College Basketball Nation: North Carolina

Did You Know: NBA Draft Edition

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
5:45
PM ET

Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAnthony Davis and his Kentucky teammates have a chance to make history at the 2012 NBA Draft.
Trivia question: Anthony Davis will become the second player in the common draft era (since 1966) to be drafted first overall the same season as winning a national championship and being the AP Player of the Year. Name the other.

Here are a 10 more facts to impress your friends with as we get ready for draft night.

Did you know that…

• Davis averaged 14.2 points per game at Kentucky. In the common draft era, the fewest points per game by any No. 1 pick who played in college the previous season was 14.5 by Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing in 1984-85.

• Kentucky will be the ninth school to have more than one former player taken first overall. The two years between top overall picks (also in 2010) is the fewest among those nine schools.

• Kentucky and North Carolina could have a combined 10 players drafted. There has never been a draft in the common draft era in which two schools each had at least four picks in the first two rounds, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• Since Derrick Rose went No. 1 in 2008, John Calipari has coached seven first-round picks. Bill Self and Rick Barnes are tied for the second-most over that span with six.

• Speaking of lottery picks, UNC could have four of them. The earliest in the common draft era a school has had four players selected is 14th (Duke in 1999, UNC in 2005).

• With the lack of elite international prospects this year, it could mark the first time since 1994 that every first-round pick came from the college ranks.

• If Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal are selected in the Top 3, it will be the second time a conference has had the top 3 picks. In 1986, the ACC pulled it off with the selection of UNC’s Brad Daugherty, Maryland’s Len Bias and NC State’s Chris Washburn.

• If Thomas Robinson goes second, it would be the first draft in NBA history in which each of the top two picks played against each other in the preceding national championship game, according to Elias.

• Weber State's Damian Lillard is projected to go in the Top 10 of many mock drafts. The only Big Sky player ever chosen in the top 10? Montana’s Michael Ray Richardson in 1978.

• There’s not a heavy senior presence with Tyler Zeller seemingly the only lock for the top 20. There’s a chance this draft could set an all-time record for fewest seniors taken in the first round. In 2004 Jameer Nelson, Luke Jackson, Rafael Araujo and Tony Allen were the only four seniors taken in the first round.

Trivia answer: Lew Alcindor in 1969.

Get the information you need to be ready for the draft and follow the action Thursday night on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo.
The Afternoon Links are (intermittently) back, and they are exactly what they say they are. Some days will bring more than others. This is the offseason, after all. If you have a link you'd like included, your best bet is to hit me on Twitter. You can also e-mail your link to collegebasketballnation at gmail.com, or use the submission form here. Just don't expect me to call it a "bitmark."
  • It's no secret the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats were one of the most talented teams we've seen in recent seasons. Chad Ford's mock draft is confirmation enough of that fact. But one of the more underrated aspects of the Wildcats' success -- one we talked about a lot during the Final Four, but which risks being lost to history in the Anthony Davis narrative -- is how truly balanced Kentucky was. SI's Luke Winn decided to try to quantify this balance. How? Luke looked at the disparity in usage rate between the past 16 national champions' top five players, and graded that balance on the Herfindahl Index (a market-concentration metric which sounds complicated but provides a rather elegant number). Luke found that not only was Kentucky the most balanced title team of recent seasons, but the most balanced of any of the past 16 champions. One more remarkable fact considering the youth and talent in Kentucky coach John Calipari's lineup. (Oh, and in case you're wondering, the most imbalanced national champ of the past 16 years was the Carmelo Anthony-led 2003 Syracuse Orange. Anthony? Imbalanced scoring? Never!)
  • Basketball Prospectus' Drew Cannon spent the past week unloading 2012 player rankings list after 2012 player rankings list, and on Friday he concluded with his tally of 2012's 25 best. The most interesting selection? Colorado forward Andre Roberson comes in at No. 25, a testament to Roberson's Thomas Robinson-level pace-adjusted rebounding efforts last season. Cannon's top five returners for next season: Doug McDermott, Cody Zeller, Isaiah Canaan, Jeff Withey, and Roberson. It's going to be a wacky 2012-13 season, kids.
  • Probably the best image I've seen all week: A photo of former Purdue coach (and current St. John's assistant/mentor) Gene Keady tying the knot in Hawaii. That's all well and good, but the best part is the cameo by Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, pictured standing behind Keady with a lovely bouquet in tow. Weber as flower girl? Like I said, great image.
  • Speaking of Weber, Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez is sounding entirely thrilled about his new coaching staff. Good news, that.
  • Earlier this week, two doctoral students at the University of Georgia released a paper finding that schools who change conferences often see not only financial and exposure-related benefits but also, interestingly enough, an increase in the school's "ability to attract and retain high-quality students."
  • Beyond the Arc's Rob Dauster argues that replacing Kendall Marshall will be North Carolina's toughest impending task. I'd argue that replacing the core of UNC's excellence last season -- the interior rebounding and defense of Tyler Zeller and John Henson -- will be tougher, but the point is well taken.
  • Kansas fans were not entirely thrilled to learn Bill Self had scheduled a two-year home-and-home series with former Big 12 member Colorado, wondering why the Jayhawks would give a game to an upstart program that left the Big 12 in the cold during the first wave of recent conference realignment. Self, it turns out, has no hard feelings: “No one ever held Colorado responsible for them leaving the league. They did something they felt they had to do,” Self said. “There were so many rumors they could be left out in the cold, too. Everybody respected that without question. There are no hard feelings there. With the climate, the landscape at that particular time (summer, 2010), with all the talk about Texas, Oklahoma, A&M, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, all those schools going to the Pac-10 back then ... all the talk before that about Missouri and Nebraska going to the Big Ten ... Colorado was just making sure they had a conference affiliation. No hard feelings about that.”
  • Today's Jason King feature seeks insight on the difficulty of replacing a legendary coach -- a simultaneously unenviable and desirable task, because replacing a legend usually means taking over one of the nation's truly elite programs. As a complement, Andy Katz, Dana O'Neil and Myron Medcalf argued for which current top coach will be hardest to replace: Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, or John Calipari.
  • If you're reading this post, you've almost certainly seen our writers' and analysts' poll of college hoops jobs rankings, as organized by conference. Yesterday, I ranked the top 10 jobs in the country. Myron and I debated that top 10 (and mostly the top two), I discussed my logic with y'all in a chat, and discussion elsewhere on the Internet has been robust and largely pleasurable.
  • Early in the week, King wrote a really fun piece about coaches who never played high-level basketball, and the unique challenges that background presents, while I listed some of the best former players turned coaches and O'Neil discussed the way the modern game has somewhat stifled coaches' once-outsized public personalities.

Behind the box scores: Wednesday's games

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
3:05
AM ET
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Wednesday.

Portland 74, Santa Clara 70
Santa Clara committed just one turnover, the fewest by any team in a loss this season. The Broncos committed the lone turnover down two points with seven seconds left in the game. The previous team to commit no more than one turnover in a loss was Fairfield on Feb. 12, 2009 against Marist.

Cincinnati 72, Marquette 61
Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson blocked seven shots in 13 minutes off the Bearcats’ bench. That’s tied for the second-most blocks by a substitute this season, but Jackson did it in the fewest minutes played. The last player to block seven shots in 13 minutes played was Rutgers’ Hamady N’Diaye on Feb. 10, 2007 against Cincinnati.

UNC 88, Maryland 64
UNC’s Tyler Zeller made 20 of 23 free throw attempts in the victory, tying him with Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham and Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page for the most made free throws in a game this season. Zeller broke Tyler Hansbrough’s Smith Center record with the 20 makes, which was also one shy of both UNC’s and the ACC’s all-time record.

Seattle 111, Longwood 74
Seattle’s Sterling Carter scored 28 points in only 16 minutes of action. The last player to score that many points in that few minutes played was North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside on Nov. 18, 2008 (also 28 points in 16 minutes).

Mercer 61, Lipscomb 53
Lipscomb’s Deonte Alexander shot 4-for-22 from the field (18.2 percent) in the loss. That’s the worst shooting performance this season for a player with at least 20 attempts.

Lehigh 70, Colgate 57
Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum recorded seven steals in the win, tied for the third-most takeaways by a player this season.

Behind the box scores: Tuesday's games

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
3:06
AM ET
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Tuesday.

Creighton 93, Evansville 92 (OT)
Evansville’s Colt Ryan scored 43 points, the highest scoring output by a player in a loss this season. He made 17 field goals, one shy of the high this year, set by Creighton’s Doug McDermott. McDermott was 6-for-13 from the free throw line Tuesday; he had missed just six free throws in his previous eight games.

Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT)
Thirty-eight of Michigan’s 56 field goal attempts were 3-pointers (67.9 percent), the highest 3-point attempt percentage by a major conference team this season.

North Carolina 86, North Carolina State 74
North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall had 22 points, 13 assists and no turnovers in the win. No other player in Division I over the past 15 years has recorded at least 22 points and 13 assists without a turnover.

What we learned from Saturday's games

January, 14, 2012
1/14/12
11:12
PM ET
It didn't look like a great slate of games coming in, but Saturday turned out to be full of upsets and last-second thrillers. Here are some things we learned from all the action ...

The Top Three

Florida State 90, No. 3 North Carolina 57
What we learned: Wow. A true beatdown. Perhaps we don’t have an elite team in college basketball this season. North Carolina has as much potential as any team in the country to warrant that title, but Saturday’s meltdown -- the most lopsided of the Roy Williams era -- contradicted much of what we thought we knew about the Tar Heels. The Seminoles are always feisty against Carolina and Duke and tend to be giant-killers, but this was just silly. The Noles were 12-for-27 from the 3-point line in this victory. Deividas Dulkys was 8-for-10 from beyond the arc and scored a career-high 32 points. He had scored a combined 32 points in his previous nine games. The Tar Heels lost their fire once the barrage began. The Seminoles saw a vulnerable team and pounced. For the third time this season, the Heels lost a game outside of Chapel Hill. But in this loss, they were bullied and lethargic. How will UNC recover, and what on earth is the ACC about right now?

No. 2 Kentucky 65, Tennessee 62
What we learned: Cuonzo Martin’s Volunteers haven’t looked like an 8-9 squad over the past week. In their past three games, they’ve defeated Florida, nearly knocked off Mississippi State on the road and battled Kentucky for all 40 minutes. Freshman Jarnell Stokes, the highly touted prep player who joined the team Monday, recorded nine points and grabbed four rebounds in his debut. Once Stokes gets into shape, he’s going to have a major effect on a Tennessee squad that led Kentucky by eight in the second half and stuck with the Wildcats until the end. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (18 points, 4 blocks) are two of America’s best, but their squad is going to get caught in league play soon if it continues to show up only after halftime.

No. 1 Syracuse 78, Providence 55
What we learned: This game was over when Ed Cooley announced stud point guard Vincent Council would not play. The Friars’ leading scorer might not have affected the final outcome, but he could have helped his squad’s deplorable offense (3-for-14 from beyond the arc, 22 turnovers) against Cuse's press. Council was a beast in PC's 31-point destruction of Louisville earlier this week. But Syracuse proved, again, that it’s the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. SU has separated itself from one of the most competitive leagues in the country. The Orange’s 19-0 start matches the best in school history. With North Carolina losing to Florida State and Kentucky struggling against Tennessee, it’s about time that Syracuse gets more credit for its strong start. Best team. In the country. No debate.

The Midwest Upsets

Northwestern 81, No. 7 Michigan State 74
What we learned: Oh, Big Ten. How you always find a way to amaze us. Within the past week, the league’s top three teams all have fallen in upsets. At home in Evanston, the Wildcats (losers of four of their previous five entering the game) snapped Michigan State’s 15-game winning streak as John Shurna led four double-figure scorers with 22 points. This game meant a few things: (1) There’s far less separation between the top and bottom of the Big Ten than there appeared to be two weeks ago. (2) Much like Michigan and Wisconsin, the Spartans are looking for a consistent No. 3. Draymond Green and Keith Appling were the team’s only two scorers in double figures. (3) Northwestern needs to prove it can put together a string of games that resemble Saturday’s outing. The Wildcats have pieces, but they tend to showcase their potential in spurts. Wonder whether this season will be different.

Iowa 75, No. 13 Michigan 59
What we learned: I can’t figure out Iowa or the Big Ten right now. The Hawkeyes knocked off their second nationally ranked opponent in two weeks. And in a Big Ten that’s as hard to peg as any league in the country right now, the Hawkeyes look like a factor. I didn’t say contender. But the Hawkeyes prove the Big Ten doesn’t offer any easy victories. No pushovers in this conference (see Minnesota-Indiana, Northwestern-Michigan for further proof). For Michigan, this game just confirmed how much the Wolverines rely on Tim Hardaway Jr. He is 17-for-55 in the team’s four losses. The only way the Wolverines -- now 1-3 on the road -- will make a push toward the top of the Big Ten standings is if Hardaway is more consistent.

Oklahoma 82, No. 18 Kansas State 73
What we learned: Frank Martin was enraged after his team lost to an undefeated Baylor squad Tuesday at home. He preached defense in his postgame interviews. That was a major challenge for the Wildcats on Saturday, too. The Big 12’s eighth-ranked scoring defense allowed a Sooners team that lost its first three Big 12 games to shoot 55 percent from the field. K-State's performances against Mizzou and Baylor suggested the Wildcats deserve a spot among the Big 12’s elite. That’s not necessarily the case anymore, with the Wildcats having dropped three of their past four games. Their conference slate gets easier from here over the next few weeks, but the Cats will find themselves in vulnerable spots, especially on the road, if their defensive woes continue. That's now 3-8 in its past 11 Big 12 road games for KSU. After a strong debut, Lon Kruger’s squad fell hard (the Sooners had lost four of five entering Saturday’s game). But the Kansas State victory should be a major confidence booster for OU. The Sooners snapped a 14-game losing skid against ranked opponents.

The Mountain West Thriller

No. 22 San Diego State 69, No. 12 UNLV 67
What we learned: The Mountain West is going to make noise in March. The league’s top two squads, both nationally ranked, battled for 40 minutes in San Diego. This wasn’t a basketball game. It was a title fight. I wasn’t there, but it felt like a tournament game from my couch. This game had some of the best back-and-forth action I’ve seen all season. Neither team could pull away. Jamaal Franklin (team-high 24 points) tumbled over a photographer in the final seconds and hurt his ankle. But he returned to the floor moments later and scored the game-winning bucket. Steve Fisher continues to exceed expectations after losing Kawhi Leonard to the NBA draft and three other starters. The Rebels won’t beat the top squads in their league or the NCAA tournament if their two leading scorers, Chace Stanback (7 points, 3-of-9 shooting) and Mike Moser (9 points, 3-of-11), struggle in big games. But San Diego State is headed to Las Vegas on Feb. 11 for the rematch. Can’t wait to see that. This matchup wasn’t just a boost for the two teams on floor; it was a boost for the entire league. The Mountain West is tough. And don't forget about New Mexico, which won its 13th straight with a victory at Wyoming. The Aztecs and Lobos go at it Wednesday night.

Taking Care Of Business

No. 9 Missouri 84, Texas 73
What we learned: The Tigers aren’t conventional. They’re undersized in a league with a multitude of skilled bigs and they’re not very deep. But Frank Haith used seven players in his second consecutive victory since last week’s lopsided loss at Kansas State. Ricardo Ratliffe led the Tigers with 21 points (10-of-12). Marcus Denmon, who had six in a win at Iowa State on Wednesday, scored 18 against the Longhorns. Phil Pressey (18 points, 10 assists, 0 turnovers) continued his impressive play. Few teams possess the perimeter depth and skill to challenge Missouri’s talented backcourt for 40 minutes. J’Covan Brown scored 34 points for the Horns, matching the combined scoring tally for the team’s other four starters. But they couldn’t defend a Mizzou team that held a 43-30 edge at halftime and finished with four scorers in double figures. A week ago, folks questioned the Tigers' legitimacy. But they clearly have regained their mojo since the KSU loss and should pose a threat to any top-tier Big 12 team.

No. 20 Mississippi State 56, Alabama 52
What we learned: Alabama entered this game on a five-game winning streak. But Bama won’t beat most teams in the SEC by scoring 52 points. JaMychal Green (14 points) was the Crimson Tide's only double-digit scorer. The Bulldogs weren’t much better. However, Arnett Moultrie’s 25-point, 13-rebound output was the difference. The two teams combined to shoot 4-for-26 from the 3-point line, but Dee Bost was 3-for-3 from long range in the closing minutes and that was that. Man, the SEC is confusing. Kentucky is obviously the league’s best, but who are Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5? This was an opportunity for these squads to make a definitive statement about their places in the league. Didn’t really happen. I expected more from this one, but hey, Mississippi State will take the win.

Some more observations from Saturday

  • Baylor looked like a national champ in its 106-65 victory over Oklahoma State. No, the Cowboys aren’t an elite team. But the Bears shot 52 percent on 3-pointers (15-of-29) and had almost twice as many rebounds as OSU (48-25). Nine players scored for the Bears. Their depth is underrated, and it’s going to be a huge asset in March.
  • [+] EnlargeMaalik Wayns
    AP Photo/Al BehrmanMaalik Wayns, left, dropped 39 for Villanova in a loss at Cincinnati.
  • Iowa State blew a 12-point second-half lead and lost its second consecutive matchup against a ranked opponent in its 82-73 defeat at Kansas. But with Royce White (18 points, 17 rebounds), the Cyclones can win nine or more in the Big 12. By the way, a career-high 28 points out of Tyshawn Taylor should quiet a few of his critics.
  • Connecticut is such a different team when Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond are fully engaged. Drummond (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Oriakhi (12 points, 7 rebounds) were impressive in the Huskies’ 67-53 win at Notre Dame, ending the Irish's 29-game home win streak. The Huskies didn’t have Ryan Boatright, but they played like a complete team with their bigs being so active.
  • Pittsburgh played better Saturday but still lost at Marquette 62-57. The Panthers, the models of consistency over the past decade, have lost six straight and are 0-5 in the Big East. Holy cow. Let that one sink in.
  • His team lost once again in a close game at Cincinnati, but it's worth mentioning the effort by Villanova's Maalik Wayns, who had a line of 39 points (6-of-13 from 3), 13 rebounds and six assists, and put his struggling Wildcats in a position to win on the road.
  • Xavier has won three in a row, after topping St. Bonaventure 77-64. Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway combined to score 33 points in the victory. The Musketeers didn’t secure any signature wins during this mini-revival, but that doesn’t matter. X needed to get back to winning as it prepares for the Atlantic 10's toughest squads. Until someone in the conference knocks off the Musketeers at the Cintas Center (where they've beaten 42 consecutive A-10 opponents), this team is still the league favorite in my opinion.
  • Conference USA should be fun this season. Like Xavier, Memphis -- a decisive winner at Houston on Saturday night -- should still be considered the favorite until someone proves they can beat the Tigers on the road. But Marshall and UCF played a classic in a 65-64 Thundering Herd victory, and both could give Memphis trouble. Southern Miss is right in the mix as well.
  • Meanwhile, in the Mid-American Conference, Akron now has to be considered the favorite after a 68-63 victory over Ohio, which looked so solid in nonconfernece play but has faltered of late. The Zips have wins at Mississippi State and Marshall. If they make the NCAA tournament, look out.
  • Have to be impressed with the way Oregon swept the Arizona schools. Winning in Tempe is nothing to be overjoyed about, but winning in Tucson -- no matter how mediocre the Wildcats have been for most of the season -- is still special for any Pac-12 school. The Ducks are as good a bet as any to win this crazy league.
  • You know who won't win the Pac-12? The Ducks' rival, Oregon State. The Beavers have played great at times this season, but the bottom line is 1-5 in a down conference after a horrendous double-digit loss at Arizona State on Saturday.
  • You know who just might win the Pac-12? Stanford. The Cardinal now are 5-1 in the conference after a 20-point beatdown of Colorado, which began 3-0 (all at home) but got a rude awakening in the Bay Area by Cal and Stanford.
  • Gonzaga was shaky early Saturday night, but the Zags have to be happy with their 62-58 win at Loyola Marymount, a team that has knocked off UCLA and Saint Louis this season. Mark Few's team was absolutely humiliated at Saint Mary's on Thursday. A bounce-back victory was a must, and the Zags got it done.

ACC: Five Things I Can't Wait To See

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
12:22
PM ET
Here are five storylines I look forward to following in the ACC this season:

1. North Carolina

No, there’s no missing verb there. I just can’t wait to see North Carolina. Each year there are a handful of teams that start the preseason as the favorites with loaded lineups expected to dance long through March. (Though it should be noted, plenty of overlooked teams often dance longer. Like, say, Connecticut last season.) The Tar Heels are at the top of that must-watch list.

It’s not often in this day and age that five starters return to complete unfinished business. So the mere thought that UNC has talented sophomores is a rare treat. And when you pair those starters with two McDonald’s All-Americans? If you don’t want to watch and see what that sort of basketball concoction produces, you need to check your basketball pulse.

2. Will NC State get its verve back?

[+] EnlargeMark Gottfried
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeCan Mark Gottfried lead the Wolfpack back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006?
Mark Gottfried already has made a splash on the recruiting trail, landing two significant players (Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis) who sounded the gong that the Wolfpack are back in the mix. But the real work is on the court. Gottfried doesn’t inherit a ready-made NCAA tournament team, but he has more than enough to work with. C.J. Leslie should be a star in the frontcourt, and Lorenzo Brown is a more than capable point guard.

Certainly the future looks bright, but no doubt State fans would love a little here-and-now to hang their hat on. It’s been five long years since the Pack went to the NCAA tournament. That may remain a touch out of reach this season, especially with a tough schedule, but even a push in that direction should suffice.

3. Can Austin Rivers follow in Kyrie Irving’s footsteps?

Well, maybe not literally. Not even the most dedicated Duke hater could wish Rivers to suffer a season-stifling injury like Irving did.

What I do want to see, though, is if Rivers can be as sensational as Irving, the No. 1 overall draft pick last June, was in his limited time in Durham. He’ll need to be good because the Blue Devils have a lot to replace now that Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are no longer around. More than great players, those two were terrific leaders.

This being Duke, of course, Rivers isn’t alone. He has a cast of great players around him -- Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly and a trio of Plumlees -- but Rivers will have to be the electric engineer of this cast.

4. Is this the season Virginia completes its turnaround?

When Tony Bennett was hired at Virginia, it was something of a head-scratcher. How could a guy from the Midwest who cut his coaching teeth in the Pacific Northwest succeed in an East Coast league? Apparently, pretty well. In his three years at UVa, Bennett has slowly guided the Cavaliers back to relevance, taking his time to build a program rather than a flash-in-the-pan team.

All signs point to the Cavs reaping the rewards for that "slow and steady wins the race" approach this season. Virginia posted a winning record last season, and that was without Mike Scott for all but 10 games. Now the double-double machine is back from his ankle injury and set to anchor a team that did well in his absence. The Cavs haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2007. That could change this year.

5. Can Florida State earn a little respect?

Quick, what team has been the third-best in the ACC for three years running? Take your time.

Most people tend to overlook Florida State. Here’s what the Seminoles are not: sexy. They aren’t going to wow you with a finesse offense and a flurry of scoring. Remember, this is a team that scored all of 17 points in the first half against Ohio State a year ago and ranked 159th nationally in scoring.

Here’s what the Seminoles are: consistently good. Their nasty defense makes up for whatever they might lack in offense, allowing opponents to shoot just 36 percent against them a season ago, which ranked as the best in the nation. It may make you want to avert your eyes at times, but it’s successful.

This season, Leonard Hamilton will be without Chris Singleton. Then again, the Noles were without their leading scorer late last season because of a foot injury and managed just fine. FSU should be very good again, with Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys among those returning. Maybe this year people will notice.
Us college folk are still getting to know Mr. Harrison Barnes. We know he's talented. We know he approaches basketball with the mindset of a CEO in training. We know he used Skype to announce his collegiate decision, a method that was both original and, after learning of Barnes' all-business attitude, entirely fitting. How many 18-year-old prep stars prefer to handle their business via videoconference?

But how good will he be? OK, well, duh. He'll be good. But good enough to make the Tar Heels completely forget their ugly 2009-10? Good enough to get UNC back to the elite? Good enough to compete for a title?

That we don't know. According to Barnes' new coach, though, it won't be for a lack of effort. Via Fox's Jeff Goodman, get ready for some high praise:
"It’s unfair that people are talking about him as a savior,” Williams said. "But he has come right in and already earned the respect of the veterans with his work ethic and focus.”

"Tyler is the most driven player I’ve ever coached,” Williams said. "I think Harrison will be number two. He has tremendous focus, self-discipline and is so driven.”

That's a little scary, when you think about it. After all, Tyler Hansbrough was talented, but as an incoming freshman he wasn't in the same stratosphere, athletically or otherwise, as Barnes. Hansbrough built his career on sheer determination, on a borderline psychopathic dedication to competition. There was a reason they called him Psycho T. And for all the backlash Hansbrough received from fans during his time at UNC -- he did have his irksome tendencies, after all -- by the end of his career it was impossible to deny just how good that career really was.

Imagine if Barnes experienced the same arc. It's unlikely Williams will be able to keep Barnes on campus for longer than a year or two. The NBA is already calling, and he won't have Hansbrough's four-year college career, that's for sure. But a player as talented as Barnes with Hansbrough's work ethic baked in? That's just, well, terrifying. And also awesome.

Try as he might, Williams isn't lowering the expectations for his incoming star one bit. In fact, he's raising them.

Today's ACC tournament games

March, 11, 2010
3/11/10
10:45
AM ET
Previewing today’s games in the ACC:

Boston College-Virginia, noon

At stake: Both teams are hoping this is the beginning of a stunning run of four victories in four days. Not likely for either, but you have to start somewhere.

Who has the edge: The Eagles. Virginia has lost nine straight and suspended its leading scorer, Sylven Landesberg, for academic shortcomings. BC won by 13 when the two met in Chestnut Hill on March 3.

Stat to watch: Virginia has attempted the fewest free throws of anyone in the ACC, just 485. Next fewest is Boston College at 537, a full 80 fewer attempts than 10th-place Miami. Can either struggling offensive team find the easiest way to score by getting to the foul line?

Miami-Wake Forest, 2 p.m.

At stake: Miami is hoping for a miracle. The Demon Deacons are playing for NCAA seeding and would like to win their first postseason game since 2008.

Who has the edge: Wake, but not as big an edge as you might think. They’re played poorly down the stretch, losing four of their past five, and the teams split their two regular-season meetings.

Stat to watch: Wake Forest leads the nation in effective field-goal percentage defense, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics. Miami, meanwhile, is a pretty good shooting team at 46.2 percent, second-best in the league. Which strength wins the day?

Georgia Tech-North Carolina, 7 p.m.

At stake: Tech needs to win this game and perhaps another to feel secure about an NCAA tournament bid – and coach Paul Hewitt needs an NCAA tournament bid to feel secure about keeping his job. The Tar Heels are simply trying to pick their teeth up off the ground and salvage something from a disastrous season.

Who has the edge: Georgia Tech swept the season series, winning close in Chapel Hill and by 17 in Atlanta. And the Yellow Jackets are closer to playing for something than the Heels.

Stat to watch: Which team takes care of the ball? Both have committed more turnovers than they’ve forced – Carolina is last in the 12-team ACC in turnover margin in league games, and Georgia Tech is tied for eighth.

North Carolina State-Clemson, 9 p.m.

At stake: North Carolina State is hoping to start a run – and, potentially, hoping to extend Sidney Lowe’s tenure as coach. The Tigers are trying to improve their NCAA seeding.

Who has the edge: Clemson. It won the only meeting between the two this season by three points in Raleigh. But NC State has won three of its past four coming into this game.

Stat to watch: NC State is shooting just 44 percent on the season – and that drops to 40 percent in league games, last in the ACC. But the Wolfpack shot 50 percent or better in their past two victories. If Clemson keeps the Pack closer to 40 percent accuracy than 50 percent, it should win.
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If you didn't already know, and you were forced to guess (for the sake of this exercise, let's say someone is threatening you with the prospect of watching Monique's Oscar acceptance speech on an infinite loop), who would you say is the ACC's fourth leading scorer? I'm betting you wouldn't go with Duke guard Nolan Smith.

[+] EnlargeNolan Smith
Andrew Synowiez/US PresswireDuke guard Nolan Smith is averaging 17.6 points per game this season.
But it's true. Smith scores 17.6 points per game, third on his team behind Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer, and fourth overall in the conference. (Malcolm Delaney tops all scorers with 20.9 points per game.) You hear very little about this, likely because Smith seems a less integral part of his team's offense than either Singler and Scheyer, and possibly because Smith doesn't seem to have the same NBA expectations thrust upon him as Singler. He's not high profile. He's just good.

Duke fans ought to be thankful for this, because it's made Smith's decision about entering the NBA draft after his junior season -- which Singler is likely to do; Scheyer, a senior, is a late pick at best, and will probably head overseas when his college career is finished -- a foregone conclusion:
Nonetheless, Smith was asked during a Friday media availability whether he'll be back. "I'm coming back next year, of course," he said.

Good news for Duke, right? The Blue Devils may or may not lose Singler, but if they do they'll be losing their two leading scorers, who alongside Smith make up a huge chunk of minutes and production in Duke's rather imbalanced attack. (Imbalanced being a relative term here, of course; who wouldn't want three players averaging 17-plus minutes for their team?) Coach K's 2010-11 team will rely heavily on freshmen whose minutes waned as the ACC season picked up speed, and having Smith around to take over point guard duties for that team will be a major boost.

Enough of a boost to keep North Carolina fans in full-on post-blowout freak-out mode? Well, that's the goal. Achieving it will be a different story.

Saturday's winners and losers

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
1:57
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Winners from Saturday

Notre Dame: The Irish gave the selection committee another reason to put them in the dance with yet another road win, this time with Luke Harangody and at Marquette -- a team in the tournament field. The Irish are earning their way into the field.

Duke: The Blue Devils likely earned the fourth No. 1 seed with a hammering of North Carolina on Saturday night. Duke also clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title. The Blue Devils passed the eye test of a team that could get to Indy.

Saint Louis: The Billikens won at Dayton, completing a season sweep of the Flyers and finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic 10. Rick Majerus has done an outstanding job with a club that is void of upperclassmen. The Billikens could be a sleeper to win the A-10 in Atlantic City next week.

Baylor: If you’re looking for a sleeper in the Big 12 tournament, it could be Baylor. The Bears ran away from Texas and looked like a team ready to get busy in the postseason.

Kansas: The Jayhawks may have locked up the No. 1 overall seed after winning at Missouri on Saturday. Kansas got inspired play from its key contributors and once again heads into the conference tournament on a high.

Louisville: The Cardinals had to win two of there games this week and did. Louisville beat Connecticut, then lost at Marquette before beating Syracuse on Saturday. That gave the Cardinals a sweep of Syracuse and a likely bid to the Dance in the final game at Freedom Hall.

Tennessee: The Vols did something Lane Kiffin couldn’t do, taking a 17-0 lead on the road in the SEC. Tennessee lit up Mississippi State and had the look of a team that could be a major factor in an SEC tournament that they'll play in their home state just a few hours away in Nashville.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies didn’t have their second-leading scorer in Dorenzo Hudson, survived a nasty moving screen by Gani Lawal on Malcolm Delaney and gutted out a win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Hokies dismissed any doubt about their candidacy with a win.

Washington: The Huskies kept alive their chances of an at-large berth by winning at Oregon State. That win doesn’t get them in the dance, but a loss would have been crushing.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in Joe Lunardi’s bracket and they had to beat UCLA to stay in the field. They did, sweeping the L.A. schools this week. But here’s the deal: ASU and Washington are heading for a showdown in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney. Loser is out, winner has a pulse.

Memphis: The Tigers had a great week, winning at UAB and crushing Tulsa at home. The Tigers get the sweep of the Blazers. If you’re looking for a second C-USA team to go along with league champ UTEP, it could be the Tigers. They may get a third shot at UAB in the semifinals.

Maryland: The Terps won at Virginia. Yes, UVA was playing without Sylven Landesberg, who has been suspended for the season due to academics, but the Terps still won a road game. That means Maryland gets a share of the ACC title. That’s an outstanding accomplishment for this squad.

Pitt: The Panthers lost to Indiana early in the year without Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown. Pitt could have lost to Providence at home, but when it mattered most the Panthers have come up huge. They beat Rutgers as expected Saturday but that meant Pitt got the No. 2 seed after beating West Virginia and Villanova at home in February. Jamie Dixon has done a phenomenal job with the Panthers. There is no reason Pitt should be No. 2 in the Big East with what it lost.

Losers from Saturday

Rhode Island: Had a shot to convince the selection committee that it was worthy, but lost at UMass a week after losing at St. Bonaventure. The Rams didn’t beat the top three teams in the A-10 (Xavier, Temple or Richmond). URI must win the conference tournament.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs started a must-win game down 17-0. Mississippi State has blown two chances to win a key home game – to Kentucky and now Tennessee. The Bulldogs didn’t do anything Saturday to convince the selection committee.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets may still get into the field. But they gave the selection committee a reason to pause after losing at home to Virginia Tech, sans Dorenzo Hudson, who was hurt. The Yellow Jackets finished seventh in the ACC and had only one conference road win.

Connecticut: The Huskies had an awful week, losing at Notre Dame and then losing at South Florida on Saturday. The Huskies now probably have to get to the Big East semifinals to crawl back into the conversation.

Dayton: The Flyers were teetering on the bubble before the Billikens bulldozed the Flyers late and stole a win. Dayton now probably has to win the A-10 tournament to get a bid.

Villanova: The ‘Cats may have played themselves out of a No. 2 seed by losing at home to West Virginia. Villanova also fell to the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament. ‘Nova can still make a magnificent run, but it made the journey more difficult.

Kansas State: The Wildcats lost their third home game in the Big 12 by falling to lower-level Iowa State (also lost to Kansas and Oklahoma State). The Wildcats blew a No. 2 seed with the home loss Saturday.

LaSalle: The Explorers were supposed to be a sleeper in the A-10. They won’t even make the tournament in Atlantic City. The Explorers will join winless Fordham in sitting out the conference tourney.

Oklahoma: The disaster season came to a conclusion with a sad effort against Texas A&M. The atmosphere was awful and the Sooners sunk.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels were handed the second-worst loss under Roy Williams. The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Duke and limp into the ACC tournament. It was just awful.

UAB: The Blazers had a huge week with games against UTEP and Memphis. They lost them both and pushed themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane got hammered by Memphis and limp into hosting the conference tournament next week. Tulsa was the preseason favorite to win Conference USA.

A few nuggets:
  • Georgetown coach John Thompson III said late Saturday night that Austin Freeman felt fine after the game, his first since being diagnosed with diabetes. Freeman scored 24 points in the win over Cincinnati. Freeman missed the West Virginia game last Monday. Thompson told me that the Hoyas will continue to monitor Freeman’s blood-sugar level and don’t anticipate any problems going forward this season.
  • Notre Dame got Luke Harangody back for the win at Marquette. Harangody played 11 minutes off the bench. Irish coach Mike Brey told me late Saturday night that Harangody will continue to come off the bench this season. He said ‘Gody told him to use him however he wants to ensure the team wins. Brey said the Irish have become mentally tougher in the past few weeks. The Irish were 4-2 without Harangody, beating Pitt and Connecticut at home and winning at Georgetown.
  • KVAL-TV reported that Oregon coach Ernie Kent has been fired and that he was told on Feb. 22 by Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti. No one will be surprised if this does occur, but Kent told me in a text late Saturday night that this is the same story he has heard the past four years. Meanwhile, Bellottti sent this statement out late Saturday night after Oregon’s win over Washington State: "Ernie and I have talked, and we will continue to talk through the Pac-10 Tournament."

Video: Duke routs North Carolina, 82-50

March, 6, 2010
3/06/10
11:57
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Kyle Singler scored 25 points in No. 4 Duke's victory over rival North Carolina.

Behold the 96-team field

March, 6, 2010
3/06/10
12:44
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Tournament expansion has been a roundly panned idea, mostly for one reason: No one wants to watch teams 66 through 96 play a bunch of low-quality, NIT level basketball. It really comes down to that. There are reasons you could list for expansion, and some of them are valid (chief among them the NCAA's desire to make more money, which isn't necessarily a bad thing). But the bottom line is that very few people like the idea of expanding the NCAA tournament, because expanding the NCAA tournament means shoehorning the NIT into the NCAA. Even in vague form, it's not a very attractive idea.

How about in not-so-vague form? College Gameday asked Joe Lunardi to project a 96-team field on this morning's show. He did so. Here are some of bracketology-esque elements that resulted. A word of warning -- if you weren't against tournament expansion already, you might be now:

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN
" Big East (13)
" ACC (8)
" Big 12 (8)
" Atlantic 10 (6)
" Big Ten (6)
" SEC (6)
" Conference USA (5)
" Missouri Valley (5)
" Colonial (4)
" Mountain West (4)
" Pac-10 (4)
" WAC (4)
" West Coast (3)
" Metro-Atlantic (2)
" Mid-American (2)

LAST FOUR IN
" Missouri State
" North Carolina
" Arizona
" Akron

FIRST FOUR OUT
" Charleston
" IUPUI
" Wright State
" Fairfield

Gross, right? Do you have a losing record in the Missouri Valley? Not a problem! A major program going struggling to stay above .500 in a down year? Come on down! Are you, um, Fairfield? Great! You're all in the tournament! Woo-hoo! Expansion, baby!

I'm probably be a little bit too snarky here, so you'll have to forgive me. I'm just a little, I don't know, shocked? Talking about tournament expansion -- which, again, I'm not 100 percent against -- and actually seeing that expansion in action are two entirely different things. I get the pro-expansion arguments, but really? 13 Big East teams? Who, besides those teams' coaches, want this? And why?
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 7 Ohio State 73, Illinois 57: There were zero upsets to speak of last night, and Illinois' bid for a tournament-securing win at Ohio State was no different. Instead, the night was a feel-good Buckeye festival. Thad Matta's team secured a share of the Big Ten title. Evan Turner got a national spotlight, not that he needed it (more on this below). And Mark Titus, the by-now-famous purveyor of Club Trillion, made the most of his senior night, notching one final trillion in front of hundreds of Club Trillion t-shirt-clad OSU fans -- not to mention raising a whole bunch of cash for sick children. Really, things couldn't have gone much better.

The most notable performance of the night -- other than Titus', obviously -- probably came from Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler, whose seven 3-pointers for 21 points (this scoreline math is refreshingly simple) helped bury the Illini in the second half. After the game, though, the only national topic was Turner. More specifically, the topic was "Is Evan Turner the player of the year?" Every analyst ESPN had to offer on Sportscenter proclaimed it to be true. The only dissenters? America. In a SportsNation poll, 37 percent of the country voted for John Wall as the player of the year; Turner notched 33 percent of the vote. Which means one thing, America: You're on notice. I know Wall might be the most familiar name, but it's March now. There's no excuse for this. Inform thyself. Wall is a great player, but Turner has had a better season, and he deserves the award. I thought we Turner advocates had settled this issue already -- seriously, you have no idea how good it felt to see the unanimous pundit praise for Turner Tuesday night -- but apparently not. We have more work to do. Turner bandwagon team ... assemble!

No. 19 Vanderbilt 64, Florida 60: Again, no upsets here: Florida, like Illinois, could have sealed an at-large NCAA tournament spot with a win over the sturdy Commodores on Tuesday night. It didn't happen. Still, the Gators acquitted themselves nicely in the loss; Florida held a typically efficient Vanderbilt offense to a mere 64 points on 60 possessions. Billy Donovan's team was undone by its poor shooting, though, hitting 21-of-50 2-point shots and just 2-of-13 from 3 for a paltry 31.8 effective field goal percentage. Even in a solid defensive effort, that's not going to get the job done.

The Associated Press wrap of the game seems to think that Florida significantly hurt its tournament chances with the loss, but that seems slightly overstated. Sure, Florida didn't help itself, but losing by four to Vanderbilt at home isn't the worst result in the world, is it? Florida might have more work to do -- but no more work than before Tuesday, right?

Everywhere else: Cincinnati likewise needed a big win to keep itself in the at-large conversation. They almost got it, but insert the old koan about horseshoes and hand grenades here ... UTEP clinched the outright Conference USA title with a hard-fought win at Marshall ... Missouri's Zaire Taylor almost perfectly recreated Tyus Edney's famous game-winner in a thrilling overtime win at Iowa State ... North Carolina became the second team in the history of college basketball to get to 2,000 wins; one wonders if the current players felt strange holding that 2,000-win plaque, given this season's ugliness ... Syracuse had no problems with St. John's on senior night ... Baylor won at Texas Tech, handing Pat Knight's team its sixth straight loss ... Minnesota suffered a major letdown at Michigan, one which officially puts the final nail in the the already almost-entirely-assembled Gophers' coffin ... Trevor Booker did manly things in Clemson's win over Georgia Tech ... and Marquette shredded Louisville's zone in a 21-point win in Milwaukee.

UNC shops already thinking football

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
4:30
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North Carolina managed to top a fading Wake Forest team today, which is a nice little win, but it's no secret the Tar Heels struggled throughout their 2009-10 campaign. Roy Williams is disappointed, UNC's typically devoted fans are embracing apathy, and at 14-14, pretty much everybody is looking forward to what should be a bounce back year in 2010-11.

Still, none of the above hammers home just how disappointing this UNC team is quite like this photo from Research Triangle blog friend and podcast host Dave Warner, who captured an image of UNC's team shops selling -- brace yourselves -- football gear. There are still basketball threads in the building, but Warner reports the football shirts are already on the front and center table.

Yes, you read that right. UNC football shirts. Being featured. In Chapel Hill. On Feb. 26. (It's so shocking. I have to. Write. In fragments. For emphasis.) You know things are bad when a Chapel Hill business decides its best chance of making money from the resale of cotton shirts is to stamp "football" on the front. Yikes.

(Hat tip: Buster Sports)

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