'Hey, I can get to the basket when I want. I can jump through, around or over anybody. Just let me do my thing,'” Carter said.

Carter, who was first-team All-America in 1997 and 1998, came to campus with hype that’s comparable to some of today’s elite freshmen. And when he didn’t immediately play, it led to rumors that Carter was planning to transfer to play for a coach who would let him do his thing.

Carter laughed at the notion of leaving, saying to this day he still didn’t know where the rumors started. But once he figured out Smith’s philosophy was to teach the game, he bought in to being patient.

“He was preparing me for that next level where there’s more athletes, now it’s time to outsmart your opponent and know the game a little better than the next man,” Carter said. “And it paid off for me.”

Carter described Smith as “demanding, stern, but patient at the same time,” with his freshmen. Neither Carter nor other former players believe that Smith would have changed had he coached in today’s environment.

Reid went so far to say Smith’s philosophies would be needed even more today to deal with potential egos. Reid said he didn’t appreciate it until he was older, but with the All-Americans and high-school-player-of-the-year types that Smith recruited, he had to find a way to break them down for the greater good of the team.

“You have to do something to humble them and let them know that there are people here that have done this before you, there are people here that have done it better than you have,” Reid said. “Coach Smith’s way was the only way.”

3-point shot: Tournament outlook for Illinois

February, 10, 2015
Feb 10
Andy Katz discusses NCAA tournament outlooks for Illinois, VCU and Boise State.

Short takes on Dean Smith

February, 9, 2015
Feb 9
Since Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith's passing on Saturday, many of his former players and staffers at North Carolina have shared their countless experiences that have not all found their way to print. Here are a few more:


For a period in the 1990s, Dean Smith pledged to eat healthy foods. He had one weakness, though, and Chris Leevy Johnson, a team manager from 1992-96, was often asked to go by Merritt’s Store and Grill in Chapel Hill to deliver it.

Smith would hand over the keys to his dealer-issued 740 series BMW to Johnson, who was just a sophomore at the time.

"They had this superhuge BLT sandwich that he liked," said Johnson, who is now the team chaplain for South Carolina’s men’s basketball team. "My sophomore year, I worked in the office, as well as being a manager, and he would always sneak me out to get a BLT."

Johnson also recalled a final time when Smith asked him to drive his car. This was on the day he announced his retirement, in 1997. Johnson had already graduated and moved, but decided to come back for the news conference.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, a close friend of Smith’s, was also in attendance and needed a ride to the airport.

"As soon as it was over, Coach asked me to go get his car and drive it down in the tunnel because he had to take John Thompson back to the airport," Johnson said. "He was so elated that John Thompson would fly all the way down just for his press conference, it meant so much to him that he drove [Thompson] himself and I just rode with him. The media didn’t know, he got out of there as quickly as possible."


Matt Doherty took over as head coach of North Carolina in the midst of the 2000 presidential campaign that pitted George W. Bush against Al Gore. Basketball-related duties consumed most of his time, so he did as many former Tar Heels had the tendency to do when they had questions. He called Smith.

"I was so busy, and you try to read the newspapers and you couldn’t make heads or tails on who to vote for," Doherty said. "So I called up Coach Smith and said, 'Coach, I just wanted your insight on the election.'"

The conversation didn’t go exactly like Doherty envisioned. Normally, Smith presented pros and cons of both sides of an argument and let his players draw their own conclusion.

Not this time.

"So, basically, he was trying to talk me into voting for [Gore]," Doherty said. "I grew up Republican, but not very active -- I’m not very political. But it was just very funny that he was on the phone and basically trying to convince me to vote for the Democratic candidate."


Hubert Davis, now an assistant coach at North Carolina, recalled the one time in four seasons he remembered Smith using the word "win."

Ironically, it came after losing to Roy Williams and Kansas in the 1991 Final Four. Official Pete Pavia hit Smith with a second technical foul, and he was ejected from the game with 35 seconds left.

"We were in a meeting, and he said, 'Guys, I apologize for getting kicked out of the game,'" Davis said. "'I just want to let you guys know that I felt like we were good enough to win the championship.'"

Smith showing confidence in his team despite their defeat created a strange mix of sadness with a tinge of pride. All because using the word "win" got everyone’s attention.

"All of us had our heads down, and as soon as he said 'win,' we all picked up our heads and started bawling -- me, Rick Fox, King Rice, Pete Chilcutt, George Lynch, Eric Montross -- because he never talked about winning," Davis said. "He always talked about preparation and the process. We were like, 'Coach Smith thought we were good enough to win.'"


Smith won his share of buzzer-beaters through the years, and King Rice believes it was because he always stayed so calm.

So when the Tar Heels were tied with No. 1 seed Oklahoma in the 1990 NCAA tournament, Smith’s coolness prevailed in the huddle with 10 seconds left.

"He would tell us, 'This is going to happen, and Rick [Fox] is going to make this shot, be ready for an offensive rebound,," Rice said. "[Smith] was always the calm one."

Fox did make the shot at the buzzer, and Carolina advanced to its 10th straight Sweet 16.

Rice said that even when plays didn’t happen the way Smith drew them up, the end result was the same. Rice made a buzzer-beating shot to open the 1989-90 season with a Maui Invitational win over James Madison. The play was the same one that Smith used to beat Oklahoma.

"I was supposed to get the ball to Rick," Rice said. "I kind of stumbled a little bit and I did a spin move and I just threw it up and it went in."

Smith made winning look that easy.


One of Smith’s biggest peeves was for a player to talk while he had the floor. J.R. Reid said it’d make Smith go "bananas."

"'J.R., when did you start talking when I’m talking? When did we start doing that here?'" Reid recalled Smith saying. "'Does that say the J.R. Reid Center out front? No. It’s the Dean E. Smith Center. You listen to what I say.'"

The rest of his teammates were holding in their laughter and finally let go once the practice was over and they could revisit it in the locker room.

Brian Reese had a bad habit of being so far behind the 3-point line on the corner that he stepped out of bounds. Eric Montross said instead of ripping Reese, Smith made his point more subtly.

"He said, ‘Brian, do they not have out-of-bounds lines in the Bronx?'" Montross said.

Montross said it was one of Smith’s more underappreciated qualities. Smith had a way of showing his authority without making his players feel small.

"He would never break us down in front of our peers because he knew that was something that needed to be protected," Montross said. "So he would deliver that message privately. The ways he dealt with us was so classy and yet it was tough."
What does Jay Z say in that one song?

"Get that dirt off your shoulder," right? I can't really do that, but last weekend felt better than previous weekends.

I went 4-1 last weekend. Can y'all believe it?

Give me a moment while I twerk in celebration. … OK. Done twerking.

Louisville overcame an 18-point deficit to beat North Carolina. Arizona crushed Oregon State. Kansas toyed with Kansas State. And Northern Iowa was dominant in a 16-point victory over Missouri Valley Conference rival Wichita State.

I was wrong about Virginia beating Duke. But the Blue Devils literally played the best late-game basketball we've seen all season. I'll take that loss.

Let's go for 5-0 this weekend. (I always go 1-4 or 2-3 when I say that.)

Last week: 4-1
Overall: 36-24

No. 9 Louisville at No. 3 Virginia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: Boxer Roy Jones Jr. released a rap track titled, "Ya'll Must Have Forgot" back in the day. That should have been the theme song for Virginia's double-digit road victory over North Carolina earlier this week. The Cavaliers are still one of America's strongest teams. But they're facing a tough Louisville squad that's still terrorizing teams with a 23.4 percent defensive turnover rate. One problem in this matchup is that Virginia commits turnovers on only 15 percent of its possessions (fourth in the nation). The Cavs won't panic. They'll pack the lane and potentially turn a Louisville team that's connecting on 30 percent of its 3-pointers into a roster of jump-shooters. And that favors the Cavaliers. But … Montrezl Harrell. He's playing like a grown man right now. Carrying the Cardinals. He'll do it again Saturday in another ACC upset.

Prediction: Louisville 61, Virginia 59

No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 4 Duke, 1 p.m. ET, CBS, Saturday: What if the Blue Devils are better now without Rasheed Sulaimon? When Mike Krzyzewski made the unprecedented move to dismiss Sulaimon -- the first player he'd kicked off the team in his lengthy career -- it seemed like everything would fall apart. But that late turnaround in Saturday's victory over Virginia (Duke scored 1.17 points per possession against one of the nation's stingiest defenses; the Cavs went 3-for-13 from the 3-point line) proved otherwise. The Blue Devils then struggled, but eventually finished off a hungry Georgia Tech team in their next game. Duke has its mojo back. Notre Dame's subpar defense (No. 146 in efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy) was a problem in a weekend loss at Pitt (surrendered 1.23 points per possession). It will be an issue in Cameron Indoor Stadium, too.

Prediction: Duke 75, Notre Dame 70

No. 24 Georgetown at No. 7 Villanova, 2 p.m. ET, Fox, Saturday: Don't sleep on the Big East. LJoe Lunardi's latest Bracketology features six Big East teams. Six! It hasn't received the same national attention as some of the power leagues, but Lunardi projects more bids for the Big East than the Pac-12 and the Mountain West combined. Joshua Smith and D’Vauntes-Rivera will be ready for this tough matchup. The last time the two teams faced off, on Jan. 19, Georgetown won by 20 points. That won't happen in Philadelphia. But the Hoyas held the Wildcats to just 0.88 points per possession that day. Vengeance will be sweet for Jay Wright's squad.

Prediction: Villanova 69, Georgetown 57

No. 8 Kansas at Oklahoma State, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: It's the Jayhawks' league again. Nothing new to see here. But Kansas has evolved into the Big 12 front-runner and a team that's finally playing with the chemistry its colleagues in the league can't match. Kelly Oubre Jr. is improving. Cliff Alexander is helping in a reserve role. Frank Mason is a solid leader. The Jayhawks have won six in a row. But the thing you have to worry about with this Kansas team is complacency. The Jayhawks are pulling away from the pack. And now Bill Self's squad will face an Oklahoma State team that just beat Texas in Austin in overtime. That's a tough environment, and Le'Bryan Nash will look to improve upon his 5-for-14 effort in the first meeting. The Cowboys will make this interesting.

Prediction: Kansas 74, Oklahoma State 72 (overtime)

No. 17 Maryland at Iowa, 3:15 p.m. ET, Sunday, Big Ten Network: Iowa shouldn't be falling in the Big Ten standings like this. The Hawkeyes have it all. But they're struggling from the 3-point line. And they're just struggling with consistency. But this is the same squad that beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Iowa has swept Ohio State, perhaps the second-best squad in the league, this season. What's wrong? You could ask the same about Maryland, which hasn't looked like the Big Ten contender it appeared to be in recent weeks. Are Melo Trimble's recent woes temporary or a trend? We'll find out soon. But Iowa is desperate and Maryland has lost back-to-back road games.

Prediction: Iowa 67, Maryland 63