Thursday, April 30, 2009

Raleigh's Wall to visit N.C. Central

The recruitment of John Wall, the top high school basketball point guard recruit in the country, took another twist Thursday when Wall planned an unofficial visit to N.C. Central.

Wall has known and worked with new Eagles coach LeVelle Moton for years. Wall plans to visit the Durham campus on Friday.

"I want to find out what a historically black school has to offer," Wall said Thursday night. "This is a visit to find out some things."

Wall had planned to trim his list of eight schools to three or four by Friday, but, "truthfully, it looks like it is going to be Monday now," Wall said.

Wall currently has N.C. State, Baylor, Kentucky, Miami, Duke, Kansas, Memphis and Florida on his list. He said there are no leaders, not any group of leaders.

He said internet reports that he had cut his list to Kentucky, Miami, Duke and Florida were erroneous.

"I have not told anyone a group of leaders," he said. "In my mind, the schools are even."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peterson returns to ASU as coach

BOONE - Buzz Peterson, who led Appalachian State men’s basketball to three Southern Conference regular-season championships and an NCAA tournament appearance from 1996-2000, has returned to the school as head coach.

Peterson led the Mountaineers to a 79-39 record, including a 47-12 mark in Southern Conference play, in his first four seasons at Appalachian State. His .669 overall winning percentage and .797 winning percentage in conference play are both tops among head coaches in program history (minimum three seasons).

After orchestrating a turnaround from an 8-20 season in the season before his arrival to a 14-14 record in 1996-97, Peterson coached the Mountaineers to three-consecutive 20-win seasons, Southern Conference North Division titles and appearances in the Southern Conference tournament championship game. The 1999-2000 squad went 23-9 and defeated College of Charleston, 68-56, in the Southern Conference title game to give the program its second NCAA tournament appearance in school history (the first since 1979).

In his four years at Appalachian State, he was twice named Southern Conference Coach of the Year (1998 and 2000).

Following the 1999-2000 season, Peterson became head coach at Tulsa. In his only season at Tulsas, he led the Golden Hurricanes to a 26-11 record and the 2001 National Invitation Tournament championship.

He then moved on to Tennessee, where he posted a 61-59 record from 2001-05. The Vols earned two NIT berths in Peterson’s four seasons there.

Following the stint at Tennessee, he compiled a 35-25 record in two seasons at Coastal Carolina. In his first season at Coastal Carolina (2005-06), the Chanticleers registered their first 20-win season in 13 years and fell in heart-breaking fashion to Winthrop in the 2006 Big South tournament championship game.

In 11 seasons as coach, Peterson has compiled a 201-134 overall record (.600) and led his teams to four postseason appearances.

He left the college game in 2007 to become director of player personnel for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats won a franchise-record 35 games in 2008-09.

- Observer News Services

Pack 7-foot recruit eager for ACC play

By Tim Stevens
Staff Writer

N.C. State’s newest basketball recruit says he has never played a game in the United States but he already knows about Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.
Jordan Vandenberg is a native of Australia, grew up in Melbourne and his only experience playing in the U.S. is open gyms at the University of Nevada Reno and at Boise State.
But the 7-foot, 235-pound center knows about college basketball.
“[The ACC] is said to be the hardest competition in college basketball and it is always fierce, fast and strong,” Vandenberg said via email.
The opportunity to play in the league is one of the things that made State attractive to him, he said.
But to play in the ACC, Vandenberg knows he needs to gain weight. He hopes to be able to contribute next season.
“I bring length so I would be able to change shots and rebound most importantly,” he said.
“I know I will be playing limited minutes until I can fully hold my own physically,” he said.
Vandenberg chose State over Utah Valley, Boise State and Nevada-Reno.
State assistant coach Pete Strickland spotted Vandenberg during the center’s one year at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Vandenberg said he admires the play of fellow Australian 7-foot, 260-pound Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks, a former Utah star, and 7-foot, 250-pound Paul Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, who is a native of Spain.
“I admire most Pau Gasol and Andrew Bogut,” he said. “Theyare very skilled and versatile big men.”
Vandenberg is State’s fifth basketball recruit in the Class of 2009.
State also has signed 6-6 forward Josh Davis of Raleigh Athens Drive, 6-5 guard Lorenzo Brown of Roswell (Ga.) Centennial, 6-5 guard Scott Wood of Marion, Ind., and 6-7 forward Richard Howell of Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wake assistant leaves for Xavier

Wake Forest needs a new assistant basketball coach. Pat Kelsey left Dino Gaudio's staff to join another former Skip Prosser assistant at Xavier.

Kelsey reunites with Chris Mack, the new coach at Xavier and also a former assistant at Wake. Mack and Kelsey worked for Prosser at Wake from 2002 to 2004.

Kelsey played for Prosser at Xavier from 1996-98 and joined the Wake staff in the spring of 2001.

-- J.P. Giglio

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Duke star going pro

Duke junior Gerald Henderson (at right, AP Photo) made it official this morning by announcing he will enter the June 25 NBA Draft.

The announcement was released by the school, which quoted Henderson as saying, “Playing in the NBA has been a goal of mine since a young age and I am thrilled to have the opportunity. My three years at Duke have been a tremendous learning experience and have helped me develop both as a person and as a player.”

Henderson has not hired an agent, but is expected to be among the top 10 or so players selected. A first team All-ACC and ACC All-Tournament team selection last season, he led the Blue Devils to 30-7 record and the program's 11th league championship, averaging 16.5 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game.

"Gerald is an impressive young man on and off the court," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "We had great conversations about his NBA prospects and we are 100 percent behind his decision. Gerald is coming off a great season and he has an extremely bright future as a professional. We are ready to help him in any and every way during this process."

Without Henderson, the Devils are expected to retain four starters and nine lettermen from ‘08-’09.

--Caulton Tudor

Friday, April 24, 2009

Duke star taking his time on NBA plans

Duke's Gerald Henderson is the last of the ACC’s underclassmen to make his NBA plans public.

Henderson, a 6-foot-4 junior wingman, has until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to make it official, but he’s likely to wade into the pool with an announcement Saturday. The Blue Devils’ annual basketball banquet will be held tonight.

Non-seniors taking their first draft excursion and without an agent can retain their college eligibility by withdrawing from consideration at any time before 5 p.m. June 15. The lottery will be held May 19.

Henderson, who averaged 16.5 points on a 30-7 team last season, will likely become Duke’s first first-round pick since Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick in 2006.

While dozens of NBA mock drafts exist, there’s much speculation that Henderson will be the first ACC player selected.

Here’s a brief sampling of the league’s player projections by a few selected internet

• Henderson 9; Wayne Ellington (UNC) 11; James Johnson (Wake Forest) 13; Ty Lawson (UNC) 15; Jeff Teague (Wake) 19; Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech) 23; Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) 28; Toney Douglas (Florida State) 31; Danny Green (UNC) 39; Tyrese Rice (Boston College) 49; Alade Aminu (Georgia Tech) 56.

• Lawson 10; Henderson 12; Johnson 13; Teague 19; Hansbrough 29; Greivis Vasquez (Maryland) 32; Ellington 33; Douglas 40; Green 50; Jack McClinton (Miami) 59.

• Johnson 9; Henderson 12; Lawson 19; Teague 23; Ellington 26; Hansbrough 28. (No second round projections).

• Henderson 9; Ellington 12; Johnson 17; Lawson 18; Teague 23; Lawal 26; Hansbrough 30; Douglas 39; Green 45.

• Henderson 9; Lawson 12; Johnson 14; Teague 20; Hansbrough 26; Ellington 29; Green 38; Rice 49; K.C. Rivers (Clemson) 53; McClinton 56.

• Henderson 9; Lawson 11; Johnson 16; Teague 20; Lawal 23; Hansbrough 25; Ellington 30; Rice 35; Douglas 38; Green 43; Aminu 49.

• Henderson 7; Teague 9; Johnson 16; Lawson 18; Hansbrough 30; Rice 38; Green 48.

• Henderson 9; Ellington 12; Lawson 14; Teague 15; Johnson 24; Hansbrough 26; Vasquez 37; Green 39; Douglas 54; McClinton 60.

There’s widespread agreement that the top five players, in some order, will be Blake Griffin (Oklahoma forward), Ricky Rubio (Spanish guard import), James Harden (Arizona State guard), DeMar DeRozan (Southern Cal wingman) and Hasheen Thabeet (Connecticut center).

Davidson guard Stephen Curry generally is predicted to go among the top 15.

-- J.P. Giglio

No Hawaii for Wolfpack

N.C. State's basketball team will not be spending Christmas in Hawaii.

Wolfpack AD Lee Fowler said an ESPN report that has State in Honolulu over Christmas is wrong. State talked to the organizers of the new Diamond Head Classic but couldn't work out a deal, Fowler said.

The made-for-ESPN tournament is Dec. 22, 23 and 25 in Honolulu and features eight teams. USC, UNLV, College of Charleston and host Hawaii have committed to the field.

State has made five trips to 50th state for basketball tournaments, the last in 1995.

-- J.P. Giglio

ESPN: Paulus headed to Syracuse

Greg Paulus will go home to play college football, according to ESPN.

Paulus, who tore up the New York State prep record books as a quarterback at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, will suit up for the Orange in the fall.

Paulus will need a waiver from the NCAA to transfer from Duke, but if Taylor Bennett can go from Georgia Tech to Louisiana Tech without a one-year wait, so can the former point guard.

Syracuse went 3-9 in 2008 and fired coach Greg Robinson. (Side note: Robinson, who unsuccessfully recruited Paulus to Syracuse out of high school, is Michigan's new defensive coordinator. Hence, the connection between Paulus and the previous dalliance with the Wolverines).

First-year Orange coach Doug Marrone named redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib the starter in spring practice but will apparently give Paulus a shot.

From a football standpoint, Syracuse — and Marrone's pro-style offense — makes a thousand times more sense for Paulus than Michigan, which runs the spread option. If Paulus' intended goal is to play professional football, this will, in theory, give him a better chance.

-- J.P. Giglio

Williams coy about Wall pursuit

The decision by Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington to leave UNC for the NBA frees up a scholarship for the Tar Heels next season.

UNC coach Roy Williams, who has contacted Raleigh super recruit John Wall, didn't say if he would add another recruit to his star-studded five-man class.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens with it," Williams said.

Now, Williams can't mention a recruit by name, but if he was not pursuing Wall, he could have said definitively he was done with the class of 2009. His answer left the door open for another chapter in the three-ring circus that is Wall's recruitment — started by N.C. State, later joined by Duke and the rest of the free world.

Even if UNC's dalliance with Wall never gets past the phone stage, Williams has what is considered the best recruiting haul in the country. The Heels have signed power forward John Henson (ranked No. 4 in the country by, shooting guard Dexter Strickland (No. 33), forward David Wear (No. 54), forward Travis Wear (No. 55) and shooting guard Leslie McDonald (No. 52).

All but McDonald, ironically, were McDonald's All-Americans.

But Wall's a point guard, the only missing piece from the recruiting class. Larry Drew II, who'll be a sophomore, is the only true point guard on the roster. Wing Marcus Ginyard could also be used to run the offense.

-- J.P. Giglio

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Title game rematch tops ACC/Big Ten Challenge

A rematch of the national title game will highlight the 11th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Michigan State will travel to national champion UNC on Dec. 1.

UNC beat Michigan State 89-72 for the Tar Heels' fifth NCAA title on April 6. The Heels also beat the Spartans in last year's Challenge.

The ACC has won every year of the Challenge. Duke, which is 10-0 in Challenge play, goes to Wisconsin on Dec. 2. N.C. State, which was left out of last year's Challenge, will host Northwestern on Dec. 1.

Actually there are two title game rematches. Maryland visits Indiana on Dec. 1, a replay of the 2002 championship game won by the Terps.

Monday, Nov. 30
Penn State @ Virginia

Tuesday, Dec. 1
Maryland @ Indiana
Michigan State @ North Carolina
Northwestern @ N.C. State
Virginia Tech @ Iowa
Wake Forest @ Purdue

Wednesday, Dec. 2
Boston College @ Michigan
Duke @ Wisconsin
Florida State @ Ohio State
Illinois @ Clemson
Minnesota @ Miami

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tudor's Take: Trio won't change forecast

The pending question for Duke’s Gerald Henderson and North Carolina’s Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington isn’t so much “if.” It’s “when” will the three juniors will declare for the NBA Draft.

They have until Sunday at 11:59 p.m. to declare. If they do, only Henderson would be able to play another season of college ball. The two Tar Heels used their free pro inspection shot last spring. Underclassmen don’t get a second chance.

Henderson could declare and return for ‘09-’10 under the stipulation that he doesn’t hire an agent and removes his name from consideration by 5 p.m. June 15.

What would change if they all leave?

Actually not a lot — at least not a lot in the ACC. With or without these all-stars, Carolina and Duke are near locks to remain the league’s top teams.

Carolina’s backcourt would be considerably weaker with Larry Drew II likely moving into Lawson’s playmaker role. But the list of frontcourt options — Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Ginyard and freshman John Henson, David Wear and Travis Wear — is staggering in size, talent and numbers.

Duke, without Henderson, would probably revamp its lineup look with Kyle Singler spending more time on the perimeter with Jon Scheyer, Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith.

Inside, Singler would still help and probably lead the team in rebounding. But improvement would be needed from Lance Thomas and Miles Plumlee, who should get some help from freshmen Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.

Regardless of where he spends the majority of his court time, Singler is a safe bet to be the preseason pick for league player of the year.

With the rest of the ACC teams essentially lost in space, it’s difficult to imagine Carolina and Duke surrendering much ground at all. That would be even more the case if Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague and Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez stay in the draft, which looks likely.

You could argue that Florida State — with recruit Michael Snaer joining a host of returnees — is poised to advance. But without Toney Douglas, it’s a hollow argument at best.

Where the exits of Lawson, Ellington and Henderson would make a big difference is in the national jockeying. On paper, neither Carolina nor Duke then would have the material to match Kansas and Michigan State and perhaps not Louisville, Villanova and Syracuse entering the season.

By March, however, that situation easily could change.

-- Caulton Tudor

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ole Miss coach pleads guilty

Mississippi announced today that basketball coach Andy Kennedy has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct resulting from a conflict with a cab driver in Cincinnati on Dec 18, 2008.

Kennedy, 41, played one season for N.C. State, averaging 2.6 points in 1986-87, before he transferred to Alabama-Birmingham. He later played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA.

He was arrested and accused of hitting taxi driver Mohammed Jiddou, who said the coach used racial slurs.

In a news release, Ole Miss said Kennedy will serve probation up to six months, do 40 hours of community service and pay a $100 fine plus court costs.

"I want to take this opportunity to apologize ... to the entire Ole Miss family for any negative light that has been shown as a result of my involvement in this unfortunate situation," Kennedy said in the release.

"I acknowledge using poor judgment which resulted in an adverse reflection on me, my family, our program and the university that I so proudly represent."

The Rebels went 16-15 overall and 7-9 in the Southeastern Conference last season. Kennedy's first two teams at the school went 21-13 and 24-11.

-- J.P. Giglio

Ga. Tech forward to test NBA draft waters

You knew Georgia Tech couldn't make it another offseason without losing an NBA Draft prospect. Forward Gani Lawal, who led the ACC in rebounding as a sophomore, will enter his name in the draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

The only surprise is that Lawal lasted two seasons — and that freshman Iman Shumpert hasn't followed him to the draft waters (yet?).

Of the 10 one-and-done players in ACC history, five went to Georgia Tech (Stephon Marbury, Chris Bosh, Dion Glover, Javaris Crittenton and Thad Young).

Lawal's news interrupts what has been a lull in ACC declarations. With the deadline looming on Sunday, it's sure to pickup.

The UNC duo of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington and Duke's Gerald Henderson, are all expected to leave for the NBA but have been silent.

A UNC spokesman said Monday there was no update on Lawson or Ellington. A Duke spokesman said Henderson "was still in the process of evaluating his options."

What we know (testing players have until June 15 to withdraw their names):

James Johnson, Wake Forest
Brandon Costner, N.C. State

Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
Dwayne Collins, Miami

Ed Davis, UNC
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
Kyle Singler, Duke
Solomon Alabi, Florida State

Ty Lawson, UNC
Wayne Ellington, UNC
Gerald Henderson, Duke

-- J.P. Giglio

Friday, April 17, 2009

No decision yet from Lawson, Ellington

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams plans to gather information from at least 10 different NBA general managers before juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington make their final decisions about whether to turn pro.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare is April 26; the NBA only allows players to withdraw their name from the draft once. Since both did that last year, their decisions this time around will be final.

“I think they are relying on the information, not necessarily my advice, because they’re going to do what they want to do, and that’s what I want them to do, but I want it to be an informed decision,’’ Williams said Thursday, after the team’s awards ceremony.

“And I’m extremely happy regardless of what they do. … If they decide to come back, of course I’ll coach them. If they don’t, I’ll go back and say it again: I’m extremely thankful for what they’ve already done and that I was able to coach them for three years.”

Williams, whose team won the NCAA title earlier this month, has only had a chance to visit with Lawson and his parents for about 25 minutes; Lawson was the ACC’s Player of the Year this season. Meanwhile, Williams has only had a chance to chat with Ellington, the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, for about five minutes.

“I’ve told them, ‘relax, and enjoy the dickens out of this time period. You don’t have to be 75 years old tomorrow.’’’ Williams said. “So we haven’t pushed it, and there’s no need to push it right now. I’m just gathering information for them.”

Lawson and Ellington were not available for comment.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John Wall eligible for NBA draft?

Raleigh Word of God's John Wall (above) may be eligible for the 2009 NBA draft.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank told Tom Ziller of that if Wall applies for 2009 draft eligibility, the NBA will do its "due diligence to determine his eligibility." Wall has not yet applied for early entry, according to Frank.

The NBA's collective bargaining agreement, which governs the draft, is murky on whether Wall is eligible for the 2009 NBA draft.

To be eligible a player must be 19 during the calendar year of the draft (Wall is) and be a year removed from his high school graduation (Wall is scheduled to graduate from Word of God this spring). But if a player does not graduate from high school, he needs to be a year removed from when his class graduated.

Wall is a fifth year senior. He was a junior at Broughton when he transferred to Word of God, but was enrolled as a sophomore. If he had stayed at Broughton or at Garner, where he played as a freshman and sophomore, he would have graduated in 2008.

Wall was outstanding in last week's Nike Hoops Summit game in Portland, Ore., setting the game record with 11 assists and tying the record for steals with five.

He is expected to play in the Jordan Brand All-America Game in Madison Square Garden this week and make an official visit to Miami next week.

Last Thursday, Wall said he was considering scholarship offers from N.C. State, Memphis, Miami, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and Baylor.

-- Tim Stevens

Source: Appalachian to pursue Peterson again

Appalachian State is turning its attention back to Buzz Peterson, the former frontrunner for the vacant Mountaineers' basketball coaching position, a source familiar with the process said today.

Peterson said this morning that he preferred not to comment on the situation, but added that he had not been contacted since he withdrew from the search last week.

The source said Peterson had been strongly interested in the Appalachian position, but the logistics of the move back to Boone would be difficult for him, including disposing of his expensive Charlotte-area home in a poor real estate market.

ASU is planning to return with a sweetened offer that might include help with disposing of Peterson's home.

Peterson has been Appalachian's first choice all along. If he is interested in the new proposal, expect things to move quickly, with his hiring being finalized this week.

Peterson, currently the director of player personnel for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, coached the Mountaineers from 1996-2000. He produced three 20-win seasons in four years and once took ASU to the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountaineers were believed to have turned their attention to former Charlotte 49ers coach Melvin Watkins, now an associate head coach at Missouri, and current Citadel coach Ed Conroy with Peterson's withdrawal. But the school's search committee, led by athletics director Charlie Cobb, has decided to take another run at Peterson, the source said.--Stan Olson

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Former Wake assistant new Xavier coach

Xavier will turn to another former ACC assistant coach to run its basketball program. Chris Mack will replace Sean Miller as Xavier's basketball coach, according to the school.

Mack coached for three seasons with the late Skip Prosser at Wake Forest before joining Miller's staff in 2004. Miller, a former N.C. State assistant, left Xavier last week for Arizona.

Former ACC head coaches Prosser and Pete Gillen also preceded Mack at Xavier.

-- J.P. Giglio

Paulus works out for Packers

Greg Paulus hasn't played a down of college football but the Duke basketball player worked out for the Green Bay Packers on campus last week.

A Duke spokesman confirmed the report by that Paulus, a All-American quarterback in high school, worked out for a Packers scout. Paulus threw passes to Duke's All-ACC receiver Eron Riley, who's considered a late-round draft prospect. They were the only two players at the workout, according to Duke.

Paulus, who started three seasons for the Blue Devils' basketball team and was a reserve guard on this year's ACC championship team, hasn't taken a snap at quarterback since the 2004 U.S. Army All-American game.

He went 42-3 as a starter at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y. and set the state record for passing yards (11,763). He finished his prep career with 152 passing touchdowns. rated Paulus the ninth-best quarterback prospect in his high school class — ahead of Big 12 stars Colt McCoy (Texas) and Chase Daniel (Missouri) — and he received multiple scholarship offers to play football, notably at Notre Dame.

Technically, Paulus, who will graduate with a political science degree next month, still has a season of college football eligibility.

He could play for Duke or transfer to a Division II program (the NCAA changed its transfer rules in 2006 which would prevent Paulus from playing for another Division I team).

Given Duke's quarterback situation, with senior Thad Lewis, a three-year starter, and redshirt freshman Sean Renfree, a top prospect, it's unlikely Paulus would play for Duke in 2009. He could practice with the team and learn from Duke coach David Cutcliffe, a noted quarterback specialist, but that wouldn't help him in terms of game action.

Paulus is coming off difficult senior season in basketball. He lost his starting point guard job to Nolan Smith in November, then briefly won it back in February, but was sent back to the bench and didn't play more than 20 minutes in the final 12 games of his career.

He averaged 4.9 points and 16.1 minutes — both career-lows — in 36 games.

He wouldn't be the first basketball player to jump to the NFL without playing college football. Antonio Gates signed a free agent contract with San Diego Chargers after helping the Kent State basketball team to the Final Eight in 2003.

But Gates made the transition from power forward to tight end. At 6-1, Paulus would be considered undersized for an NFL quarterback.

-- J.P. Giglio

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pack shows interest in senior point guard

N.C. State is showing some interest in 6-foot senior point guard Vincent Williams of Homestead (Fla.) South Dade High.

South Dade coach John Herron said Monday that Wolfpack assistant Monte Towe is expected to visit on April 22.

"Monte has seen him play and Monte has had some friends look at Vincent," Herron said Monday.

Williams averaged 26.5 points and 6.0 assists per game last season.

N.C. State and Oklahoma had been showing the most interest in Williams, but the University of Georgia is moving very quickly.

Georgia contacted Herron on Saturday and flew in to watch a workout on Easter Sunday. The Bulldogs are trying to arrange a campus visit.

Alabama-Birmingham and St. Louis already have offered scholarships.

Herron said Williams needed to add strength, but is an outstanding shooter and scorer.

"He is quick," Herron said. "He can defend. He can score. He can get to the basket. He can break his man down. He can do everything you want a point guard to do, but he needs to get bigger and stronger."

-- Tim Stevens

Aminu staying at Wake

Freshman forward Al-Farouq Aminu (at left in AP photo), widely expected to enter the NBA Draft in June, will return for his sophomore season at Wake Forest, the school's sports information office has announced.

"My family and I feel like now is not the right time," Aminu said in a statement released by Wake.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Norcross, Ga., who is listed among the top 15 picks in numerous mock drafts, averaged 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds his freshman season.

"His decision reflects his maturity and his understanding that he needs to develop certain areas of his game," Wake coach Dino Gaudio said in a prepared statement.

-- Roger van der Horst

Sunday, April 12, 2009

UNC's Davis will return

As expected, UNC forward Ed Davis will return for this sophomore season.

The school released a statement Sunday, saying the sixth man wanted to end all of the speculation about his future.

"I love being a student at Carolina and playing with my teammates for Coach (Roy) Williams,'' Davis said in a prepared statement. "I'd like to play in the NBA someday, but my family and I don't think I'm ready to take that step. I'm glad this decision is behind me so I can focus on the rest of the school year and get ready to be a better player next season."

Davis averaged 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who won their fifth NCAA championship on Monday.

Juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, who tested the NBA waters last summer before returning for one more season, have not announced their decisions yet.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NBA Draft: Who's going from the ACC

Miami's Dwayne Collins added his name to the list of candidates who will test the NBA Draft waters. Collins will go through the process without hiring an agent — just as Wake Forest's Jeff Teague announced earlier this week.

The ACC will look different in 2009-10, although the 1-2 finish by some combination of UNC and Duke is unlikely to change.

Early entrants have until June 15 to withdraw from the draft, which is June 25.

Here are the candidates in four groups (it would be stunning if Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington didn't migrate to the "going" category but this list is based on published reports of what we know):

James Johnson, Wake Forest
Brandon Costner, N.C. State

Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
Dwayne Collins, Miami
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland

Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
Ed Davis, UNC
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Solomon Alabi, Florida State

Ty Lawson, UNC
Wayne Ellington, UNC
Gerald Henderson, Duke
Kyle Singler, Duke
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech

-- J.P. Giglio

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Peterson turns down ASU's offer

Former Appalachian State men's basketball coach Buzz Peterson has decided not to return to his old job.

Peterson, director of player personnel for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, notified Appalachian State officials of his decision on Thursday, more than a week-and-a-half since both sides first began talking.

Peterson, 45, was the Mountaineers' coach from 1996 to 2000, leading Appalachian State to the Southern Conference tournament championship and NCAA tournament bid during the 1999-2000 season. He also coached at Tulsa, Tennessee and Coastal Carolina before taking the job with the Bobcats.

Peterson played college basketball at North Carolina, where he was a roommate of NBA great Michael Jordan, who is part-owner and managing member of basketball operations for the Bobcats.

Appalachian State will continue its search for a replacement for Houston Fancher, who was released last month after nine seasons.

- Jim Utter

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wake's Teague enters draft, won't hire agent

Jeff Teague plans to test his NBA draft stock this summer.

Wake Forest announced Tuesday afternoon that the sophomore guard will enter the draft without retaining an agent. Underclassmen have until June 15 to withdraw their name and remain eligible to play in college.

The draft is June 25.

“Jeff has proven himself to be one of the top players in the nation,” Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said in a statement. “The NBA allows a student-athlete to declare for the draft and withdraw one time during their career. This will be a chance for Jeff to be evaluated by the NBA scouts and general managers and to get feedback on his strengths and weaknesses. I am optimistic that Jeff will be back at Wake Forest next year and that he will have a good idea of the type of junior season he needs to have in order to ensure a solid professional career.”

Forward James Johnson, a teammate of Teague’s, already reportedly plans to enter the draft without leaving himself the option of returning. Last week he told his hometown newspaper, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, that he was interviewing agents. If he hires an agent, he will be ineligible to return to school.

Teague led Wake Forest with 18.8 points per game and averaged 3.5 assists. He was a second-team All-ACC selection. – Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

UNC celebration continues

DETROIT — North Carolina coach Roy Williams walked off the team hotel elevator Tuesday morning, carrying the championship trophy and net and smiling broadly. He’d only gotten about 1 1/2 hours of sleep, but the celebration of his second national title continued as the team left Detroit.

And it will continue again this afternoon at the Smith Center, when the Tar Heels are welcomed home. Doors at UNC’s home arena will open at 2 p.m.

Williams said he had not yet had a chance to talk to mentor Dean Smith, who like Williams won two national championships. President Barack Obama — who picked the Tar Heels to win in his bracket — hasn’t called yet either.

But the only mildly disappointing part of the past 24 hours, he revealed, is that The Temptations left the floor so quickly after singing the game-opening national anthem at Ford Field that he didn’t get to shake their hands.

But having some other legends at the game made up for it.

“Having Larry [Bird] and Magic [Johnson] there, that was neat,’’ Williams said. “Larry Bird has been a great friend, he’s offered me an NBA job at least a couple of times. He came over, and Magic came over, and I said, ‘I know where your allegiance is, but I appreciate you supporting college basketball’ kind of thing, and then Larry came over and said ‘kick their butt. ' I think he did that because he knew Magic was so big in Michigan State’s corner.”

— Robbi Pickeral

First look at Tar Heels on SI cover

Dean Smith: 'That was sensational'

Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith didn’t make the trip to Detroit, but he liked what he saw the Tar Heels do from afar Monday night.

“That was sensational, a good start and a good ending,’’ said an excited Smith, who watched the national championship game on television from his home in Chapel Hill.

“It was the national championship. Tyler [Hansbrough], he was jumping up and down. That’s why they [several key players] came back.”

In a post-game interview on CBS, Tar Heel coach Roy Williams sent a message to Smith, who also won two national titles before retiring.

“I hope you are watching, hope you are enjoying this moment,’’ Williams said to his legendry mentor and former boss.

Smith might not have joined the celebrating crowd on Frankilin Street, but he enjoyed seeing the Tar Heels claim its fifth NCAA title.

-- A.J. Carr

Tyler won't donate this memento

DETROIT — Over the years, North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough has donated scores of his national trophies to the school's basketball museum. But after the Tar Heels blew out Michigan State 89-72 to win the NCAA title Monday night, he said he finally found one thing he wants to keep.

"This net — I'm not going to give them this net,'' he said, referring to the freshly-cut rope around his neck. "I'll hide it."

Hansbrough finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, and was a member of the all-tournament team. As another reward, the notoriously-dedicated workout maestro didn't plan to go anywhere near a gym on Tuesday.

"I'm giving myself a week off,'' he said, grinning ear to ear.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tudor's Take: Thompson's time coming

DETROIT — Overlooked in North Carolina's national championship romp and the impressive stats posted by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington was the encouraging play of junior forward Deon Thompson.

The 6-foot-8 Californian wasn’t particularly impressive in Saturday’s 83-69 semifinal win over Villanova, but his nine early points and aggressive inside defense were important in Monday’s 89-72 title win over Michigan State.

“He made several big plays early that helped them a lot,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “He was very active inside.”

With Carolina’s starting lineup likely to be gutted from graduation and early departures by Lawson and Ellington to the NBA, Thompson will have an instrumental role in next season’s program reloading process.

“I’m looking forward to being a leader, but I know it comes with a lot of responsibility, too,” he said during last week’s Final Four preparations. “I’m going to work on everything about my game this summer.”

There has been minor speculation that Thompson may declare for the NBA Draft and go through team workouts. As a junior, he has nothing to lose on that front. But barring strange developments, he would withdraw before the actual draft and return for the seasoning needed to have a chance at the first round in June of 2010.

The offensive spurts Thompson displayed in Ford Field have to be bright signs to Roy Williams and his staff. He’s not suddenly going to blossom into Hansbrough, but Thompson does have the skills to produce 15-point, 10-rebound per game averages as a senior.

If 6-10 freshman Ed Davis also returns (as expected), the combination of Thompson, Davis, Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zeller will give the Heels more experienced size than any team in the ACC.

Carolina fans certainly can — and should — hope for another Final Four contender. While that’s a long shot at this point, the program isn’t going to fall far in the ACC and will be a top-20 fixture if the guards are just above-average.

-- Caulton Tudor

Lawson, Ellington: No news on 2009-10

DETROIT - After being part of North Carolina's 89-72 defeat of Michigan State on Monday night in the NCAA championship game, Tar Heel junior guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington did not reveal whether they would return next season or leave for the NBA draft.

Lawson said he will consult with coach Roy Williams, and predicted they will both come to the same decision. But Lawson said the decision hasn’t already been made.

We still don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Lawson said.

Ellington, who was celebrating his Final Four most outstanding player award, said after the game that he wasn't thinking about next season just yet.

But freshman Ed Davis reaffirmed his decision to return to the team next season.

"I'm not ready (for the NBA)," Davis said.

-- Ken Tysiac

Hansbrough won't donate this memento

DETROIT — Over the years, North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough has
donated scores of his national trophies to the school's basketball
museum. But after the Tar Heels blew out Michigan State 89-72 to win
the NCAA title Monday night, he said he finally found one thing he
wants to keep.

"This net — I'm not going to give them this net,'' he said, referring
to the freshly-cut rope around his neck. "I'll hide it."

Hansbrough finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, and was a
member of the all-tournament team. As another reward, the notoriously-
dedicated workout maestro didn't plan to get anywhere near a gym on

"I'm giving myself a week off,'' he said, grinning ear to ear.

— Robbi Pickeral

Heels' Lawson, Ellington: No news on 2009-10

DETROIT - After being part of North Carolina's 89-72 defeat of Michigan State on Monday night in the NCAA championship game, Tar Heel junior guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington did not reveal whether they would return next season or leave for the NBA draft.

Lawson said he will consult with coach Roy Williams, and predicts they will both come to the same decision. But Lawson said the decision hasn’t already been made.

We still don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Lawson said.

Ellington, who was celebrating his Final Four most outstanding player award, said after the game that he wasn't thinking about next season just yet.

But freshman Ed Davis reaffirmed his decision to return to the team next season.

"I'm not ready (for the NBA)," Davis said. - Ken Tysiac

Monday, April 6, 2009

Heels save the best for last

You can bury the ghost of Kansas.

The only thing Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and this North Carolina group will be remembered for is winning the 2009 national title.

Well, winning the national title and playing maybe the best first half in the history of the title game.

A focused and determined UNC team dispatched Michigan State 89-72 for their fifth NCAA title and second in five years.

They scored 55 points in a brilliant first half and led by 21 points at the break — both records in the national title game.

Michigan State's turnovers (21) and 3-point shooting (7-of-23) doomed its inspiring run and disappointed the home-state crowd of 75,000-plus at Detroit's Ford Field.

Each of UNC's past three title wins — Michigan in 1993 and Illinois in 2005 — have come against the Big Ten. The Heels have been especially good against Michigan State, going 5-0 in tournament games (Roy Williams is 3-0 against Tom Izzo).

Williams, once known as the coach who couldn't win the big game, improved to 6-5 in his career at the Final Four with two national titles, joining Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun and Billy Donovan as the only active coaches with multiple titles.

Kansas raced past UNC and its former coach in last year's Final Four, winning 84-66 in San Antonio.

So much of this season — right from Hansbrough, Lawson and Wayne Ellington's decision to return — has been about atoning for that missed step.

The Heels started Monday like a team on a mission, against a team considered to be on a mission — playing for the economic -ravaged city of Detroit and state of Michigan.

UNC hit six of their first seven shots (18 of 34 in the first half and 28 of 61 for the game), jumping out of the gates and all over an offensively-challenged MSU team, 22-7 in less than 6:30 minutes into the game.

The first half was a redux of UNC's 98-63 win over MSU on Dec. 3 in the same building. This game was supposed to be different — with the support of the white-clad crowd and the presence of Goran Suton — but it was never competitive after the opening minutes.

Ellington's 19 points — 17 coming in the first half on a blistering 7-of-9 effort — were apart of balanced scoring effort that featured 21 from Lawson (and eight steals) and 18 from Hansbrough.

Hansbrough ends his illustrious career as the ACC's career-leading scorer, UNC's career leading rebounder and a national champion.

-- J.P. Giglio

Heels schedule return to Chapel Hill

DETROIT — Win or lose tonight, North Carolina's basketball team is tentatively scheduled to leave the team hotel at about 9 a.m. on Tuesday, and will arrive back at the Smith Center at about 2 p.m.

If the Tar Heels beat Michigan State and win the NCAA tournament, the Smith Center doors will open at about 1 p.m. for the 2 p.m. celebration.

Again, the plans are tentative; keep checking for updates. -- Robbi Pickeral

Magic: Heels a tall order for Michigan State

DETROIT - Even Magic Johnson thinks it will be a tall order for Michigan State to defeat North Carolina.

Shortly before tipoff Monday night, Johnson and Larry Bird held a news conference commemorating their historic NCAA championship meeting 30 years ago. Johnson and Michigan State defeated Bird and Indiana State 75-64 in the game that scored the highest television ratings in the history of the championship.

Later, the two carried on an unforgettable rivalry with Johnson leading the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird carrying the Boston Celtics in almost yearly trips to the NBA finals.

Johnson has been a consistent presence in the stands following Michigan State this season. He sounded hopeful that the Spartans would win, but convinced the Tar Heels were better.

"Michigan State knows they're up against it," Johnson said. "They're playing against the best team in basketball."

Johnson said he has heard from former Lakers general manager and ex-Tar Heel Mitch Kupchak about the game. Former North Carolina point guard Kenny Smith bet Johnson a dinner on the game.

Regardless of who wins, Johnson said the Final Four weekend has turned out perfectly for him.

"I want to thank the NCAA for bringing the Final Four to Detroit," Johnson said. "What a blessing. You can't dream this up. Larry and I were coming anyway (to commemorate the 30th anniversary), right? And then Michigan State goes all the way (to the finals)? Aw, man.”

Bird, who’s always been the less talkative of the two friendly rivals, said he’s never watched film of the 1979 game because Indiana State lost and he didn’t play well. He said he was flipping through the channels and saw a replay Sunday night, and quickly changed the channel.

He said he admired the way North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough came back to school with intentions of competing for another NCAA title. And he had a message for tonight’s loser.

“If you don’t remember it, somebody’s going to bring it up to you for the next 30 years, 40 years,” he said. – Ken Tysiac

Moving up either way

DETROIT — Whether it's North Carolina or Michigan State on the winners platform later tonight in Ford Field, there will be movement on the all-time NCAA titles ladder.

Entering the game, the Tar Heels need one more crown to tie Indiana at five for third place on the all-time list. Michigan State, with titles in 1979 and 2000, is one of eight schools (including N.C. State) with two trophies. A win by the Spartans would move them into a three-way tie with Duke and Kansas with three titles each.

No one reading this information may be alive when a school wins enough championships to match UCLA’s 11. -- Caulton Tudor


11: UCLA (latest 1995)

7: Kentucky (1998)

5: Indiana (1987)

4: North Carolina (2005)

3: Duke (2001)

3: Kansas (2008)

2: Cincinnati (1962)

2: Connecticut (2004)

2: Florida (2007)

2: Louisville (1986)

2: Michigan State (2000)

2: N.C. State (1983)

2: Oklahoma State (1946)

2: San Francisco (1956)

Lawson holds tight to Cousy award

DETROIT -- All eyes were on point guard Ty Lawson's grasp on the Cousy trophy Monday morning when he accepted the award for the nation's best point guard.

After all, coach Roy Williams didn't want him to handle it quite the same way as UNC point guard Raymond Felton did in 2005.

"They handed the award to Raymond, and Raymond grasped the award in a very casual manner without realizing how heavy it was,'' Williams said Monday. "He almost dropped the award and threw his back out, and for two hours during that day I had a massage therapist working on Raymond so he could play in the national championship game that night.

"So I have coached Tywon, so he will have his feet spread, his weight distributed on the balls of his feet, and when he's handed the award -- he'll show you that part of leadership is taking coaching."

Lawson, wearing a dress shoe on his left foot and a protective shoe to cover his still healing right jammed toe on the other, accepted the trophy without incident, after thanking his family, friends, teammates and Cousy. UNC plays Michigan State for the national title tonight.

Said Williams: "I just want everyone to know that the player who is receiving the Bob Cousy award today truly is a leader, truly is a point guard, truly is a young man who makes everyone better around him. And I'm honored to have Ty Lawson as one of my players. ... I affectionately call him 'Dennis the Menace,' because he is that. But this year, he's turned another page and gotten so much tougher and become such a leader that the last month, I've called him 'Rambo.'"

-- Robbi Pickeral

-- Photo by Robert Willett

Jordan to Heels: Have fun

DETROIT — Since he didn't do it when North Carolina won the 2005 national championship in St. Louis, Michael Jordan doesn't plan to speak to the Tar Heels before they play Michigan State for the NCAA title tonight at Ford Field.

But if he was to talk to them, he said he'd repeat what legendary coach Dean Smith told him before the 1982 national championship game:

"Just go out there and have fun. These are the games that are a lot of fun, because the expectations are a lot higher, the craziness is a lot higher, the stakes are a lot higher — but that's what you live for. That's the fun part, so just go out there and be who you are and have fun."

Jordan, who hit the Tar Heels' game-winning shot in that title game, was announced as one of the members of this year's Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class this morning. It seemed fitting that it would happen when the Tar Heels were in town, trying to win another title.

"It's uncanny how things happen,'' Jordan said. "I'm glad to be here, I'm glad that North Carolina's playing, I'm glad they're playing in a game I can watch and enjoy, and hopefully we can walk out of here with a championship."

Other tidbits from his press conference:

  • Riding over on the bus to the national title game in 1982, Jordan said he knew "that I was going to have an impact at some point, in some fashion. How that was going to translate, I didn't know -- but low and behold, I made the game-winning shot. But that was the vision that I saw."
  • There's a running one-liner that the only person who could show Jordan was Smith. Jordan's response: "It's a pretty good joke. But I did average 19 points my junior year, and people tend to forget that. My scoring was going up each year just because of all the things coach taught me about utilizing my skills. And then when I went to the pros, obviously my scoring average went up. So it wasn't as if he held me back, he just taught me more about the game of basketball. And too many times today, people look at the scoring aspect and say, 'What did Coach Smith do to keep you from excelling as a basketball players?' Well, I did excel as a basketball player. I take it as a joke ... but he taught me a lot of aspects of the game other than scoring."

North Carolina-Michigan State: 5 things to watch

Just one win separates North Carolina from its second NCAA title in five seasons and the realization of a lifetime goal for seniors Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green.

Here are five things to watch in the championship game as the Tar Heels meet Michigan State at 9:21 p.m. Monday:

1. The pace. Michigan State got Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen and Durrell Summers out on the fast break to speed past Connecticut in an 82-73 win in the NCAA semifinals. Lucas said he wants to do the same thing against North Carolina.

“I want to push the ball up the floor every time,” he said. “We have some good wing players that can really run, and bigs that can get up and down the floor as well. . . .It’s going to be a track race.”

The Spartans had better hope it’s not so much of a track meet, because they don’t have anybody fast enough to keep up with North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson. If there’s a wide-open opportunity to run for an easy basket, Michigan State needs to take it. But it would be a mistake for the Spartans to just run for the sake of running.

2. Hansbrough vs. Suton. North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough should be strong enough to overwhelm Michigan State’s Goran Suton in the post.

Suton didn’t play in the teams’ first meeting because of a knee injury, but he is not an incredibly effective post defender. If he is going to hurt the Tar Heels anywhere, it will be when Michigan State has the ball.

“Suton I think is a guy that, you know, is capable of shooting the 15-foot jumper and is a pretty good shooter outside,” Hansbrough said. “So it adds a little bit different aspect than some guys down low banging all the time. I understand he goes to the boards, is a good rebounder, but you also have to contest him outside.”

3. Banging on the boards. Three times in the last four games, North Carolina has been outrebounded by its opponent.

That includes Saturday night’s NCAA semifinal, when a smallish Villanova team posted a 53-48 rebounding advantage that worried the Tar Heels even though they won 83-69. Michigan State, which leads the nation in rebound margin at plus-9.4 per game, fought a huge Connecticut team to a 42-42 standstill on the boards.

“Every time I looked up, they’re getting an offensive rebound,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams. “The announcer started saying, ‘That’s 14, 15, 16,’ So it is a huge concern, but it’s a concern any time you play Tommy’s teams.”

4. Spartans’ depth. Injuries have prevented North Carolina’s bench from being a strong point this season.

Michigan State, on the other hand, has outstanding depth. The Spartans got 33 points from their bench against Connecticut in the semifinals.

“When you can go 33 points off the bench, you’re probably a very, very deep basketball team,” said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.

5. Heels from three. North Carolina is shooting an astounding 46.3 percent from 3-point range in five NCAA Tournament games.

Danny Green, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson all are over 40 percent, with Lawson hitting at a 60 percent clip. If the Tar Heels shoot better than 40 percent from 3-point range against Michigan State, it will be nearly impossible to defeat them because they do so many other things well.

- Ken Tysiac

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tudor's Take: Title game thoughts

-- Could tonight's championship game between Michigan State and North Carolina be all but over at halftime?

A couple of trends say so. The Tar Heels (33-4) have a 31-2 record when they go to intermission with a lead. But not so fast. The Spartans are 23-1 when leading at the half.

In Saturday's semifinals, Carolina led Villanova 49-40 and Michigan State was up 38-36 on Connecticut at the breaks.

-- Something else to keep an eye on is Michigan State's scoring total. Tom Izzo's team is 19-1 when it scores more than 70 points in a game. Only Gonzaga among the Heels' last five opponents scored more than 70.

-- Possible good omen for the Heels: The last team to play in its home state in the championship game was Duke in 1994 at Charlotte. With Arkansas fan and President Bill Clinton in the house, the Blue Devils lost that night to the Razorbacks.

-- With 18 points in Saturday's win, Carolina senior Tyler Hansbrough jumped Larry Bird on the all-time NCAA scoring list. Hansbrough has 2,854 points _ 12th on the all-time list.

-- In championship games, the Heels are 4-4. The wins were over Kansas (1957), Georgetown (1982), Michigan (1993) and Illinois (2005). The losses: Oklahoma State (1946), UCLA (1968), Marquette (1977) and Indiana (1981).

-- Caulton Tudor

Frozen Four?

DETROIT — If Detroit area weather forecasts are correct, Monday's championship game between North Carolina and Michigan State should be an interesting experience for the 72,500 or so fans expected to show up at Ford Field.

Up to 8 inches of snow is expected overnight Sunday and through the day Monday.

The city is used to dealing with rough weather -- "Hockey Town" is a popular nickname -- but heavy traffic is another matter. In cold but clear conditions during Saturday's semifinal games, street and pedestrian traffic for several blocks around the stadium was a nightmare.

Even bus drivers and policemen complained about endless jams that materialized in mid morning and lingered long past the end of the second game near midnight. Bus passengers from hotels less than two miles from the building sat in snarls for more than 90 minutes.

In addition to the snow, reports predict wind gusts in excess of 25 mph for most of Monday.

Don't expect any second-guessing the tournament site from the money-hungry NCAA, however. With big television ratings and the guarantee of almost 75,000 sold tickets, heck, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the NCAA someday stage a Final Four in Afghanistan.

-- Caulton Tudor

Williams can win with his own recruits

DETROIT - Even after seven Final Four trips and an NCAA title in 2005, nitpickers can still find one omission on North Carolina coach Roy Williams' resume.

The 2005 title was accomplished in Williams' second season at North Carolina, with Final Four most outstanding player Sean May and most of the key players recruited by predecessor Matt Doherty.

Williams was asked if there would be a difference winning the championship with his own recruits Monday - if the Tar Heels can defeat Michigan State.

"None whatsoever," Williams said Sunday. "Absolutely none. When Sean May stands up here four years ago and says his dream would be to be the first person to hug Coach Williams if we won a national championship, it doesn't get any better than that."

"And that was my team."

Indeed, to somehow withhold credit from Williams for winning with a program he'd been coaching for two full seasons would be ridiculous. There isn't an asterisk on the banner hanging from the rafters in the Smith Center or in the NCAA record book.

Williams has a chance to become the 13th coach with two NCAA championships Monday, and he will deserve the accolades that come with it if he can get it done. - Ken Tysiac

Shades of 1981?

DETROIT -- As North Carolina prepares for the NCAA title game against Michigan State on Monday, many North Carolina basketball fans no doubt recall an unsavory reversal of fortune with a Big Ten opponent in the 1981 national championship game.

The Tar Heels that season lost to Indiana in the final game at Philadelphia, 63-50. It was the same day — March 30, 1981 -- that President Ronald Reagan was shot on a Washington street by John Hinckley, Jr.

In the Spectrum arena a few hours after the shooting, NCAA officials almost postponed the championship game even though the third-place game — Virginia 78, LSU 74 -- was already under way. It wasn’t until Indiana coach Bob Knight and the Tar Heels’ Dean Smith agreed to play that the NCAA actually decided to proceed as scheduled.

Almost overlooked in the pre-game conversation was the fact that Indiana and Carolina had played earlier that season with the Heels taking a 65-56 win their Carmichael Auditorium on Dec. 20, 1980.

The second game went almost opposite from the regular-season meeting when Indiana pulled away from a 27-26 halftime lead to rule most of the second half. In the game at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels turned it on after intermission and basically shut down Hoosiers’ star Isiah Thomas.

When Michigan State of the Big Ten and the Heels meet for the title Monday night at Ford Field, it will their second game this season. The Tar Heels buried the Spartans, 98-63, in the same building on Dec. 3.

And by the way, that '81 game in Philly was the last time Carolina reached the championship game and didn't win it. -- Caulton Tudor

Wake's Johnson going pro

The first of three Wake Forest underclassmen has made the decision to jump to the NBA. Sophomore James Johnson is headed for the draft, according to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.

Johnson, a 6-9 forward from Cheyenne, Wyo., averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season for the Demon Deacons, who are awaiting word from sophomore guard Jeff Teague and freshman forward Al-Farouq Aminu.

Johnson's decision is not a huge surprise, although Wake coach Dino Gaudio said after the Deacs' first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Cleveland State that he thought all three players would return for the 2009-10 season. At 22, Johnson is two years ahead of most players in his recruiting class.

Johnson told the Wyoming paper he would sign with an agent, closing the door on a possible return.

"If I sign with an agent and get into a training camp, it will help me out a lot," Johnson said. "I just want to work hard and go as far as I can." -- J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels expect to see green

DETROIT — North Carolina's players didn't get to see the crowd for the early NCAA semifinal game Saturday, during which Michigan State beat Connecticut.

But they're sure it was mostly green (and it was) — just like it will be for Monday's championship game. And they're not particularly worried.

"Driving around the city in our bus, just looking out, you see a lot of Michigan State shirts everywhere, a lot of tailgate parties and things like that,'' point guard Ty Lawson said. "So I'm expecting probably 80 percent of the crowd is going to be Michigan State [fans].

"[But] play well on the road."

Indeed, UNC has lost only two true road games and two neutral site games the last two seasons. In December, it beat the Spartans by 35 points here at Ford Field.

"[The homecourt advantage] doesn't mean anything because those fans are not going to come down and shoot the basketball,'' forward Deon Thompson said. "The fans are going to be cheering, but once you're in the game you really don't pay attention to them."

— Robbi Pickeral

Frasor boosts Heels on boards

DETROIT - Before Saturday's game, coach Roy Williams showed North Carolina tape of an incredible, diving hustle play on a loose ball made by Villanova forward Dwayne Anderson against UCLA.

Williams told the Tar Heels that they needed to make those kind of plays to win in the Final Four. The unlikely source of some of those plays in an 83-69 NCAA semifinal defeat of Villanova on Saturday night was senior guard Bobby Frasor.

Frasor tied his career high with seven rebounds, chasing down several loose balls after missed North Carolina shots. Frasor is not the fastest player on the team after having knee surgery last season, but his work ethic was strong.

"Bobby Frasor has struggled all year long with his shot," Williams said. "Sophomore year he had a stress fracture. Junior year, had an ACL (tear). I think he showed some sense of urgency and effort on that. We talked about it last night a great deal about, we can't allow somebody to out-compete us on this stage."

Frasor, who played 19 minutes off the bench and didn't score, said he will do anything it takes to make an impact.

"If you see a shot and it is going to be long you have to track it down," he said. "I did that a couple times tonight." - Ken Tysiac

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tar Heels to play for title

UNC will face Michigan State for its fifth NCAA title after jumping out early on Villanova and hot shooting from 3-point range.

Saturday's semifinal was just about the opposite of last year's Final Four exit to Kansas for the Tar Heels.

UNC fell behind 40-12 against Kansas a year ago and finished the 84-66 loss just 4-of-25 from 3-point range.

UNC has hit 11-of-21 from 3 against Nova and led by as many as 17.

Villanova got as close as 50-45 on 18:15 in the second half on Shane Clark's baseline jumper. Danny Green responded with a pair of 3s, in an 8-0 UNC run, to push the Heels back to a comfort zone.

Historically, UNC has struggled to shoot 3-pointers in the semifinal round. The Heels began the day 2-6 in the national semifinals since 1987. In those eight games — all held at a dome — the Heels made 41 of 153 (26.7 percent) of their 3-point shots.

Villanova, conversely, has Dante Calabria/Shammond Williams/Rick Fox disease, missing its first six 3s and making just 3-of-25.

UNC's first visit to Detroit's Ford Field ended with a blowout win.

The Tar Heels are closing in on their second big win in Motown. UNC leads Villanova 75-63 with 3:47 left in the second half of the national semifinals.

The Heels will get a third game at Ford Field, in Monday's national title game, and it will be against the same team it beat by 35 points in December.

Michigan State beat UConn 82-73 in the first semifinal to advance to Monday's title game. UNC beat the Spartans 98-63 on Dec. 3 at Ford Field in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Ty Lawson, who hit his first 3 at 18:03 and set the tone for the Heels' shooting, has 18 points and seven assists.

Tyler Hansbrough, who had just eight points in UNC's regional final win over Oklahoma, has added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Wayne Ellington, who's 5-of-7 from 3, has 19 points. Green has 12 points, all on 3s.

Ellington and Green were a combined 4-of-18 from 3 against Kansas in '08. They are 9-of-16 tonight.

-- J.P. Giglio

UNC closing in on blowout win

UNC's last visit to Detroit's Ford Field ended with a blowout win.

The Tar Heels are closing in on their second big win in Motown. They are beating an undersized and overwhelmed Villanova team and they are on their way to a rematch with the same team they beat by 35 points in Detroit in December.

UNC leads Villanova 59-49 with 12:22 left in the second half of the national semifinals. The Heels' shots are falling and they started quickly, just about the opposite of last year's Final Four exit to Kansas.

UNC fell behind 40-12 against Kansas a year ago and finished the
84-66 loss 4-of-25 from 3-point range.

UNC has started 6-of-9 from 3 and been up by double-digits since the opening minutes.

Historically, UNC has struggled to shoot 3-pointers in the semifinal round. The Heels are 2-6 in the national semifinals since 1987. In those eight games — all held at a dome — the Heels made 41 of 153
(26.7 percent) of their 3-point shots.

Villanova, conversely, has Dante Calabria/Shammond Williams/Rick Fox disease, missing its first six 3s and 1-of-8.

Michigan State beat UConn 82-73 in the first semifinal to advance to Monday's title game.

UNC beat the Spartans 98-63 on Dec. 3 at Ford Field in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. UNC's pursuit of a fifth NCAA title will begin at 9:21 on Monday.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels up at the half

UNC's last visit to Detroit's Ford Field ended with a blowout win.

The Tar Heels are halfway to their second big win in Motown. They are beating an undersized and overwhelmed Villanova team, which coincidentally, will set up a rematch with the same team they beat by 35 points in Detroit in December.

UNC leads Villanova 49-40 at halftime of the national semifinals. The Heels' shots are falling and they started quickly, just about the opposite of last year's Final Four exit to Kansas.

UNC fell behind 40-12 against Kansas a year ago and finished the 84-66 loss just 4-of-25 from 3-point range.

UNC has started 6-of-11 from 3 against Nova and stretched out to a 17-point lead before Nova close the half with a flurry.

Historically, UNC has struggled to shoot 3-pointers in the semifinal round. The Heels are 2-6 in the national semifinals since 1987. In those eight games — all held at a dome — the Heels made 41 of 153 (26.7 percent) of their 3-point shots.

Villanova, conversely, has Dante Calabria/Shammond Williams/Rick Fox disease, missing its first six 3s and making just 2-of-12.

Michigan State beat UConn 82-73 in the first semifinal to advance to Monday's title game. UNC beat the Spartans 98-63 on Dec. 3 at Ford Field in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Tyler Hansbrough, who had just eight points in UNC's regional final win over Oklahoma, leads the Heels with 14 points.

Wayne Ellington, who's 3-of-4 from 3, has 13 points. Ty Lawson, who hit his first 3 at 18:03 and set the tone for the Heels' shooting, has 11 points and four assists.

-- J.P. Giglio

UNC eyeing early KO punch

UNC's last visit to Ford Field ended with a blowout win.

The Tar Heels are threatening to make quick work of Villanova and, coincidentally, set up a rematch with the team they beat by 35 points in December in Detroit.

UNC leads 26-12 at 11:23 in the first half of the Final Four at Detroit's Ford Field. The Heels' shots are falling early, a good sign and the opposite of last year's Final Four exit to Kansas.

UNC has hit four of its first six 3-pointers. Ty Lawson hit his first 3, at 18:03, Wayne Ellington knocked down his triple at 16:52 and Danny Green hit a 3 at 14:51.

UNC shot 4-of-25 from 3-point range in last year's 84-66 Final Four loss to Kansas in San Antonio. UNC is 2-6 in the national semifinals since 1987. In those eight games — all held at a dome — the Heels made 41 of 153 (26.7 percent) of their 3-point shots.

Villanova, conversely, has started 0-6 from 3.

UNC beat Michigan State, 98-63 on Dec. 3 at Ford Field in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Michigan State beat UConn 82-73 in the first semifinal to advance to Monday's title game.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels' shots falling early

UNC's shots are falling early, a good sign and the opposite of last year's Final Four exit, against Villanova in the second semifinal at Ford Field.

The Tar Heels lead 15-8 at 14:33 in the first half. Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington each have hit a 3-pointer, one of the problems for previous UNC teams at the Final Four.

UNC shot 4-of-25 from 3-point range in last year's Final Four loss to Kansas in San Antonio. UNC is 2-6 in the national semifinals since 1987. In those eight games — all held at a dome — the Heels made 41 of 153 (26.7 percent) of their 3-point shots.

Lawson hit his first 3, at 18:03, while Ellington knocked down his triple at 16:52.

-- J.P. Giglio

More on 'bannergate" at Final Four

DETROIT - Earlier this week, News & Observer columnist Caulton Tudor and I reported on the banners honoring NCAA champions in the lobby of the giant Renaissance Center complex that includes a Marriott and General Motors headquarters.

From our vantage point, we saw banners correctly displaying the years of Duke's three NCAA titles and North Carolina's four NCAA championships. N.C. State's banner listed only 1974, omitting 1983. A day later, a walk around to the opposite site of the banners revealed something else.

The opposite side of N.C. State's listed 1983 and not 1974.

But the opposite sides of the Duke (1991, 1992 and 2001) and North Carolina (1957, 1982, 1993 and 2005) again listed all of their championships.

Throughout the lobby, there was inconsistency in the banners. Kentucky's, for example, listed three of its titles on one side and four more on the other. Why this occurred is a mystery.

I set out to find the NCAA's chief of banner enforcement Saturday morning but wound up abandoning the investigation so I could run on the treadmill and eat a Subway sandwich instead.

So we'll just note that N.C. State got the short end of this deal because from either vantage point, you'd think the Wolfpack has only one NCAA title when in fact it has two.

But take heart, N.C. State fans. Football season is just five months away, and you've got two good quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon. Just like the banner situation, you will only have one of them on the field at any time. But that will be one more quality passer than a lot of teams in the ACC possess. - Ken Tysiac

Heels-Villanova: 5 things to watch

DETROIT - Villanova forward Dwayne Anderson calls North Carolina a "machine" on offense, and the Tar Heels' average of 90 points per game supports his assertion.

By most accounts, No. 1 seed North Carolina (32-4) is a heavy favorite over No. 3 seed Villanova (30-7) in today's 8:47 p.m. NCAA semifinal game at Ford Field. But the Tar Heels also were favored over Kansas in last year's Final Four, and we all know how that turned out.

Here are five things to watch Saturday when the Tar Heels meet Villanova:

1. Cats' two point guards. When Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are in the game at the same time, Villanova has two players who are extremely quick with the ball and can break down opponents with the dribble.

North Carolina's defense, which hasn't always been great at stopping penetration, will have to find a way to keep Reynolds and Fisher out of the lane when Fisher comes into the game off the bench.

2. Everybody loves an underdog. If hometown favorite Michigan State wins the first semifinal, the Tar Heels will face an extremely hostile crowd in the second game.

No way Michigan State fans want to face North Carolina again after the Tar Heels pummeled the Spartans 98-63 on Dec. 3. Those fans will be rooting hard for the underdog Wildcats.

3. Hansbrough's domination. Villanova doesn't have a big-time post defender, and North Carolina has an All-America post player in Tyler Hansbrough who's determined to win the NCAA title in his senior season.

It sounds like a recipe for Hansbrough to drop 30 points or more in a rout of the Wildcats unless they can find a way to prevent him from getting the ball.

4. Roy riled up. North Carolina coach Roy Williams still is hurt by the way fans and the media reacted to his failure to call timeouts to stop Kansas' early surge and his decision to wear a Kansas sticker two days later at last year's Final Four.

All that pent-up emotion should help Williams get his team motivated to its highest level tonight. That doesn't guarantee that the Tar Heels will win, but it should guarantee that the team will give its best effort.

5. Heels from three. Because it's a smaller team, Villanova might collapse into the lane to prevent Hansbrough, Deon Thompson and Ed Davis from scoring at will.

That will leave open 3-point shots for Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. They can't afford to miss those shots.

-- Ken Tysiac

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wall: UNC is not recruiting me

University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams called top-ranked point guard John Wall on Thursday night, but Wall said the Tar Heels are not recruiting him.

-- Read the full blog in Prep Insiders.

Tudor's Take: Ty and the tables

North Carolina fans should hope Ty Lawson makes wiser decisions Saturday against Villanova than he did earlier this week during the school's trip to the Final Four.

Lawson, a 21-year-old junior widely expected to turn pro this spring, said Thursday that he went to Detroit's Greektown Casino and won $250 at the craps table. Nice haul, but Not Too Smart.

There is nothing bad, illegal or even in violation of the complex NCAA rule book about what Lawson did. It just doesn't look or sound good for a player -- a star and one of the team's most visible leaders -- to show up in a gambling establishment only days before his team plays a Final Four game.

It's not the act itself. It's the appearance, even if the player was only following the example set by coach Roy Williams, who isn't shy about discussing his casino sorties and habit of betting on the golf course.

I'm definitely not casting the first stone on this thing. It's been several years, but I've done both. Williams' actions wouldn't offend me at all unless his gambling gets out of control.

But Williams and his players also need to understand that gambling and high-dollar gamblers have a long, ugly history in their sport. A nearly nationwide point-shaving event in the 1950s eventually led to the end of Raleigh's immensely popular Dixie Classic tournament and created considerable turmoil in the Carolina and N.C. State programs.

It all happened because the college players needed some spending money and the crooks had their ways of getting to the players. The involved players were not hardened criminals or low-lifes. They simply were drawn into situations they didn't understand, couldn't control and didn't have the knowledge to avoid. They didn't even get paid very much to miss shots and make turnovers.

Ultimately, however, that point-shaving scandal almost collapsed college basketball. It's a history lesson worth being taught to each generation of players.

Williams was right when he said the NCAA was inviting trouble when it put the Final Four in an area dotted by casinos.

On the other hand, the day may not be far away when legal gambling houses are important economic generators in cities throughout the country. Any state with a lottery is already in the gaming business in the most technical sense. Legalized gambling simply is here to stay whether everyone likes it or not.

The best long-term defense for schools and their programs is to make casinos completely off-limits to players. That way, at least the players will realize they are breaking a school rule if they visit one.

-- Caulton Tudor

Izzo's insight: Toughness the key

DETROIT — While casino visits and Connecticut's recruiting habits were hot topics on Final Four Eve, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo ventured outside the mainstream long enough to make an indirect but still interesting prediction — one that runs counter to popular thinking.

"I think the toughest players win," he said. "Everybody has all their great players, and somebody is going to make a few more shots than somebody else. But what it really comes down to is who is going to get the most loose balls and do the things that if you're the average fan, you probably never realize.

"You hear coaches talk all the time about the little things. The big reason for that is because everybody does the big things. The big things are the stuff you do everyday. But the deeper you go in this tournament, the more the little things matter. It adds up making a huge difference in the end."

So which team is the toughest here? Izzo didn't dare go that far, but he's got a couple of certified warriors in guard Jerry Smith and reserve Preston Knowles. The Spartans' foe, Connecticut, has a combination warrior-star in A.J. Price.

Villanova has forwards Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson.

North Carolina's best "little things" player is probably Marcus Ginyard, who has been sidelined by a knee injury since Jan. 4 and will not play against the Wildcats on Saturday. But that doesn't mean the Tar Heels are void of toughness.

Tyler Hansbrough qualifies. So does Ty Lawson, who is still playing in foot pain. -- Caulton Tudor

UConn, Michigan State: No gambling

DETROIT - North Carolina guard Ty Lawson's revelation that he won $250 playing craps after arriving at the Final Four site Wednesday night spurred a barrge of questions about gambling and college athletes during Friday's media session.

Coach Roy Williams said he gave Lawson and teammate Marc Campbell permission to go to the casino, which was legal. Lawson said the media were blowing the issue out of proportion.

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and Michigan State's players said gambling was forbidden for their teams.

"He just said, 'No gambling,' " Michigan State guard Travis Walton said of Spartans coach Tom Izzo.

"Our curfew has been tight, number one," Calhoun said. "Number two, we told them that (gambling) was off limits."

North Carolina had a 1:30 a.m. curfew Thursday morning after arriving Wednesday night, according to Lawson.

Calhoun went on to say that he didn't see Lawson's gambling as being prolematic because Lawson is of age and playing craps in the casino is legal. Calhoun also addressed his own failure to talk about the NCAA's review of Connecticut.

A Yahoo! Sports report alleged that a former Connecticut team manager who is a sports agent violated NCAA rules with his contact with ex-UConn player Nate Miles.

"The NCAA has put a gag order," Calhoun said. "While they're doing their, not an investigation right now, but a review, they have told us we cannot speak to the facts." -- Ken Tysiac

Contacting Wall a desperate act by UNC

Roy Williams' decision to call John Wall is not only a desperate move but the epitome of the eternal "Can you top this?" contest between Duke and Carolina I referenced in Duke's pursuit of Wall last week.

Look, UNC might be a point guard away from a third straight trip to the Final Four in 2010 (although I wouldn't count out Larry Drew II), so on some level it makes sense for Ol' Roy to call Wall, the highest-rated guard prospect in the class of 2009.

But the same desperate principle applies — UNC, like Duke, is one of the best universities in this country, how many fifth-year seniors can get into UNC, let alone one who has been to three different high schools in five years?

Wall's visit to Duke — three days after Coach K's public proclamation that he would find a point guard — was curious, this move by Williams is downright laughable viewed through the prism of "Anything Duke can do, we can do better."

Understandable, given the change in Wall's recruitment process with John Calipari leaving Memphis for Kentucky, but still comical and a desperate last-ditch attempt to get the kid. At least Duke had previously been a player in the Wall sweepstakes. -- J.P. Giglio

Roy: I've gambled too

DETROIT — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he has "zero" problems with point guard Ty Lawson and reserve Marc Campbell shooting craps in Detroit.

The players are of age, he said, they were chaperoned by the team's video coordinator — and Williams has already shot craps, himself.

"When my team came here to play Michigan State, we stayed in the MGM and I went down and shot craps and we lost – and we won the game,'' Williams said. "And we go to Nevado-Reno and we play Nevada-Reno, I stayed in a casino and I went downstairs and we shot craps and we lost – but my team won. So you've got to be an idiot if you think I'm not going to go gamble and lose money before this game. And I have lost – and I'm going to do everything I can possibly do to win the game."

Lawson, the ACC Player of the Year, said he won about $250 gambling at a local casino Wednesday night, but that he wouldn't do it again before this weekend's Final Four games. The NCAA only forbids betting on sports teams.

"If you don't want those kids doing it, then don't put the Final Four where there's a casino 500 yards from our front door,'' Williams said. "And they've got a great buffet in there. …The other thing is, guys, do you know when we got here? Wednesday. I'm not going to tell my guys to stay in their rooms and watch Bill Cosby re-runs for four days." -- Robbi Pickeral

Note: UConn and Michigan State players are reportedly forbidden from gambling.

Wall hears from UNC

Brian Clifton, who heads the summer basketball program for which John Wall plays, confirmed that the highly recruited point guard got a call last night from North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, whose team is getting ready to face Villanova on Saturday in the NCAA Final Four.

Read the full blog in Prep Insiders.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

N.C. State snubbed in Detroit

DETROIT - N.C. State isn't here at the Final Four, but still the Wolfpack can't catch a break.

The Renaissance Center downtown is a huge, sparkling complex of skyscrapers that includes General Motors headquarters and the Marriott that's the official media hotel of the Final Four.

There are banners hanging from the rafters out in the spacious lobby recognizing schools and their NCAA titles. The Carolina blue banner for North Carolina correctly lists 1957, 1982, 1993 and 2005 as years the Tar Heels won. The Duke banner lists 1991, 1992 and 2001 for the Blue Devils, again correctly.

N.C. State's banner lists just one title, 1974.

The Wolfpack also won the NCAA championship in 1983 under coach Jim Valvano in one of the most memorable runs through the tournament ever by an underdog.

There was company for N.C. State in its misery. Louisville's 1980 title is listed, but its 1986 championship is not. UCLA won 11 titles, but only six are listed.

But that's small consolation when the results of one of the greatest finishes in NCAA history is missing from N.C. State's banner. - Caulton Tudor and Ken Tysiac

Final Four notes: Heels, Villanova trade barbs

DETROIT – The many close relationships between members of the Villanova and North Carolina teams led to at least a bit of friendly trash talk as players prepare for Saturday’s 8:47 p.m. NCAA semifinal.

Villanova wing Dwayne Anderson said North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson texted him with a message: “You know we’re going to beat y’all, right?”

Anderson said he texted back: “You better get your ankles taped twice.”

“Because of his foot injury, and all,” Anderson explained.

Considering the distance between the campuses, the number of friendships between the teams’ players is surprising. Lawson and Scottie Reynolds were roommates two summers ago as counselors at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio.

North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington, who grew up near the Villanova campus in Philadelphia, has a lot of friends on the Wildcats’ team. Ellington said he’s closest to Reggie Redding and Shane Clark of the Wildcats.

Ellington attended the Episcopal Academy near Philadelphia along with Villanova coach Jay Wright’s children and seriously considered the Wildcats before choosing North Carolina because of its tradition.

“I wanted a chance to be able to contend for a national championship,” Ellington said. “Which sounds crazy now that Nova is in the Final Four. But back then it was clear that Carolina was the decision to make if I wanted to contend for a national championship.”

Welcome, Spartans. A giant green sign with a Spartans emblem on the Wayne County office building in downtown Detroit welcomes Michigan State to the Final Four in huge lettering.

In much smaller print, the sign mentions the other three Final Four participants – North Carolina, Connecticut and Villanova. There’s no doubt who’s the favorite in this town with the NCAA semifinals approaching Saturday.

Michigan State’s players are embracing their status as champions of a city that’s down on its luck with the auto industry struggling.

“We definitely can be an inspiration,” said Michigan State sophomore guard Durell Summers. “Guys can look at us and see what hard work can do or what being the underdog and not giving up can do.”

Detroit hails the Spartans

DETROIT – A giant green sign with a Spartans emblem on the Wayne County office building in downtown Detroit welcomes Michigan State to the Final Four in huge lettering.

In much smaller print, the sign mentions the other three Final Four participants – North Carolina, Connecticut and Villanova. There’s no doubt who’s the favorite in this town with the NCAA semifinals approaching Saturday.

Michigan State’s players are embracing their status as champions of a city that’s down on its luck with the auto industry struggling.

“We definitely can be an inspiration,” said Michigan State sophomore guard Durell Summers. “Guys can look at us and see what hard work can do or what being the underdog and not giving up can do.” - Ken Tysiac

Lawson fattens wallet at Final Four

DETROIT – The NCAA semifinals are two days away, but North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson already is a winner here at the Final Four.

In addition to being named the recipient of the Bob Cousy Award as college basketball’s best point guard, Lawson said he won about $250 playing craps after the team arrived Wednesday night.

Coach Roy Williams gave the team a 1:30 a.m. curfew Thursday morning, and Lawson cashed in. He doesn’t have any more plans to gamble while he’s in Detroit.

“It’s probably the last time I’ll go there before the games start,” Lawson said during Thursday’s media interview session. - Ken Tysiac

UNC's Lawson wins Cousy Award

DETROIT - North Carolina junior guard Ty Lawson has some hardware to pick up at the Final Four.

Lawson has been named the winner of the Bob Cousy Award, which has been given to the nation's top point guard as selected by a blue ribbon committee of hall of famers, sports information directors and media members since 2004.

After deciding to forgo the NBA draft and return to school, Lawson is averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 assists per game and will lead the Tar Heels on Saturday in the NCAA semifinals against Villanova.

A predecessor, former Tar Heel point guard Raymond Felton, won the award in 2005. Texas' D.J. Augustin, who's now a teammate of Felton's with the Charlotte Bobcats, won in 2008. - Ken Tysiac

The Tar Heel and his unbreakable record

Many of us remember Larry Miller as the tough-as-nails small forward who led North Carolina to its first two Final Fours under Dean Smith in 1967 and '68. He was player of the year in the ACC both of those years, and we don't remember much after that.

Miller, though, went from Chapel Hill to the old American Basketball Association. And he was there, playing for our Carolina Cougars, on March 18, 1972, when he set the record that will never be broken.

Miller scored a league-mark of 67 points against the Memphis Pros in a game at the Greensboro Coliseum that night. Since the ABA went out of business shortly after that, Miller's record will stand for all time.

Miller was a decent but hardly dominant pro player, averaging 13.6 points over a seven-year career. But he simply had one of those nights when he could do no wrong. His teammates were feeding the hot hand, and he finished up with 25 field goals in 39 attempts and 17 free throws in 23 tries. He played for 46 of the game's 48 minutes, and also contributed eight rebounds and four assists.

Miller, who was 6-foot-4, didn't get to savor the victory long. Two nights later, as he told writer David Friedman, his house, not far from Greensboro, burned down. He lost many possessions, but that record is his forever.--Stan Olson

Are current Heels better than 2005 version?

In a recent column, the Raleigh News & Observer’s Caulton Tudor compared the current North Carolina team to the 2005 Tar Heels, who won the NCAA title with a defeat of Illinois in the final in St. Louis.

Indeed, the teams are similar in many ways as veteran groups led by bruising post players and speedy point guards. Here’s one opinion on which version of the Tar Heels would have the edge, position by position:

Point guard, Ty Lawson (2009) vs. Raymond Felton (2005). It has been generally accepted that both were the fastest point guard in the nation in their day, but their personalities are quite different. Felton was a gritty, determined, no-nonsense leader. Lawson is a happy-go-lucky free spirit who has driven coach Roy Williams crazy on occasion. Although Felton made a huge 3-pointer and some clinching free throws in the championship game, Lawson has taken more of the responsibility for the offense on himself than Lawson did. Edge: Lawson and 2009.

Shooting guard, Wayne Ellington (2009) vs. Rashad McCants (2005). Again, we’re talking two widely divergent personalities. Ellington is mild mannered and almost shy; McCants was the closest thing to Terrell Owens that ACC basketball has ever had. Ellington probably has a sweeter shooting stroke, but McCants’ shot was just as effective. Despite his toxic personality, McCants was physically stronger, a better defender rebounder and defender, and a better overall player. Edge: McCants and 2005.

Small forward, Danny Green (2009) vs. Jackie Manuel (2005). Manuel played the role that Marcus Ginyard would have played for the current team. A superb defensive stopper, Manuel used his long arms and quick feet to frustrate opposing shooters such as Duke’s J.J. Redick. Green isn’t nearly as accomplished defensively, but stuffs the stat sheet with his versatility as a rebounder, shot blocker, scorer and steal artist. Edge: Green and 2009.

Power forward, Deon Thompson (2009) vs. Jawad Williams (2005). Williams had a wider shooting range, as he could score from beyond the 3-point arc and open things up in the middle for center Sean May. Thompson is a bit tougher on the low block but lacks the versatility and isn’t a strong leader the way Williams was. Edge: Williams and 2005.

Center, Tyler Hansbrough (2009) vs. Sean May (2005). Hansbrough, who’s a senior, was national player of the year as a junior. May was the most outstanding player at the Final Four and played his best basketball when the Tar Heels needed him most. Hansbrough plays harder, of that there is no doubt. But May was more skilled and a better rebounder with better hands. He was the player the Tar Heels looked to for big baskets in their title run. The current North Carolina team looks more to Lawson. Edge: May and 2005.

Bench. The 2005 team had freshman forward Marvin Williams, who was about to become the No. 2 selection in the NBA draft, coming off the bench as a reserve in deference to Jawad Williams. The current team also has a freshman power forward on the bench in Ed Davis who’s playing better than starter Deon Thompson. Davis is a future pro, but he’s not as freakishly talented as Marvin Williams. Edge: 2005.

Overall, the 2005 team was slightly more talented and effective. Both teams scored about 18 points per game more than their opponents, but the 2005 team’s field goal percentage (.499 to .483) and defensive field goal percentage (.401 to .413) were a bit better.

None of that means the current team should be dumped as the favorite for the Final Four. But if you had to choose one team over the other, you’d have to choose the 2005 group that had four players chosen with the first 14 picks in the NBA draft. The current team might match the 2005 team as a national champion, but it won’t come close to duplicating those draft results. – Ken Tysiac