Sunday, December 30, 2007

Injuries testing UNC's depth

North Carolina’s once-seemingly endless depth was so depleted Sunday that small forward Marcus Ginyard also played backup point guard during a 90-58 defeat of Valparaiso.
The new backup shooting guard, William Graves, had played 32 minutes all season before Sunday. The Tar Heels’ depth crisis occurred because backup point guard and shooting guard Bobby Frasor tore a knee ligament Thursday and is out for the season.
Quentin Thomas, who was expected to back up point guard Ty Lawson with Frasor out, injured his left ankle Friday and couldn’t play Sunday night.
So the Tar Heels were counting on Ginyard playing out of position and Graves in a more prominent role.
“Right now I’m just trying to get Coach to put me in at (center), because that’s the only position I haven’t played,” Ginyard joked.
Just last season, North Carolina seemed so talented and deep that the biggest question reporters had for coach Roy Williams was how he would distribute playing time to keep everybody happy.
But Brandan Wright turned pro after his freshman season, and Reyshawn Terry and Wes Miller completed their eligibility. Williams lost top recruiting target Kevin Love to UCLA and didn’t bring in any freshmen.
After Frasor’s season-ending knee injury, North Carolina’s depth suddenly seems ordinary. Post players Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson have been shaky, and their free-throw shooting has been so poor that Williams is hesitant to keep them on the court late in tight games.
Despite all that, the Tar Heels have a roster just about every other coach in the nation would love to work with. The lack of depth is a bit of a concern, but the long TV timeouts during the NCAA tournament give players plenty of time to catch their breath.
That’s when this team will be judged, and lack of depth won’t be as much of a problem then. KEN TYSIAC

Friday, December 21, 2007

Davidson observations after 66-65 loss

After his own one-point loss Friday night, it was obvious that Davidson coach Bob McKillop had spent some time dissecting Duke’s one-point loss to Pittsburgh the previous night.

“You look at their stats and say, ‘How the heck did they only lose by one in overtime to Pittsburgh?,’ ” McKillop said. “They shot 20 percent from the three. They shot 50 percent from the foul line. They got outrebounded. And they lose by one.”

Some of Davidson’s statistics from their 66-65 loss to N.C. State were similarly alarming. The Wildcats were outrebounded 40-25 and outscored 18-6 from the foul line. Yet they lost by only a point.

“I guess it shows that Duke has heart and fights,” McKillop said. “And I guess it shows that we have heart and fight.”

What Davidson didn’t have was a defensive rebound when it needed one in the closing seconds. And with a two-week layoff before the next game against Georgia Southern, the Wildcats will have a lot of time to think about it. – Ken Tysiac

UNC defense a work in progress

Coach Roy Williams says North Carolina needs to get better in all phases of its defense, but point guard Ty Lawson succinctly described the most glaring weakness Friday.

“When we let them dribble penetrate, we’ve got to help, and that leaves wide-open threes,” Lawson said.

North Carolina’s failure to stop dribblers is one of the main reasons opponents are shooting 34.7 percent from 3-point range against the Tar Heels. That ranks North Carolina in the bottom half of the ACC in that statistic.

Stopping penetration isn’t as easy as it sounds. According to Williams, North Carolina played a sagging man-to-man defense to prevent penetration in Dean Smith’s final years and throughout Bill Guthridge’s tenure.

But Williams said Smith and Guthridge weren’t happy with the results, and Williams wants to pressure the passing lanes to create turnovers. That leaves opponents with driving lanes. The key is learning to cut off those lanes more quickly.

“The way we play means that people are going to drive us,” Williams said, “so that’s the thing we’ve got to get better at.”

Despite his angry outburst after Nicholls State made 14 three-pointers in an 88-78 Tar Heel win on Wednesday, Williams is trying to stay patient. Though Thursday’s practice was among the most difficult Lawson has experienced in two seasons at North Carolina, nobody puked during the workout. (Williams had said his goal was to see how many players he could get to “throw up” during Thursday’s practice).

His real goal remains improving North Carolina’s defense enough for the Tar Heels to contend for a national title.

“I’ve never seen a bad defensive team in the Final Four,” he said. “They’ve got to understand that. I never have. Never.”

– Ken Tysiac

Davidson still lacks name recognition

Davidson played a tough nonconference schedule this season to try to get better name recognition.

Yet, the names of the Davidson starting lineup haven't caught on with opposing teams and some media members.

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe drove home that point Thursday, when he repeatedly referred to point guard Jason Richards as Jason "Richardson." But Richards isn't the only Wildcat to have his name garbled this season. Forward Boris Meno's last name (pronounced "MEN-o") is often said as "ME-no." Forward Thomas Sander has been called Thomas "Sanders" in telecasts, and guard Stephen (STEFF-in) Curry might have most flubbed name on the team.

Curry was called "Steven Curry" by the Appalachian State public address announcer, and other broadcasters have also called him "Stef-FON" during ESPN highlights. Yet, the only Wildcat starter to not have his name bungled has the longest moniker: Max Paulhus Gosselin.

The Davidson SID office provides a pronounciation guide before each game. Maybe one day, media and coaches will remember to read it.

- Kevin Cary

Duke missed its shot against Pitt

The popular theory on why Duke lost Thursday night to Pittsburgh is that the Blue Devils weren’t tough enough.

Duke didn’t have anybody who could dislodge powerful Pitt freshman center DeJuan Blair from the lane as he controlled the boards in a 65-64 overtime victory as the Panthers posted a 53-39 rebounding edge.

But toughness wasn’t the problem Thursday. It’s time to accept that Duke is not going to be the toughest team on the floor many nights because its players have speed, skill and grace but are short on muscle.

Duke lost Thursday because its skill and speed (two fast-break points in 45 minutes) must have left Madison Square Garden to go Christmas shopping in Times Square. The Blue Devils’ shooting is supposed to make up for its lack of punishing big men, but they shot 4-for-19 from 3-point range and 14-for-26 from the foul line.

Guard Jon Scheyer showed plenty of grit by grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds, but his usual excellent shooting touch disappeared, as he was 1-for-10 from the field. Three-point shooting is subject to ebbs and flows, so losing the long-range touch for a night is no reason to panic.

Poor free throw shooting is, particularly when the two of the team’s biggest driving threats are among the worst foul shooters. When the 3-point shots aren’t falling, DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson possess the ability to penetrate to the basket and draw fouls.

But they were 6-for-12 combined from the foul line Thursday, and neither is shooting above 65 percent for the season. There will be times during ACC play when the Tyler Hansbroughs and J.J. Hicksons outmuscle Duke in the paint.

The Blue Devils can live with that, but only if their shooting is superior.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tar Heels may not be ACC favorites

North Carolina may be the victim of impossibly high expectations in basketball.

Though the Tar Heels are 10-0 and remain the nation’s top-ranked team, there are rumblings that they’re not as good as they should be. Some of the dissatisfaction comes straight from the top with coach Roy Williams, who vowed that ragged defense in Wednesday’s 88-78 win over Nicholls State would cause him to run the Tar Heels ragged during practice Thursday.

In fairness to the Tar Heels, they are doing some things well:

  • Tyler Hansbrough, who’s averaging 21.8 points and 9.9 rebounds, is living up to his billing as the best center in the nation.
  • After his shooting was streaky at best last season, sophomore guard Wayne Ellington has made 43.8 percent of his 3-point attempts.
  • Junior Danny Green, who’s averaging 13.3 points is emerging as the best sixth man in the ACC.
But that’s not enough for a team that expects to challenge for the NCAA title. The Tar Heels haven’t corrected one of their most glaring problems from last season – defending on the perimeter. Opponents are shooting 34.7 percent from 3-point range against North Carolina, which ranks near the bottom of the ACC in that statistic.

Sophomore point guard Ty Lawson appears to have regressed and is averaging 1.8 assists for every turnover, far lower than last season’s average of 2.6 assists per turnover. And the combination of Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson at the post position opposite Hansbrough has made little impact on offense or defense.

There is plenty of time for North Carolina to get these problems straightened out, and Williams will take advantage of extra practice time the next few days to get his point across. But without improvement, it would be a stretch to cast the Tar Heels as a prohibitive favorite to get to the Final Four or even finish first in the ACC in the regular season.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Vitale taking a TO, baby, for surgery

Dickie V. needs a T.O., baby.

ESPN announced Tuesday that college basketball analyst Dick Vitale had successful surgery to treat ulcers on his left vocal chord and doesn’t plan to return to the air until early February.
Vitale, in his 29th season, had never missed a game. His voice will be missed for the rest of December and in January. Some fans (particularly North Carolina folks who’ve dubbed him “Dookie V” because he frequently praises Duke) won’t mind a break from Vitale’s high-volume banter.

But college basketball insiders love Vitale for his enthusiasm for the game. He does a lot to promote cancer research in the name of former broadcast pal Jim Valvano, the late N.C. State coach. He greets fans everywhere with charm and wit.

Watching big games on ESPN won’t be the same until Vitale returns. Let’s hope those pipes are ready to bellow in time for Vitale to return Feb. 6 for Duke at North Carolina.

– Ken Tysiac

Duke needs Nelson's shot vs. Pitt

Guard DeMarcus Nelson picked a good time to get hot from the perimeter.

Sixth-ranked Duke (10-0) faces one of its biggest challenges of the season Thursday when it plays 11th-ranked Pittsburgh, which is undefeated in 10 games. Nelson, Duke’s senior captain, has been the team’s most consistent player according to coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Nelson’s strength makes him nearly impossible to stop as he jackknifes from left to right across the lane and uses the rim to protect the ball on bank shots. He is most dangerous as a driver when opponents have to respect his 3-point shooting ability – and they didn’t early in the season.

He missed 12 of his first 16 three-point attempts over the first seven games. But in the last three games, Nelson is 8-for-11 from 3-point range. He was 4-for-5 against Albany on Monday, when his 23-point performance included a four-point play.

Nelson said he was taking shots with confidence. Duke will need him to do that again Thursday against Pitt at Madison Square Garden.

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lowe may be too relaxed about record

Sidney Lowe doesn’t get it. He mentioned Friday that N.C. State (4-3) is only one game behind its pace from last season, when the Wolfpack started with five wins in his first seven games as coach.

“So it’s interesting that there’s a panic button being pushed by people this early in the season,” Lowe said.

That’s not an urgent enough tone from Lowe. Fact is, despite winning three games to get to the ACC tournament final, last season’s team fell far short of N.C. State standards. The Wolfpack won 20 games but lost 16, and was just 5-11 in conference play.

This season’s team was supposed to be better – but has a worse record after seven games. It lost at home to New Orleans, appeared lackadaisical in a blowout loss at Michigan State and suffered the first loss ever by an ACC team against East Carolina.

Lowe excused the lack of effort at Michigan State by saying the players were tired because they were playing their fourth game in seven days. He said N.C. State (which returned four starters from last season) is a “young team” whose inexperience was thwarted by the experience of East Carolina, which started three senios.

He said Friday that because it’s early in the season, there’s still plenty of time for N.C. State to do something good. Problem is, Lowe’s players are adopting his relaxed tone and getting outhustled.

A minus-2.5 rebounds per game margin for a team with a deep, talented front line attests to that. Lowe is an easygoing, likeable guy. But it’s time for him to stop making excuses for his players and demand more from this team, even if it’s not in his nature.

He may be more personable than predecessor Herb Sendek, but N.C. State fans won’t accept losing more than two-thirds of their ACC games for long, even from a coach they revere as a player. -- Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 10, 2007

Final exams, midseason thoughts

As ACC basketball players take a break for final exams:

  • Boston College’s Al Skinner doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves as one of the ACC’s best coaches. The Eagles returned brilliant point guard Tyrese Rice and not much else this season, but still are 7-1 with a win at Maryland in the opener in conference play. Skinner did a nice job identifying freshmen Rakim Sanders and Corey Raji, who weren’t top-50 recruits but are both averaging more than 10 points per game. If you were ranking the ACC’s top coaches now, only the three guys who have coached teams to NCAA titles (Mike Krzyzewski, Gary Williams and Roy Williams) would certainly be ahead of Skinner.
  • Duke looks more like the Phoenix Suns every time out, except for the fact that the Blue Devils don’t have anybody who compares to Suns point guard Steve Nash. Coaching with the Suns’ Mike D’Antoni on Team USA helped Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski figure out how to get the most out of a team without a true center. Problem is, D’Antoni’s system of running the fast break and spreading the floor has been fabulous in the regular season but hasn’t gotten the Suns to the NBA finals. And Duke fans judge a team by how it performs during the postseason. Stay tuned.
  • North Carolina sophomore forward Deon Thompson’s recent games against Pennsylvania (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Ohio State (14 points, seven rebounds) suggest he is gaining confidence after a tentative start. When Thompson scores from the high post, center Tyler Hansbrough operates far more effectively on the block.
  • If N.C. State (4-3) keeps losing at this rate, the fans who drove Herb Sendek out of Raleigh will be begging him to come back. The Wolfpack has an embarrassment of riches in terms of frontcourt talent, but is getting consistent top-notch effort only from freshman center J.J. Hickson and senior wing Gavin Grant. Losses to New Orleans and East Carolina and an embarrassing lack of effort at Michigan State demonstrate that Sidney Lowe isn’t getting the most out of his players.
– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, December 6, 2007

What it'll take for Davidson to rebound

Davidson faces a solemn cross-country flight today to California, one day after its second consecutive loss. The Wildcats were left searching for answers after a 75-68 loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. They face No.7 UCLA Saturday.

Davidson, ranked at one time this season, is 3-4 and doesn’t have a win against a Division I opponent with a winning record. Any hope of a NCAA tournament at-large bid is distant at best – the Wildcats first have to start winning games.

To do that, Davidson has to get more help for sophomore guard Stephen Curry. Curry has been spectacular at times this season, but point guard Jason Richards is the only other Davidson player to score at least 15 points against a Division I opponent (reserve Bryant Barr had 17 against Division III Emory in the season opener).

Last season, all five Davidson starters scored 20 points in at least one game, and Davidson had four players average double figures. Curry accounted for about 25 percent of the offense, but this season he’s scoring a third of Davidson’s points against Division I opponents.

The Wildcats also have been too reliant on the 3-point shot. Davidson has attempted 3-pointers on 46 percent of its shots. Those shots aren’t going in as often, because players other than Curry are making only 27 percent of their 3-pointers. The Wildcats have been effective when they have gone inside, making 58 percent of their two-point attempts.

Coach Bob McKillop said this season that his team has been hunting for 3-pointers too much, and Wednesday night he also pointed to Davidson’s decline at the free-throw line. The Wildcats are shooting 64 percent this season; they made 76 percent last season. Those misses played a role in at least two losses.

McKillop hasn’t mentioned any possible lineup changes, but that might be something to consider. Curry and Richards are both playing heavy minutes against top opponents, and their fatigue at the end of games has hurt Davidson’s perimeter defense. Freshmen Brendan McKillop and Aaron Bond could be useful for short spurts in the first half of games, and the Wildcats might also want to consider going with a big lineup with starters Thomas Sander and Boris Meno and reserve Andrew Lovedale on the front line. Those three aren’t outside threats, but they screen well, are strong defenders and would force Davidson to look for more inside shots.
-- Kevin Cary

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Davidson invited to play in 2008 Preseason NIT tournament

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Tuesday that his team has been invited to the 2008 Preseason NIT tournament, which will be played in November.

Davidson (3-3) finished 29-5 last season, and guard Stephen Curry is averaging 25 points.

McKillop said his team's games at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena against Duke and North Carolina - which both drew at least 17,000 fans - could help Davidson get a home game in the tournament, or at least one at Bobcats Arena.

"I'm encouraged by that," he said. "We can go to the NIT committee and have ammunition for why we should have a home game."

-Kevin Cary

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ellington shoots down doubters

As North Carolina prepares to visit Kentucky on Saturday, the emergence of one player has demonstrated that the Tar Heels’ preseason status as a Final Four favorite is legitimate.

North Carolina already knew it would get stellar play at center from Tyler Hansbrough and point guard from Ty Lawson. Wing Marcus Ginyard’s status as a defensive stopper and all-around floor leader already was established.

The question for the Tar Heels was whether sophomore shooting guard Wayne Ellington would emerge as the perimeter scorer needed to punish defenses for clogging the lane to stop Hansbrough’s post moves and Lawson’s drives.

Ellington has answered with authority. In the win over Davidson, he scored 20 points and his step-back 3-pointer in the closing minutes was the biggest play of the game. At Ohio State, while his teammates struggled to score and Lawson sat on the bench with a sprained ankle, Ellington was 8-for-15 from the field with 23 points.

As a freshman, Ellington demonstrated flawless shooting form but often looked tentative as he tried to blend in with his new teammates. He is best remembered for the 3-point attempt against Georgetown that would have sent North Carolina to the Final Four but clanged off the rim just before the buzzer.

Despite answering endless questions about that shot in the preseason, Ellington has played with confidence early in the season. He is 16-for-32 from 3-point range.

If that continues, North Carolina won’t easily be dislodged from the NCAA tournament.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Davidson needs help for Curry

Davidson faces Duke Saturday at noon at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, and the Wildcats haven't beaten a ranked opponent under coach Bob McKillop. That drought can end Saturday, but the Wildcats need more than just Stephen Curry to play well to win. Curry had 38 of the Wildcats' 71 points in Monday's win against Appalachian State, but three teammates could play a pivotal role Saturday.

Jason Richards: The Davidson point guard was the only Wildcat starter to play well in Davidson's 75-47 loss to Duke last season, scoring 17 points. He's among the national leaders in assists this season, but is coming off a 1-for-9 night against Appalachian State. He'll likely play at least 38 minutes Saturday, and must handle constant Duke pressure.

Boris Meno: Meno had a dreadful game against Duke last season, making 1-of-6 shots and having four turnovers in 13 minutes, but he's the only Wildcat with enough athletic ability to be a consistent inside scorer against the Blue Devils. He also might get matched up with freshman Kyle Singler, so he could also be a key player defensively.

Will Archambault: The sophomore has been cold from outside all season, making just 3-of-21 3-point attempts, but Davidson needs him to find his shot Saturday. Archambault, at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, might allow Davidson to match up with Duke in a small lineup. Richards and Curry are the only other two Wildcats who can score off the dribble, but if Archambault stays cold that will mean more minutes for guard Bryant Barr. Barr is a good shooter, but he will struggle to get open looks against the Blue Devils' aggressive man-to-man defense.

-- Kevin Cary

Big 10 stereotypes proving true

North Carolina guard Bobby Frasor said it best Tuesday, at the risk of motivating Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten teams in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Frasor, who is from Blue Island, Ill., said the stereotype about the Big Ten – that it has big, slow guys who will physically beat you to a pulp – is true. Frasor said the ACC has quicker guys who also can handle a more physical game.

“I just think the ACC is the best conference in college basketball,” Frasor said.

The Big East and Pac-10 might argue that point with Frasor. But after two days of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the ACC clearly appears to be the better conference. The ACC is 5-1, and four wins came by a margin of at least nine points.

Some random thoughts after Tuesday’s games:

- By sitting in the stands behind the Duke bench and cheering brother Greg, North Carolina freshman quarterback Mike Paulus reminded us that family is more important than any college rivalry. Good for him.

- Clemson may struggle with its nonconference schedule now that forward James Mays is out four to six weeks with a broken hip. South Carolina, DePaul, Mississippi and Alabama all look like challenging opponents with the Tigers’ best defender hurting.

- Indiana freshman guard Eric Gordon, who scored 29 points against Georgia Tech, is every bit the sensational scorer those who watched him play AAU basketball predicted. Illinois missed out on a gem after Gordon reneged on his commitment there. And as a side note, the Speice Indy Heat team that featured Gordon, Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook once played at the Smith Center might have been the best AAU team ever assembled.

- Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 19, 2007

Davidson's top 25 ranking, finally

Davidson earned its first national ranking in 37 years Monday, by getting ranked No.25 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.

But a few coaches, including Wildcat coach Bob McKillop, thought Davidson should have been ranked last season.

The USA Today Web site lists the votes for all 31 coaches who comprised the poll during the 2006-07 season. McKillop first ranked his team with the March 5 poll last season, when Davidson was in the midst of winning 25 of its last 27 games. But other coaches ranked the Wildcats earlier than that. George Mason coach Jim Larranaga voted the Wildcats in his poll two weeks before that, and St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli had Davidson in his poll a full month before McKillop.

The full database is available at Scroll down to the bottom for the poll database.

This year's votes haven't been released yet (last season's full list didn't come out until after the season), but Davidson's rugged performance against No.1 North Carolina Wednesday had to sway some more voters. The Wildcats led the game with six minutes left, and still had a chance to tie with 30 seconds left.

Now, Davidson will get its first chance to officially play with a bit of a bulls-eye Wednesday at Western Michigan. If Davidson can win that game, and Saturday's home game with N.C. Central, the Wildcats might move up in the coaches' poll and debut in the Associated Press poll.

But it will be hard for Davidson to stay ranked because of a challenging schedule after that. Davidson's next four games are at Appalachian State Nov. 26, against No.13 Duke Dec.1 at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, at Charlotte Dec. 5, and against No.2 UCLA in Anaheim Dec. 8. -- Kevin Cary

Missing Engin Atsur at N.C. State

Guess we underestimated the importance of Engin Atsur to N.C. State.

The Wolfpack was ranked No. 21 by The Associated Press last week because it returned four starters from a 20-win team that won three games to reach the ACC tournament final last season.

Atsur, who was the senior point guard, is the lone starter who isn’t back. His replacement, Iowa State transfer Farnold Degand, posted a decent stat line Sunday night. Degand scored eight points on 3-for-7 from the field with four assists and two turnovers. But Atsur was a gritty floor leader who never would have allowed N.C. State to lose 65-63 at home to New Orleans.

Coach Sidney Lowe showed his lack of confidence in Degand by giving the ball to small forward Gavin Grant with 15 seconds remaining and N.C. State down a point. Grant drove the length of the floor for a layup, but New Orleans’ T.J. Worley banked in a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left for the win.

Without Atsur, Lowe has problems. Freshman center J.J. Hickson scored 31 in the opener against William & Mary and 22 against New Orleans, but his emergence could damage team chemistry.

Junior center Ben McCauley, who was important enough to this team that he was one of two players selected to represent the Wolfpack at the preseason ACC media day in Greensboro, has totaled 23 minutes in two games.

Forward Brandon Costner, a preseason first-team All-ACC selection, attempted five field goals and scored seven points against New Orleans.

Atsur might have had enough clout in the locker room to manage damaged egos. Now that job falls to Lowe as the Wolfpack prepares to head to Orlando, where better competition awaits in the Old Spice Classic.

The loss to New Orleans already makes N.C. State one of the ACC’s biggest early season disappointments along with Georgia Tech. Though Charlotte Latin grad Anthony Morrow is off to an excellent start, losses to UNC Greensboro and Winthrop show that the Yellow Jackets may be destined to finish near the bottom of the ACC.

Miami and Virginia, meanwhile, are the ACC’s biggest surprises. The Hurricanes won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and have freshman James Dews emerging as a potential complement to hot-shooting Jack McClinton in the backcourt.

Virginia is 3-0 after a win at Arizona and has point guard Sean Singletary poised to give North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough competition for ACC player of the year honors.

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pack's new issue? Managing minutes

After struggling through last season with a roster depleted by defections of recruits and injuries, having too many good players seems like a good situation for N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe.

But it could be a problem too, one that didn’t take long to surface. Freshman center J.J. Hickson scored 31 points in 30 minutes in Thursday night’s season-opening, 66-47 defeat of William & Mary.

Ben McCauley, a junior center who averaged 14.4 points last season, played just 14 minutes. Lowe said he knows what McCauley is capable of and plans to get him plenty of minutes this season.

Though Lowe said earlier in the preseason that McCauley had been ill, that apparently wasn’t a problem Thursday.

“Ben’s fine,” Lowe said. “He’s fine. Tonight, again, it’s just a game. It’s the way this game was played. We’re trying to win a game and J.J. was playing well and we had to ride with J.J. There are going to be games when we’ll have to ride with Ben.”

Fair enough. But another highly regarded freshman post player, Tracy Smith, played only the final minute of Thursday’s opener while forward Brandon Costner played 34. If Lowe is having trouble finding playing time for everybody against William & Mary, what’s going to happen when the competition gets stronger?

Lowe’s predicament creates appreciation for what coach Roy Williams has done with deep, talented teams at North Carolina. At the beginning of last season, Williams was frustrated when reporters kept asking how he would keep all his players happy with a limited number of minutes.

The Tar Heels never complained publicly about playing time and nobody transferred during the offseason.

Lowe will get the chance this season to prove he can manage a roster and personalities as well as Williams does.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wake signs its top 3 recruits

The signing of 6-foot-8 Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-10 Tony Woods and 7-foot Ty Walker this week was a huge development for Wake Forest and coach Dino Gaudio.

After coach Skip Prosser's sudden death in July, one of Gaudio's immediate challenges was to maintain the commitments of those three players to Wake Forest. When he did, a program that slipped in Prosser's last two seasons had the ACC's top-ranked recruiting class.

Along with promising freshmen James Johnson and Jeff Teague, the three signees will give the Deacons as good a young talent base as any other team in the ACC. After struggling for years defensively and on the boards, Wake Forest should be solid in those areas next season.

Wake Forest had a much more important reason to hire Gaudio, who was Prosser's top assistant. After the heartbroken Deacon players lost their head coach, it would have been cruel to rip the rest of the staff away from them and hire from outside the program.

Keeping Aminu, Woods and Walker in the fold got Gaudio off to an encouraging start less than a week after his opener as the Deacons' head coach. -- Ken Tysiac

Davidson gets needed break

Davidson earned a level of national respect with its 72-68 loss to North Carolina on Wednesday night, and now the Wildcats have another six days before they take the court again at Western Michigan. Until then, here are some notes from Wednesday’s game:

-- The six-day layoff will help, because the Wildcats are banged up. An underrated part of last season’s success was the team’s health, because Davidson players rarely played at less than 100 percent. But Wednesday night, Boris Meno (shoulder), Max Paulhus Gosselin (upper respiratory illness) and Stephen Curry (wrist) all weren’t at top speed because of injury. Curry (37 minutes) and point guard Jason Richards (39 minutes) also played heavy minutes, so they can use a bit of a break.

-- Meno’s injury impacted the Wildcats offense the most. Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Meno’s sore shoulder affected his missed dunk, and it might also have played into why he did not attempt a 3-point shot, which could have helped keep North Carolina’s interior players away from the basket.

-- McKillop called Stephen Rossiter one of the team’s most improved players before the season, and Rossiter gave Davidson a lift Wednesday. He might get more minutes against Western Michigan if Meno’s shoulder is still ailing.

-- At least one former NFL coach was impressed by the Wildcats. A co-worker told me that Marty Schottenheimer kept hearing about the Tar Heels during the game, but then pointed to the Davidson bench and said "that’s one (heck) of a team right there."

-- Reserve Bryant Barr played only two minutes against the Tar Heels, and the Wildcats could have used his outside shooting. Davidson had trouble getting shooters open looks all night with screens, and Barr hasn’t been able to create his own shot.

-- The Wildcats showed a lot of dedication Wednesday night, but they’ll have a hard time topping Davidson fan Mike Reed. Reed decided Wednesday morning to attend the game, so he left his job in Cartersville, Ga., to come to Charlotte. He made the 280-mile trip to make tip-off, and then made the trip home after the game. He’s done it before – Reed has season tickets – and he said he’ll be back for the Wildcats’ Dec. 1 game against Duke.

-- Kevin Cary

UNC coach Williams praises Davidson's Curry

North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams was extremely complimentary of Davidson sophomore Stephen Curry after the Tar Heels’ 72-68 win Wednesday night in Charlotte.

Williams used three defenders on Curry – Marcus Ginyard, Bobby Frasor and Wayne Ellington. Williams said he was pleased with the trio’s defense – particularly Ginyard’s – even though Curry scored 24 points. Curry missed his first five shots, got hot during the middle of the game and then couldn’t hit in the final minutes. He finished 8-for-22 from the field but was only 2-for-12 from three-point range.

Said Williams of Curry: "He’s a load to try and guard. He’s got a quick release. He can shoot the dickens out of it. ...He scares you to death."

When asked what type of player Curry would have been in the ACC, Williams replied: "A very good player. He’s a very good player regardless of which league he’s in. He has a chance to play basketball for a living. He’s a kid where – the University of North Carolina included – we can say, ‘Hey, we missed that kid.’ That’s not to mean he wouldn’t have gone to Davidson anyway. Bob [McKillop] has done a great job utilizing him."

Of Curry’s shot, Williams said: "He cocks it back a little bit differently. But as soon as he lets it go, it’s exactly like (his father) Dell’s shot. Full, long extension. Quick release. Always has that perfect backspin."

On a different note, Williams said Wednesday night that he has a statistic that determines whether All-American Tyler Hansbrough gets enough shots. The coach wants to get Hansbrough 20 shots a game when you add his field-goal attempts to his free-throw attempts.

"We only got him 16 Wednesday," Williams said, "so we’ve got to do a better job of that."

Hansbrough had only six field-goal attempts – just one in the second half – as Davidson double-teamed him every time he touched the ball. He shot 10 free throws and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds in the win.

- Scott Fowler

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Extending bad hoops into March

We’re already seeing enough bad college basketball in November.

Now the same people who are bringing us Louisiana-Monroe against Michigan State in the CBE Classic tonight on ESPN-U are running a postseason tournament that will extend into April.

The Gazelle Group, a sports consulting company in Princeton, N.J., has created the College Basketball Invitational for teams left out of the 65-team NCAA tournament field. The 16-team CBI, which debuts March 18-19 of 2008, will be a single-elimination tournament until the finals, when a best-of-3 championship series will be held. All games will be held at on-campus sites.
That means 113 Division I men’s teams will play postseason basketball in 2008, up from 97 in 2007.

The most interesting thing about the new tournament is whether the CBI will try to compete with the NIT for the NCAA tournament’s leftovers. The 32-team NIT used to be the only option for teams that didn’t make the NCAA field.

Evan Olesh, a Gazelle Group spokesman, said event organizers aren’t commenting on the CBI’s selection process as it relates to the NIT. It’s a time-honored coaching truism that competition makes everybody better.

But if you’ve watched some of these November games, you know that’s not always the case. And if you’ve ever eaten leftovers, you know they’re sometimes best when served with an antacid.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 12, 2007

Emory a good warm-up for Davidson

Leftover thoughts from Davidson's 120-56 rout against Emory Friday night.

  • Davidson got new scoreboards this season, and the Wildcats will need them. Friday night's 120-point outburst probably won't be topped this season, but Davidson could score more than 100 another handful of times. That's because the Wildcat second team features strong outside shooters such as Brendan McKillop and Bryant Barr, who combined to score 28 points Friday night.
  • Boris Meno had another dominant night Friday, with 12 points and 13 rebounds in 19 minutes. Most people will point to Stephen Curry as the key player heading into Wednesday's game at North Carolina, but Meno's matchup with Tyler Hansbrough will also be crucial.
  • The Wildcats only had one newspaper reporter at Friday's game. That'll change Wednesday, because the school is issuing more than 50 media credentials.
  • Coach Bob McKillop praised the Wildcat defense, especially Will Archambault, and also one play by Curry. McKillop and Thomas Sander both noted that the sophomore had a steal with his left hand, the one wrapped for the past two weeks.
  • That wasn't the most surprising thing of the night for Curry. The 6-foot-3 sophomore led the team with three blocks.
-- Kevin Cary

Saturday, November 10, 2007

King goes deep for Duke

There’s no special formula or set of ground rules at Duke for when Taylor King is allowed to shoot.
King, one of the most heralded perimeter shooters nationally in the freshman class, led Duke with five 3-pointers and 20 points Friday night in a 121-56 defeat of North Carolina Central in the season opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"I shoot when I’m open," King said. "That’s pretty much how I see it."
In Duke’s Blue-White game a couple of weeks ago, King said, he buried a 3-pointer from the "K" that’s written on "Coach K Court." That might be a slight exaggeration. That’s 33 feet from the basket.
He said he missed another 3-point attempt, then buried a second shot from the "K." He looked over at Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"He was like, ‘Whatever, as long as you make them,’. " King said.
Krzyzewski said Friday that he doesn’t judge King’s shots by how far he is from the basket.
"For him the distance isn’t the main thing," Krzyzewski said. "It’s what pressure (is he facing) and are his feet set? And today I thought each shot he took was really good. And he passed up on two good ones to give his teammates two great ones."
If King keeps scoring from deep, comparisons with Duke’s most recent great 3-point shooter, J.J. Redick, are bound to follow. It’s far too soon for that, though, and King is a different kind of player anyway.
Duke is playing him at power forward, and at 6-foot-6 he is pulling opposing forwards far from the basket. Every time he hits a deep one, the driving lanes for his teammates get wider.
"When he can stretch the defense like that, it only helps our team," said teammate Lance Thomas. "He’s a zone buster. ... If he shoots it, I know it’s going in."
-- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gardner-Webb's roots were in NAIA

Gardner-Webb, which shocked 20th-ranked Kentucky 84-68 in Lexington on Wednesday, has a sparkling basketball tradition of its own. But that tradition is more a result of the Bulldogs’ time as an NAIA and junior college power in the 1960s and ’70s than their recent move to college basketball’s big time -- otherwise known as NCAA Division I.

Still, it’s worth it to revisit the small-college roots of Gardner-Webb, as well as several other Carolinas colleges that took the same path as the Bulldogs.

Gardner-Webb, located in the Cleveland County town of Boiling Springs about 50 miles west of Charlotte, has been NCAA Division I since 2000, when it moved up from a brief stay in Division II.

Even before that, Gardner-Webb was a long-time power in the small-college NAIA, producing future NBA stars such as Artis Gilmore and John Drew in the ’60s and ’70s.

North Carolina was once divided into two NAIA districts. Gardner-Webb was one of several schools that made District 26 one of the country’s hotbeds of small-college basketball. Schools such as Pfeiffer, Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne, Winston-Salem State and Guilford (which won the NAIA championship in 1973) were often national contenders.

Their annual goal -- a berth in the NAIA tournament in Kansas City, Mo. - was cherished as much as Final Four is for Division I teams.

Things are different now.

North Carolina has just one school (Montreat) in the NAIA today. Gardner-Webb, Elon, UNC Asheville and High Point are Division I. The state had another NAIA district (29), that included schools such as Campbell and UNC Wilmington, both of which are Division I now. Most of the others are in NCAA Division II leagues such as the South Atlantic, Conference Carolinas or CIAA. Guilford is NCAA Division III.

Barton (formerly Atlantic Christian), located in Rocky Mount and a former District 29 school, won last season’s NCAA Division II title.

South Carolina’s District 6 included schools such as Winthrop and Wofford - both long established at the Division I level now.

-- David Scott

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Davidson a step slow in win

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said his team's slow start in its 82-58 win against Lenoir-Rhyne Wednesday night was a case of "cement feet."

That's a good description, because the Wildcats were a step slow at every turn. Stephen Curry missed a dunk, the Wildcats had three 3-point attempts either graze the rim or miss it entirely, and Davidson struggled to stop Lenoir-Rhyne's penetration.

"Our guys were hesitating instead of going after them," McKillop said.

-- Curry said his sprained wrist was the result of a weightlifting accident two weeks ago, and said he's not sure how long he'll keep it wrapped.
"It hurts pretty bad sometimes," he said. "It just depends on the day. But I'm getting more comfortable with the wrap, so I am O.K."
Curry said he doesn't remember a specific lift that caused the accident, only that he woke up sore the next day.

-- Junior guard Will Archambault impressed McKillop by driving to the basket often. Archambault might have to do that more this season, because McKillop said he might put the junior inside more often. Archambault is 6-foot-6, and strong enough to make shots after receiving hard fouls.

-- Jason Richards might be the most underappreciated Wildcat, and his stat line Wednesday night showed that. He had 16 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, and added two steals. But McKillop knows how valuable he is. Richards played 34 minutes but no other Wildcat had more than 25 minutes on the court. Kevin Cary

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pack goes big - real big

The most intriguing lineup option for an N.C. State team with excellent frontcourt depth puts four players 6-foot-8 or taller on the floor at the same time.

"It reminds me of the old UConn teams," said Gavin Grant, a senior forward from Big East country in the Bronx. "It’s kind of intimidating."

N.C. State used the big lineup for a brief stretch during Tuesday night’s 76-41 defeat of UNC Pembroke at the RBC Center. Grant, who’s 6-8, was playing shooting guard with 6-9 Brandon Costner at small forward, 6-9 J.J. Hickson at power forward and 6-10 Ben McCauley at center.

Costner, who led N.C. State with 61 3-pointers last season, is the key to the lineup. As long as Costner is not required to chase a very small player all over the floor, coach Sidney Lowe said he can handle the small forward position.

"It’s going to help us on the boards," Lowe said, "and we don’t lose anything on the perimeter (with Costner). ... We don’t drop off when we play him at the three."

And if opposing teams elect to play man-to-man against that lineup, somebody for N.C. State will be able to park in the post and use his height to score over a smaller defender.

-- Ken Tysiac

Davidson's season through crystal ball

Just how good will Davidson be this season?

The first 10 games of the Wildcats’ schedule should help provide the answer. The Wildcats face four ranked teams and also face pivotal nonconference games against Charlotte and Western Michigan. That could make last season’s school-record 29 wins hard to match.

But here’s one guess at the early season, and how the Wildcats will end up this season.

Nov. 9 Emory: Uh, let’s just say Davidson puts up its first (of many) 100-point games this season.

Nov. 14 North Carolina (Bobcats Arena): Remember when Winthrop took on the Tar Heels there last season? Expect a similar result – the mid-major team losing late.

Nov. 21 at Western Michigan: Tougher game than you might expect. Western Michigan is one of the best teams in the Mid-American conference and will edge Davidson in the final minute.

Nov. 24 N.C. Central: The Davidson second unit might be able to win this game.

Nov. 26 at Appalachian State: The Mountaineers gave Davidson its only conference loss last season, but Davidson won’t let a repeat happen.

Dec. 1 Duke (Bobcats Arena): Duke has routinely given Davidson 30-point beatings in recent years, but this year should be different. The arena will help Davidson (Tar Heels fans will come to pull against the Blue Devils), and the Wildcats will get a marquee win that should help their NCAA at-large chances.

Dec. 5 at Charlotte: The hangover from the Duke win might create a slow start, but Davidson will get its first win in Halton Arena in overtime.

Dec. 8 vs. UCLA (at Anaheim): This will be the only game that Davidson is overmatched all season. Expect a big win by the Bruins.

Dec. 13 The Citadel: Davidson will bounce back with a win of at least 40 points.

Dec. 21 at N.C. State: The Wolfpack has improved and has the size to give Davidson trouble. Another loss comes here.

That leaves Davidson at 6-4, including two conference wins. The rest of the schedule will probably include two other losses, likely at UNC Greensboro and at College of Charleston. If that plays out, Davidson will be 23-6 overall, and 18-2 in the Southern Conference. Davidson will win the Southern Conference tournament, and then one NCAA tournament game.

So, the guess here is a 27-7 season – not as many wins as last season but a better result overall.

What do you think?

-- Kevin Cary

Duke, UNC need to work this trade

After watching Duke and North Carolina both play exhibition games against Shaw University, I’m convinced they need to pull off a trade.

Duke doesn’t have a single proven, back-to-the-basket post scorer or defender. Brian Zoubek still has a lot of work to do before he’s ready to contend with Tyler Hansbrough and Ben McCauley in the ACC.

North Carolina could use another wing player. Danny Green is erratic, Wayne Ellington enigmatic and Marcus Ginyard a strong defender and rebounder without much of a jump shot. The Tar Heel scholarship players didn’t make a 3-pointer against Shaw on Saturday.

So here’s the trade suggestion. North Carolina, which is solid in the post, sends Alex Stepheson up 15/501 to Duke. Mike Krzyzewski, who’s got a ton of talented wing players, sends Jon Scheyer to play for coach Roy Williams.

Of course, that can’t happen in college athletics, where the players rightly have degrees they’re working on at their respective schools. But the trade would make both teams better.

Incidentally, neither team has addressed its shortcoming with the current recruiting class. For the second year in a row, North Carolina isn’t bringing in any wing players, though the Tar Heels have two solid big guys committed in Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis.

Duke’s Class of 2008 haul includes another highly regarded wing player, Elliot Williams, and post player Olek Czyz, who’s considered something of a project.

So you can count on the Tar Heels to feed the post and Duke to drive and kick for the foreseeable future.

– Ken Tysiac

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Shhh! Davidson's playing Sunday, but it's a secret

Davidson's schedule actually includes five nationally ranked teams, but that's supposed to be a secret.

Wildcats fans already know about games scheduled with North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, and N.C. State, which all are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. But Sunday, the Wildcats will have a scrimmage at Texas, which is ranked 15th

But don't try to hop on a plane to Austin to see it. The scrimmage isn't open to the media or public, in accordance with NCAA rules. Davidson has played Clemson in similar scrimmages in recent years, and it shouldn't be a surprise that the Wildcats and Longhorns are getting together Sunday.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop and Texas coach Rick Barnes were both assistants at Davidson in the 1978-79 season.

Davidson guard Stephen Curry will be wearing an accessory Sunday that might give Wildcats fans pause. He has had his left wrist wrapped the past two weeks to help a sprain heal. He might still have it in the team's opening game Friday against Emory, but the appendage hasn't affected his shot. Curry made his first four 3-pointers at Friday's practice.

- Kevin Cary

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Duke's Thomas shows energy in exhibition

Duke forward Lance Thomas spent a month in Houston last summer after a frustrating freshman season. He went through workouts overseen by John Lucas, the former NBA coach who trains NBA and college players.
Thomas banged bodies with NBA rookies Glen "Big Baby" Davis (formerly of LSU) and Sean Williams (Boston College) twice a day.

"The competition was great," Thomas said.

Last season, though he started 18 games, Thomas averaged just four points and 2.5 rebounds, with one assist and 43 turnovers. (That’s not a misprint. His assist-turnover ratio was .023).
He was often in foul trouble and not strong enough to finish inside or defend physical opposing ACC power forwards. After the season, he turned to video to figure out what went wrong.

"I watched a bunch of tape," he said, "and I was like, ‘I know I’m a better player than this.’ "

On Thursday night, he started again, this time with Kyle Singler in a light, quick post duo in Duke’s exhibition opener. He had five steals, made all six of his field goal-attempts and scored 15 points with seven rebounds in a 134-55 blowout of Shaw University.
Thomas’ quickness at 6-foot-8 makes him an asset at the top of the run-and-jump, man-to-man, full-court press Duke is using.

"Energy," coach Mike Krzyzewski said when asked what Thomas brings to the press. "Athletic ability. He’s got arms and legs that go in a lot of different directions, real fast."

Thomas said Duke’s new full-court, fast-breaking style suits his skills much better than the slow, half-court sets the Blue Devils used last season. He still will be required to defend opposing big guys in the post in the half-court, but hopes gaining 10 pounds will help him.
Battling for position against Davis and Williams for a month should help, too.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jackets' Morrow primed for big year

Charlotte Latin graduate Anthony Morrow averaged 9.9 points and shot 41.8 percent from 3-point range last season for Georgia Tech.

Imagine what he’ll do now that he’s healthy.

“I’m in the best shape of my life,” said, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard. “I feel a lot quicker laterally and as far as getting off the floor.”

In 2006, Morrow missed individual instruction and conditioning in the fall as well as the first three weeks of practice because of a stress fracture in his back.

There was a period when doctors discouraged him from even walking much because they didn’t want him to put pressure on his back. When he returned to the court, his skills were rusty and his conditioning was weak.

Morrow had been the ACC leader in 3-point percentage in 2005-06, besting even J.J. Redick, the previous season. Morrow had averaged 16.0 points per game and started every regular season game as a sophomore.

After the injury, he started just 10 games as a junior.

“That’s why this past summer I worked so hard,” he said.

Because of his struggles last season, Morrow has been overlooked by many analysts in their preseason All-ACC selections. But his improved athletic ability should make him a better defender, and he still possesses that sweet shooting stroke.

At a time when there aren’t many outstanding seniors playing college basketball, Morrow could be one of the best in the ACC.

“He’s primed to have a huge year,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monroe to Hoyas stings Duke

The news that Greg Monroe committed to Georgetown over the weekend will sting a bit at Duke. ranks Monroe as the No. 1 player in the current high school senior class. A 6-foot-10 forward with good ball-handling and passing skills, he could have provided the strong post presence Duke appears to be lacking.

The Blue Devils also recently missed on 6-8 McDonald’s All-American Patrick Patterson, who’s now a freshman at Kentucky. They have a commitment from 6-7 banger Olek Czyz of Reno, Nev., but he’s far from a polished scorer.

If there are other quality, uncommitted post players in the current senior class, they’re not immediately obvious. That leaves sophomore Brian Zoubek, a 7-foot-1 project coming off surgery for a broken foot, as the team’s top scoring threat at center for the foreseeable future.
It makes the decision of 6-4 guard Elliot Williams of Collierville, Tenn., even more critical for Duke to avoid having this recruiting class become a bust.

The current strong freshman class consisting of McDonald’s All-Americans Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Taylor King means it’s hardly time for Duke to panic. The fact that North Carolina signed nobody in the Class of 2007 and still might be No. 1 in the preseason also provides perspective.

But losing out on two highly coveted big guys in a row – Patterson and now Monroe – won’t be easy for a Duke program that isn’t used to losing in recruiting.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Roy trying to shake vertigo

UNC coach Roy Williams has tried hanging upside down.

He’s tried ginger roots. He’s tried drinking diet Mello Yello.
Nothing has completely rid him of the vertigo that has annoyed him during the offseason.

"Everybody’s got Grandma’s cure," Williams said. "So they send it to me. I’ve done everything you can possibly do."

An attack of vertigo kept Williams nauseated and in bed one day during mid-July. According to the Mayo Clinic web site, vertigo condition is a problem with the nerves and balance mechanism of the inner ear that can cause intense dizzy spells.

Though Williams is under the care of doctors, he said he still isn’t 100 percent recovered.

"Early in the mornings I’m still a little light headed. I can’t shake it completely," Williams said. "It’s hard. Doctors can’t give me their exact remedy for it."

The condition won’t keep him away from his team. Practice for his 20th season begins at 7 p.m. Friday with "Late Night" festivities at the Smith Center. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

TV picks up 2 more Davidson games

Two more Davidson games have been picked up by television networks, including one that broadcasts nationally.

WGN in Chicago - available on cable and satellite throughout the nation - will broadcast the Wildcats' Dec. 8 game against UCLA in Anaheim, Calif. at 5:30 p.m.. Mid-Altlantic Sports Network (MASN) will show the Wildcats' home game against Appalachian State Feb. 27. MASN is not yet available on Time Warner cable, but is on DirecTV and Dish network.

The additions give Davidson nine televised regular season games, four on national networks and five on regional networks. More could still come: Davidson's BracketBuster game Feb. 23 could be picked up by an ESPN network, and a Davidson official said two other games could be added by a regional sports network.

-- Kevin Cary

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Clemson's grad rates will improve

Clemson’s graduation numbers for men’s basketball are downright ugly, but sports information director Tim Bourret said they will improve under fifth-year coach Oliver Purnell.

On Wednesday, the NCAA released its six-year graduation rate figures for freshmen who entered school from 1997 to 2000. Clemson’s 31 percent Graduation Success Rate and 19 percent federal graduation rate for men’s basketball were the lowest marks for men’s basketball and football teams in the Carolinas.

Bourret said those numbers are disappointing, but added that none of the athletes examined in that study were recruited by Purnell. He expects future graduation rates to be higher because:

- All three scholarship seniors on the 2005-06 team (Akin Akingbala, Steve Allen and Shawan Robinson) received their degrees.

- All three 2007-08 scholarship seniors (Cliff Hammonds, James Mays and Sam Perry) are on track to graduate.

- The team grade-point average of 2.66 last spring was one of the top five marks for a semester in the last 10 years.

- Clemson had three members of the ACC All-Academic team last year, more than any other men’s basketball team.

The low graduation rates of players who entered school before Purnell arrived still are troubling. With scholarship penalties soon coming into effect for programs that don’t perform in the classroom, it’s more imperative than ever for teams that have struggled with academics in the past to turn things around. – Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Davidson can't avoid D-III opponent

Davidson’s schedule has almost everything a Wildcats fan could want, including games against North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and UCLA. But there’s one thing fans were hoping to avoid: a game against a Division III opponent.

Fans at have been posting for weeks that they wanted the Wildcats to have every game against a Division I opponent. Yet, the Wildcats open the season against Division III Emory Nov. 9.

It wasn’t because Davidson didn’t try to find a Division I opponent. Davidson coaches spent the past month trying to schedule the last nonconference game, and athletics director Jim Murphy estimated the team spoke to 20 Division I schools. Davidson had some talks with UMass – a team Davidson played two years ago – but couldn’t get a deal done.

Then, last week, the Wildcats almost had a deal with a Patriot League team. Even though the two-year agreement would have started with Davidson on the road, nothing worked out. In fact, the other team decided to play a 28-game schedule this season – one below the maximum.

So, Davidson ended up with Emory, which has lots of Davidson connections. Head coach Jason Zimmerman is a former Davidson assistant, and assistant Matt McKillop is the son of Davidson coach Bob McKillop and played for the Wildcats.

That will make for a nice family reunion, but it won’t help the Wildcats’ RPI. But Davidson didn’t have many other options. Most other Division I teams had filled out their schedules. Emory almost had to be the choice, albeit not the ideal one.
-- Kevin Cary

Friday, September 21, 2007

Recruiting timeclock speeds up

Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports has been covering recruiting for longer than Mike Krzyzewski has been coaching at Duke, but can’t remember North Carolina accepting a commitment from a player as young as Kendall Marshall.

A 6-foot-3, left-handed point guard from Bishop O’Connell High in Arlington, Va., Marshall committed Wednesday to North Carolina. He’s a high school sophomore rated one of the top half-dozen players in the Class of 2010 by Gibbons.

“He’s really an excellent addition for them,” said Gibbons, who lives in Lenoir, N.C.

Marshall’s commitment also demonstrates that even the traditional college powers no longer are waiting for players to mature before offering scholarships. As of Thursday, Gibbons said 108 of the top 150 seniors in the rankings he provides to are committed.

C.J. Leslie, a 6-7 forward from Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh in the Class of 2010, has been committed to N.C. State since June 22.

“The (recruiting) clock has just moved up,” Gibbons said.

He said schools are taking risks with early scholarship offers and commitments. Players who commit early can change their minds. Taylor King was an eighth-grader when he committed to UCLA; he enrolled at Duke this fall.

Sometimes players who commit early don’t mature and develop the way college coaches expect. If colleges withdraw their scholarship offers, coaches’ reputations with future recruits can be harmed.

“(Coaches) are gambling a bit,” Gibbons said. “They (players) have still got three years of high school left.”

But if coaches wait until players are seniors to offer scholarships, there won’t be many uncommitted players left to recruit.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just call it 'McKillopville'

Just how much are Davidson fans excited for this season?

Guard Stephen Curry found out last week.

Curry and a handful of other Davidson players brought doughnuts for students who were camping out beside Belk Arena waiting for tickets to go on sale for the games against Duke and North Carolina at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Student tickets for those games were $10; face value is $25. Tickets for games at Belk Arena are free for students.

"I had never seen anything like that here," Curry said. "They were lined up down the street just for tickets."

Davidson sold its 800 tickets for students within an hour Sept. 13, and then took orders for 400 more.

"I know they expect big things this season, and we do, too," Curry said. "But we have to take it one step at a time. It's just nice to know how much support we have here."

-- Kevin Cary

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mob boss 'infiltrates' UNC basketball

North Carolina athletes gathered in the Smith Center on Monday night gazed intently at former mob captain Michael Franzese.

“You (athletes) were our targets,” Franzese said. Franzese, who agreed to a 10-year prison sentence for racketeering, has left the mob and counsels athletes on the dangers of gambling.

He has spoken at 350 colleges and to major league baseball, NBA and NFL athletes since his release from prison. Here’s what he said Monday:

  • “Michael Vick, take a lesson from this. His cousin, his good friends, the people he financed . . . they turned on him.”
  • “Some of them (athletes he targeted) got hurt. Some of them were forced to compromise the integrity of the game.”
  • “If I got what I deserved, I’d either be dead or in prison the rest of my life.”
Franzese told the players he had fixed games. He wouldn’t answer directly when North Carolina basketball player Michael Copeland asked how many people he had killed.

“One of the biggest regrets I have in life is that a lot of my friends did not make it out of the (mob) life,” he said.

He warned them about poker, disputing “marketing” that denies those who participate in the popular card game are gambling. He told them illegal, offshore sports betting web sites steal clients’ identities.

Franzese said a prominent major league baseball player recently told him that two men extorted $50,000 from the player after obtaining his personal information from a sports betting web site.
North Carolina senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Franzese eloquently delivered a message that the school and NCAA constantly preach.

“Hearing it from a mob guy made a big impact,” said North Carolina basketball center Tyler Hansbrough. “Definitely seeing it from an inside point of view changed how you look at things.”

Marcus Ginyard, Hansbrough’s teammate, said he hadn’t been aware of how gambling interests penetrated college campuses.

“A lot of people don’t think there’s a problem,” Ginyard said. “For him to be here and tell us the things he’s seen, you’ve got to listen.”

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Roy Williams reminisces

You might think North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ 2004-05 national champions would be the first team that came to mind when he reminisces about his career.

Turns out he liked the next team – which had lost the top seven scorers from 2004-05 – just as much. He loved taking a bunch of freshmen and sophomores and proving wrong everybody who thought North Carolina wouldn’t be any good.

“Each and every year presents a different challenge,” Williams said Wednesday. “That team was fun to coach.”

Williams will do a lot of reminiscing this week as he gets inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Wednesday, he and his mentor, Dean Smith, met with the media to share their thoughts as Williams prepares to join Smith in the Hall of Fame.

Smith said Williams should have gotten into the Hall of Fame earlier.

“He’s got it all,” Smith said. “You go into a home (of a recruit), and he’s just as honest and straightforward (as could be).”

Before he makes a speech, Williams usually jots a few notes on an index card and ad libs. His induction speech is just the third one he’s ever written out. His two keynote speeches at alma mater, T.C. Roberson High in Asheville, were the others.

He says he wrote out the speech because the Hall of Fame wanted him to keep it brief. But he also is afraid he will get emotional as he thinks back about his past teams, coaches, friends and family.

“I had great, great, great help along the way,” he said.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Davidson-Winthrop in BracketBuster game?

Davidson will have another chance to showcase itself when the Wildcats play in the ESPN BracketBuster event Feb. 23.

The Wildcats won't know their opponent until February, but Davidson is already slotted to be a road team in the game. ESPN has already released all the home teams and road teams for the event, so Davidson could play at teams such as Southern Illinois, Old Dominion and Butler.

There's also another enticing possibility: Winthrop.

The Eagles are scheduled to be a home team in the event, and that could finally get the two local rivals on the court together, something that hasn't happened since 1992.

That matchup will certainly depend on how each team is doing. If Davidson and Winthrop can repeat last season's success, don't be surprised if the two schools end up renewing their rivalry in Rock Hill.

-- Kevin Cary

Thursday, August 23, 2007

UNC vs Kentucky series lives on

North Carolina and Kentucky will continue their highly anticipated nonconference basketball series through at least the 2009-10 season, North Carolina senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Thursday.

The Dec. 1, 2007 game in Lexington is the last game the schools have under contract, Gallo said. But Gallo said North Carolina coach Roy Williams and first-year Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie have agreed the series should continue.

"We think this will continue for a long time," Gallo said. ". . .It’s one of those great rivalries that should keep on going."

North Carolina has played Kentucky the last seven seasons, winning the last three times after the Wildcats won four in a row. The Tar Heels lead the overall series 19-10.

Kentucky is the winningest team in Division I, with 1,948 wins in its history. North Carolina ranks second in Division I with 1,914 wins. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Gaudio has time on his side

The biggest round of applause by Wake Forest supporters at Wednesday’s news conference announcing Dino Gaudio as the Deacons’ new basketball coach came when athletics director Ron Wellman said Gaudio had been given a five-year contract. No "interim" tag for Gaudio, an assistant to the late Skip Prosser at Wake Forest and Xavier since 2000. "I never would have done that to Dino," Wellman said. "That’s the worst thing you can do. You’re saying you’re a lame duck. How do you coach like that? And you can’t recruit."

-- Gaudio’s record (68-124) in two previous head-coaching jobs at Army and Loyola (Md.) is less than impressive. But those have never been college basketball powers. He’s got more experience now and more resources with which to work. Still, he will be going against some of the giants of his profession in the coaching-rich ACC. "I don’t worry about him locking horns with some of the greatest coaches in the country," Wellman said.

-- Gaudio did a good job of deflecting some of the blame for Wake Forest’s defensive inadequacies in recent seasons off Prosser and onto himself, while promising more emphasis in that area.

-- Gaudio looked elegant in a gray pinstriped suit that included a double-breasted vest. "We have a new dress code at Wake Forest," Wellman joked. "It appears that vests are in."

-- David Scott

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

ECU's move only first step

The timing – five months after the end of East Carolina’s season – was the only odd thing about Monday’s news that Ricky Stokes is finished as the Pirates’ basketball coach.

Stokes was 14-44 in two seasons and clearly wasn’t getting the job done. Former associate head coach Mack McCarthy will serve as interim coach in 2007-08 now that Stokes has been moved to associate athletics director for basketball.

East Carolina athletics director Terry Holland has coached Virginia to two Final Fours, so he certainly has his own ideas about how to revive the program.

Here are some things the program needs and Holland should keep in mind as he searches for a new coach:

D.C.-area recruiting. Greenville is just 4 ½ hours from Washington, D.C., but has just one player on its roster (freshman Jamar Abrams of Richmond) from remotely near that fertile recruiting area. The new coach can build a stronger talent base if he is successful recruiting the D.C. area.

Stronger scheduling. Some people thought Holland overscheduled when he put coach Skip Holtz up against numerous ACC schools and West Virginia in football. Then the Pirates defeated Virginia and N.C. State last season to reinvigorate the program. East Carolina’s only intriguing basketball games outside Conference USA last season were against N.C. State and Wake Forest. The Pirates should find a way to play at least four ACC/Big East-caliber schools every season.

Commit to a style. Whether it’s fast paced or tough and physical, the new coach needs to come with a style and philosophy that can give him an edge in recruiting the type of players he wants.

This still is a difficult job because East Carolina basketball has little winning tradition and the high school talent level in North Carolina is in a swoon. But particularly with Holland running the department, the Pirates can and should do better.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 6, 2007

Gaudio would ease transition at Wake

With Skip Prosser’s memorial services over, Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman at some point soon will turn his attention to the future of the school’s basketball program.

During Prosser’s funeral Wednesday in Clemmons, N.C., it became obvious the man for the job is Prosser’s associate head coach, Dino Gaudio. Wake Forest’s players appeared devastated by Prosser’s sudden death at age 56. Taking away the current staff from the players and forcing them to work with new coaches would traumatize them more.

Gaudio demonstrated he is ready for the job as he eulogized a man he started working with in 1981, when Gaudio assisted Prosser at Central Catholic High in Wheeling, W.Va. At an emotional time, Gaudio explained Prosser’s philosophy and devotion better than anybody else could, demonstrating the speaking ability necessary for any ACC coach to succeed.

Gaudio has been a head coach from 1997 to 2000 at Loyola of Maryland and from 1993-97 at Army. It’s been difficult for anybody to win at either place. Gaudio was 36-72 at Army – but that school has had just one winning season since Mike Krzyzewski left for Duke in 1979. Gaudio was 32-52 at Loyola, but predecessor Brian Ellerbe was 33-48 and successor Scott Hicks was 16-97.

Some have suggested the current staff be kept in place in an attempt to keep the high-profile commitments of Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker and Tony Woods that gave Prosser one of the nation’s best Class of 2008 recruiting hauls. But that’s a short-term, short-sighted view, and there’s no guarantee it would work.

The reason to hire Gaudio (and give him a five-year contract) is to maintain stability when a hire from outside the program could make a chaotic situation worse. The timing of this coaching search would make it difficult to attract marquee candidates anyway.

If the man Wake Forest needs is already on campus, Wellman ought to hire him.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

International basketball a benefit to players

North Carolina forward Deon Thompson and Davidson guard Stephen Curry demonstrated this summer why college coaches get excited when their players get selected by USA Basketball to play in international tournaments.

The Tar Heel players are raving about Thompson’s physical condition as he prepares for a larger role starting in the post opposite Tyler Hansbrough with Brandan Wright departed for the NBA.
Thompson averaged 10.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds as Team USA won the silver medal at the Under-19 world championships. On the same team, Curry again showed he’s as good as players from so-called “major” conferences after his brilliant freshman season. He averaged 9.4 points.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Curry had a “very productive” experience with the Under-19 team, and he’s “delighted” with Curry’s progress.

“He’s an incredibly special player,” McKillop said. “He’s got the full package of talent and attitude and work ethic and team orientation and basketball IQ.”

The opportunity for top-notch competition with USA Basketball is so attractive that even injured players get something out of it. North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington played in just one game before suffering a sprained left shoulder, but merely making the Pan Am Games team ahead of Tennessee’s Chris Lofton and Marquette’s Wes Matthews and Jerel McNeal was an accomplishment. Ellington's shoulder is better, a university spokesman said.

After DeMarcus Nelson fractured his left wrist during Pan Am trials, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was still glad Nelson participated. (Of course, as U.S. Olympic coach, Krzyzewski probably needed to say that).

Coaches understand that USA Basketball tours are not for everybody. Hansbrough, who gets physically pounded all season and doesn’t enjoy flying, certainly could have made the Pan Am Games team if he’d tried out. He’s probably better off avoiding more pounding.

But those who play test themselves against the best college players and the best the world has to offer. That can only help.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, July 30, 2007

Remembering Skip Prosser

Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser’s funeral Tuesday evening appropriately is expected to be attended by many of the most influential coaches in college basketball.

Many have stories of Prosser’s wit and good character. Many spent time with him on the recruiting trail in Orlando on Wednesday – one day before he died of a heart attack at age 56.
But some of those who knew him best worked behind the scenes at Wake Forest. Sports information director Dean Buchan – who recently left Wake Forest for Georgia Tech – is one friend outside the spotlight who cared deeply for Prosser.

Buchan remembers Prosser as a family man who would complete his post-game talks with his players and immediately ask for the score of a Bucknell game. His son, Mark, is an assistant coach at Bucknell.

Two specific post-game scenarios always will come to mind when Buchan thinks of Prosser.

The smile on Prosser’s face as he entered the locker room after a 90-80 victory at Wisconsin in 2002-03 is something Buchan never will forget. The win helped solidify the Deacons’ belief in themselves en route to their first outright, first-place ACC finish in 41 years. Buchan described the celebration as a “mosh pit” Prosser was thrilled to join.

After Wake Forest’s captivating, 119-114, triple-overtime victory over North Carolina in 2003-04, Buchan had a rare suggestion for Prosser’s post-game news conference. Buchan suggested that Prosser mention that after the ACC’s 50th anniversary, this was the first game of the next 50 years. And if the next 50 years were going to be played like that, they would be magnificent.

“In Skip fashion he looked at me and said, ‘Are you crazy? I’m not saying anything like that,’ ” Buchan said. “And he went to the press conference and his first statement was exactly what I said.”

One of Buchan’s favorite Prosser-isms illustrated his humility and appreciation for other sports at Wake Forest.

“We’re just trying to build a program our field hockey team can be proud of,” Prosser would say.
Prosser did that – and a whole lot more – in a memorable six-year tenure at Wake Forest.

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, July 27, 2007

Favorite memory: Positive Prosser

My favorite memory of Skip Prosser comes from what might have been one of his lowest moments in coaching at Wake Forest.

On Jan. 18 the Deacons played at Duke, which wasn’t nearly as formidable as in years past. It was a chance for Wake Forest to gain confidence after a 1-3 ACC start.

But Wake Forest matched its second-lowest scoring total since the ACC was founded in 1953-54, losing 62-40 in a bitterly frustrating performance for Prosser.

People will remember Prosser for his intelligence as a former history teacher, his sense of humor and the way his players enjoyed being around him. But because of all those qualities, it’s easy to forget how competitive Prosser was.

“Sometimes because a guy seems like the guy next door or the Sunday school teacher or the guy you remember teaching you English or history in high school, to be that kind of competitor is a little different from what you would expect,” CBS analyst Billy Packer said Thursday after Prosser died suddenly at age 56.

Packer said Prosser demonstrated that competitive spirit by bouncing back after two difficult seasons to line up one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for 2008. That spirit was obvious, too, in January in Durham.

“I can go in there and start a little campfire and a little marshmallows,” he said, “and we can all sing ‘Kumbaya,’ but the reality is the way we’re giving the ball to the other team and shooting free throws. . .”

That was the emotion talking. He stopped his criticism in mid-sentence and began talking positive. He said Wake Forest’s defensive effort had been pretty good most of the game.
He said freshman Ish Smith – who’d committed eight turnovers – was going to be a good point guard. He was trying to rally his players even though they were sitting dejected in the opposite corner of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

That was Prosser at his competitive best. That’s something the Wake Forest community lost Thursday and won’t easily replace.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Curry shows more than a jumper

Davidson's Stephen Curry is known for his 3-point shooting. He set a NCAA record with 122 3-pointers as a freshman, and I saw him swish 35-footers in a game of "PIG" against his father, former Charlotte Hornet Dell Curry, back in March.

But Curry's shown more than a sweet stroke at the U19 World Championships this month.

Yes, Curry is shooting 55 percent from the field, including 8-of-16 on 3-pointers, but he's done a lot more than that. He's playing less than half of the 40-minute games in Serbia, but he's still averaging four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

He's also become a better ballhandler - Curry averaged a turnover for every assist his freshman season at Davidson, but he's made only six turnovers (with 17 assists) in helping the U.S. team win its first six games.

Curry is still the team's second-leading scorer at more than 10 points a game, but his all-around play could be a sign of things to come for Davidson this season. Davidson fans can see the new Curry online starting Friday at 7:30 a.m. (EST), when the U.S. team faces Argentina in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal game will be broadcast online at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Davidson's Curry contributes to rout

Davidson's Stephen Curry had nine points and five assists in the USA Men’s U19 team's 118-56 win against Mali on Thursday in the opening game of the FIBA World Championship in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Curry had five fouls in 13 minutes, but was 3-of-4 from the field.

The U.S. team, which led 34-5 by the end of the first quarter, will play China at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

--Kevin Cary

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Davidson set to play UCLA

Davidson has another high-profile opponent on its 2007-08 men's basketball schedule. The Wildcats will play UCLA as part of the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif. Dec. 8.

Davidson - which has every scholarship player returning from a 29-5 team - has already scheduled games at Charlotte Bobcats Arena against North Carolina (Nov. 14) and Duke (Dec. 1). The Wildcats also have road games against Charlotte (Dec. 5) and N C. State (Dec. 21).

Davidson has not played UCLA since 1975. The Bruins finished 30-6 last season and reached the Final Four for the second straight year. UCLA has point guard Darren Collison and forward Josh Shipp returning, and also has Gatorade high school boy's basketball player of the year Kevin Love entering the lineup.
--Kevin Cary

It's tough to be a basketball recruit in July

Watching the tired expressions and weary-legged jump shots on the final evening of Nike's elite LeBron James Skills Academy camp brought to mind something Charlotte's Jay Bilas said earlier in the camp.

Some players are scheduled to go straight to Atlanta for the Peach Jam Tournament. Later in the month they will compete in a huge AAU event in Las Vegas.

Bilas, the ESPN analyst and former Duke player, said the July schedule is too intense for high school players.

"There's no way on God's green earth that it's right to have kids gone from home and away from their high school coaches and their home base for a whole month," Bilas said.

Earlier in the summer, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made similar comments. One problem is the NCAA's well-intentioned legislation to limit the coaches' summer player evaluation period to July 6-15 and July 22-31.

That causes the top event organizers to schedule their camps and tournaments in July in order to get college coaches in the stands at their events. Players want to attend all those events to get exposure.

"For a high school kid, being on the road (for all of July) with nothing but basketball, that's a lot," Bilas said.

Perhaps Krzyzewski and the ACC can take the lead in creating a staggered summer evaluation period that will be gentler on young players' legs.

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Hiring of older coaches makes sense for mid-majors

Old ACC basketball coaches don't retire.

They go to the beach in South Carolina and continue coaching.

A year ago, the College of Charleston hired Bobby Cremins, who turns 60 on July 4. Now Coastal Carolina has hired Cliff Ellis, 61, after Buzz Peterson left to become player personnel director for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Who's next? Dean Smith at The Citadel? Bucky Waters at Charleston Southern?


But hiring older coaches makes sense for some of these mid-major programs. Cremins and Ellis - who both worked as television analysts after leaving Georgia Tech and Auburn, respectively, provide instant name recognition.

They also understand the role of the media. A year ago at the Nike All-America camp in Indianapolis, Cremins invited me to ride with him in a limousine taking him to a television studio where he'd been asked to film a segment for a national cable sports news show.

He spoke openly about his passion for returning to coaching and the wild process that led to his accepting the job after former Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall backed out.

While Cremins was learning the names of the top high school players in the nation, he made time for interviews because even a highly respected mid-major like Charleston needs all the exposure it can get.

Cremins also coached Charleston to a 22-11 record and the Southern Conference tournament finals in his first season.

Critics say older coaches won't stay long before retiring. But successful young coaches also often leave mid-majors - for new jobs - as Peterson did after two seasons at Coastal Carolina.

And with living close to the beach as an incentive, Cremins and Ellis might be persuaded to stay longer.

- Ken Tysiac

Monday, July 2, 2007

Stephen Curry impressive for USA U19

Davidson’s Stephen Curry is a little taller, a little more focused, and maybe even a little better.

That’s the impression the guard is making with the USA Basketball U19 team. He scored 16 points in a 91-75 exhibition win Sunday night against the Chinese national team, making 5-of-6 shots including all four three-point attempts.

That kind of shooting is nothing new for Curry, who set an NCAA record for 3-pointers by a freshman last season with 122. But what’s new is some added height - Curry told me last week he’s grown two inches since the start of his freshman season - and a new focus.

"I really want to work on my decision-making and cut down on my turnovers while I am here," said Curry, who is now 6-foot-3. "I really think I am a lot stronger and a lot more powerful. But I want people to know that I am not just a one-year wonder."

Curry said he’s learned that he can’t take it easy on the court anymore. Especially now that his team might be ranked in the Top 25 to start the season.

"We know we won’t be surprising anybody this season," Curry said of Davidson, which returns all 11 scholarship players from a 29-5 team.
Neither will Curry, who appears primed for a little more exposure.

"It’s pretty flattering to hear your name mentioned with the great players," he said. "But I still have a lot to do." - Kevin Cary

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NBA draft could have ACC tilt

ACC fans still smarting from the conference's disappointing NCAA tournament can watch tonight's NBA draft for a shred of vindication.

Twelve years ago, the ACC set a record when eight players from its schools were drafted in the first round. The conference could approach that record again today.

North Carolina's Brandan Wright, Florida State's Al Thornton, Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, and Duke's Josh McRoberts give the ACC five fairly certain first-round picks.

Boston College's Jared Dudley and Sean Williams have a shot at late first-round selections, though Williams (dismissed from the team during the season) hardly left the school on good terms. North Carolina's Reyshawn Terry, considered a longshot for a first-round selection, could give the ACC eight first-round picks.

Even in the unlikely event that happens, though, the 2007 draft class won't equal the 1995 class. Boston College, which would account for two 2007 picks, wasn't in the conference in 1995.

Wright is considered the only possible top-five pick in today's draft. The 2007 draft had three - Joe Smith (1), Jerry Stackhouse (3) and Rasheed Wallace (4).

- Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Age limit's good for NBA, colleges

Less than a week ago, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski posed an interesting question. What if Greg Oden and Kevin Durant hadn't played one year of college basketball?

"I think it would hurt the NBA more than it would hurt college," Krzyzewski said.

No doubt college basketball is better off for having had Oden and Durant even if it was just for one season, thanks to an NBA age limit that prevented them from going to the NBA immediately after high school.

Oden was a first-team All-American and led Ohio State to the NCAA title game. Durant was the consensus national player of the year for Texas.
But Krzyzewski's point is that one year in college dramatically increased the NBA marketability of Oden and Durant as Thursday's draft approaches.

If Oden had played against pros last season with his surgically repaired wrist, he might have faded into obscurity by midseason. Instead, he has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Topps.

Durant wouldn't have scored nearly as easily against Kevin Garnett as he did against Big 12 defenders last season, and now also is expected to cash in with big endorsement contracts.

In Portland and Seattle, which have the draft's first two picks, respectively, the arrivals of Oden and Durant are expected to generate huge interest in the NBA franchises.

Krzyzewski's concern with the NBA age limit in place is that colleges stay true to their mission and don't become merely a component of the pro basketball public relations machine.

"We've got to be careful about college, that it doesn't become Oden against Durant," Krzyzewski said. "It's Ohio State against Texas. If we lose that, then we lose our share of how you look at basketball. That's the thing that makes college basketball.

"It will never be a coach or a player. It will be Duke against North Carolina, UCLA against Southern Cal. And that's one of the things we have to protect. And when we protect that, we protect the inherent mission of the school, which is to educate." - Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Donovan is doing the right thing

Staying at Florida is the right decision for Billy Donovan.
He sure went about it in the wrong way, accepting a five-year, $27.5 million contract to coach the Orlando Magic that he now reportedly is about to escape.

But the track record of college head coaches who accept NBA jobs indicates that he was making a mistake leaving Gainesville. His mentor, Rick Pitino, was 102-146 with the Boston Celtics.

John Calipari, Tim Floyd and Jerry Tarkanian have won prodigiously in college but flopped in the NBA. Sure, Donovan could have taken over the Magic and cashed big paychecks for a few years even if he couldn’t take Dwight Howard & Co. deep into the playoffs.

After wearing out his welcome in Orlando, he could have spent a year or two as a TV analyst and then become a hot commodity for another big-time college job. In football, Butch Davis followed that same career path, if you substitute Cleveland for Orlando, to become coach at North Carolina, a school with a national name and good facilities.

But Davis’ old Miami Hurricanes job also opened up after last season, and it appears Davis was never a factor. It’s not easy to go home again, and that’s why Donovan is wise to stay at Florida if he’s happy there.

By winning back-to-back NCAA titles, Donovan has established Florida as an SEC power to rival Kentucky, whose job he declined to pursue in April. The Gators might struggle in 2007-08 because they lost all five NCAA champion starters, but their recent success gets them in the door with a lot of top prospects on the recruiting trail.

Donovan’s waffling will cause him embarrassment and probably will infuriate the Magic. But if Orlando gets a proven NBA coach (reports mention Stan Van Gundy), it will be better off.

As for Donovan, Bobby Cremins and Gregg Marshall are thriving after creating similar fiascos by accepting jobs they later turned down.
Donovan will be OK, too. – Ken Tysiac

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tournament hardly all-star

With no players committed to Duke or North Carolina and just one N.C. State commitment in the field, the Reebok Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions didn’t have as much star power as in the past few years.
The class of 2008 also lacks a marquee name such as Greg Oden, Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo, who added excitement to the tournament in recent years. Watching the class of 2008 helps you appreciate the college freshman class from last season, which was headlined by Oden, Kevin Durant and Brandan Wright.
Veteran talent analysts said it might have been the best freshman class ever. The class of 2008 won’t share that distinction. There still were a lot of interesting players from a Carolinas perspective at the Tournament of Champions:
-- Tyler Zeller of Washington, Ind., was most valuable player for leading Indiana Elite to the title and picked up a scholarship offer from North Carolina.
-- Elliot Williams of Collierville, Tenn., has a scholarship offer from Duke and is an explosive scorer off the drive.
-- Forward Romero Osby of the Southeast Elite is a slashing driver who has received phone calls from North Carolina but no scholarship offer. He also has received interest from several other top schools.
But there wasn’t a player in the tournament who appeared certain of being an NBA lottery pick after one year of college.
EYE ON THE REFS: Charlotte’s Jamie Luckie, who referees in the ACC and Big East, supervised officials at the Tournament of Champions.
The tournament and the elite summer camps provide an opportunity for young referees to work and get instruction from more experienced officials.
Speaking of officiating, two new rules will have opposite effects for college basketball referees in 2007-08:
-- Eliminating one position on each side of the lane on free throws will make it easier to enforce rules against the pushing and shoving that occurs on rebounds.
-- Moving the 3-point arc back one foot will cause problems because the women’s arc stayed at 19 feet, 9 inches. Some courts will have those two arcs plus the NBA arc, and that will cause a problem for referees.
-- Ken Tysiac

Saturday, May 26, 2007

AAU team was loaded with talent in 2004

The NBA draft in June will demonstrate the amazing talent collected on the Spiece Indy Heat team that won the 2004 Tournament of Champions.
There could be four first-round picks from that team:
- Greg Oden, who could be the No. 1 pick after leading Ohio State to the NCAA title game.
- Josh McRoberts, the former No. 1 player in his high school class who spent two years at Duke.
- Mike Conley, Oden’s Lawrence North High and Ohio State teammate from Indianapolis who might be the first point guard drafted.
- Daequan Cook, who committed to Ohio State before Conley and Oden.
A fifth player from that Spiece team, Eric Gordon, will be one of the top freshman guards in the nation at Indiana this season and should be a lottery pick whenever he decides to enter the draft.
That’s quite a lineup for one AAU team. Spiece is back at this year’s tournament with another Oden (Greg’s 6-foot-9 brother, Anthony). But there’s probably not a player on this year’s Spiece team who could have started for the 2004 team.

- Tyler Zeller, the 7-foot-2 Indiana Elite center offered a scholarship by North Carolina on Friday, is pursuing a different summer development strategy than his older brother.
Luke Zeller, who plays for Notre Dame, didn’t play AAU basketball during the summer before his senior year. Luke preferred to go through drills on his own.
“I just like getting out and playing more,” Tyler said. “He wanted to do more individual work ... I do that during the week and then play on the weekends.”

- Picture this Charlotte Royals 16-and-under player in your mind.
He’s six inches taller than his father, who played 14 NBA seasons. You’re picturing a big guy, right?
Now picture Muggsy Bogues’ son, Tyrone Jr. Changes everything, doesn’t it?
Tyrone is a 5-9 guard for the Royals.

- Ken Tysiac