Friday, May 29, 2009

Pack: Better off without Calipari?

The events of the past three weeks demonstrate why N.C. State fans should be disappointed they didn’t get John Calipari as their coach.

They also demonstrate why fans should be glad Calipari didn’t come to N.C. State in 2006, when the school hired Sidney Lowe to replace Herb Sendek.

After leaving Memphis to coach Kentucky, Calipari put the Wildcats back in the national headlines. Securing a commitment from extraordinary Raleigh Word of God Academy point guard John Wall earlier this month cemented a recruiting class that analyst Dave Telep said has a chance to be remembered as one of the best ever.

Immediately, Kentucky has been pegged as a favorite to get to its first Final Four since 1998. But this week damaging news has emerged about the program Calipari left behind.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the NCAA is requiring Memphis to appear before the infractions committee June 6 to answer charges of major violations. Reports say former guard Derrick Rose is accused of knowing fraudulence or misconduct on his SAT. If true, that could force Memphis to vacate its 38 wins and trip to the NCAA title game in 2007-08.

An associate of a player also is charged with not paying for some of his trips aboard the team charter plane to road games. Kentucky fans supposedly are reassuring themselves with the fact that Calipari is not named in the probe.

But this could be the second Final Four trip a Calipari-coached team has vacated. An agent scandal involving player Marcus Camby voided Massachusetts’ trip to the 1996 national semifinals.

Three years ago, Calipari turned down an offer from N.C. State and accepted a contract extension at Memphis. The Wolfpack instead hired Sidney Lowe, who had no college coaching experience and has yet to direct N.C. State to the NCAA Tournament in three seasons.

Unlike Calipari, who has been an instant recruiting sensation at Kentucky, Lowe got off to a slow start as he learned the recruiting landscape with the Wolfpack. But Lowe has signed his deepest and most complete class yet heading into 2009-10, and doesn’t have major NCAA violations as part of his legacy.

Under Lowe, N.C. State posted the highest Academic Progress Rate of any school in the ACC this spring. That’s in part because Lowe did an admirable job keeping Sendek’s former players in the program proceeding toward graduation.

At Kentucky, Calipari is at least three players over the NCAA limit of 13 scholarships for next season, meaning some of the players he inherited from Billy Gillispie are unlikely to return.

No doubt, Calipari will bring a lot of wins and national attention to the Wildcats. But the scandal that seems to follow him might not be worth it.

N.C. State might be better off without him despite Lowe’s shaky start in the won-loss column.

- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dave Wojcik completes Wake's staff

Wake Forest basketball coach Dino Gaudio turned to a familiar name to complete the overhaul of his staff. Gaudio hired assistant Dave Wojcik on Thursday.

Wojcik's brother, Doug, was an assistant at UNC from 2000 to '03. Dave Wojcik played for Gaudio in high school in West Virginia and worked for him at Loyola, Md.

Gaudio ended his second season with Jeff Battle, Pat Kelsey and Mike Muse as his top three assistants. Kelsey left Wake to join Chris Mack's staff at Xavier.

Battle, the assistant head coach, will be joined by Wojcik and Rusty LaRue. Muse will share the role of director of basketball operations with Walt Corvean.

- J.P. Giglio

Dave Wojcik completes Wake's staff

Wake Forest basketball coach Dino Gaudio turned to a familiar name to complete the overhaul of his staff. Gaudio hired assistant Dave Wojcik on Thursday.

Wojcik's brother, Doug, was an assistant at UNC from 2000 to '03. Dave Wojcik played for Gaudio in high school in West Virginia and worked for him at Loyola, Md.

Gaudio ended his second season with Jeff Battle, Pat Kelsey and Mike Muse as his top three assistants. Kelsey left Wake to join Chris Mack's staff at Xavier.

Battle, the assistant head coach, will be joined by Wojcik and Rusty LaRue. Muse will share the role of director of basketball operations with Walt Corvean.

- J.P. Giglio

Oglesby leaves Clemson for Europe

Terrence Oglesby is leaving Clemson's basketball program to play professionally in Europe, The State reported Wednesday.

Oglesby has two seasons of eligibility left but "he wants the chance to (play) six hours a day, get better and work toward eventually making the NBA," according to his father, Tony.

Oglesby, a 3-point specialist, averaged 13.2 points per game as a sophomore and helped the Tigers return to the NCAA Tournament. His absence, and the loss of senior K.C. Rivers, leaves the Tigers without a proven outside shooter.

Sophomore Tanner Smith showed some promise as a defender but is not in the marksman mold of Oglesby.

The Tigers do have two point undersized point guards — who could be used in a mix-and-match lineup with bigs Trevor Booker, Jerai Grant and either freshmen forward Devin Booker or Milton Jennings.

Oglesby's decision changes the dynamic of the teams chasing UNC and Duke next season. This puts the Tigers behind Boston College, Florida State and probably Georgia Tech.

- J.P. Giglio

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pack, Lowe finish strong with spring signings

No, N.C. State didn’t get John Wall.

But on the final day of the spring signing period (Thursday), the Wolfpack’s basketball future looks brighter than it did at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Coach Sidney Lowe desperately needed to add punch this spring to a front line that was scheduled to have just three players – Dennis Horner, Tracy Smith and Richard Howell – to fill two positions.

Lowe delivered, landing 6-foot-9 DeShawn Painter of Hargrave Military Academy, one of the few top-100 players who hadn’t already committed to a school. Seven-foot Australian Jordan Vandenberg and 6-6 Josh Davis of Raleigh’s Athens Drive High also signed in the spring, giving N.C. State a six-player class ranked No. 11 in the nation by

The prize of the class remains Lorenzo Brown of Roswell, Ga., who can play point guard and shooting guard. Scott Wood gives the Wolfpack a pure shooter with some potential, and Howell is an athletic, top-100 big man who can play either forward spot at 6-7.

It’s a class that demonstrates that Lowe has some skills as a recruiter after his third full season. He got off to a rough start in that aspect of his job as he made the transition to college coaching from the NBA.

Lowe also has a top-50 point guard committed in the Class of 2010 in Ryan Harrow of Marietta, Ga. N.C. State still realistically doesn’t have a good shot at gaining an NCAA Tournament bid next season because Lowe’s first few recruiting classes weren’t stellar.

But the 2009-10 team no longer looks painfully thin in the post. And players like Brown, Howell, Painter and Harrow are good enough to form the nucleus of an NCAA Tournament contender in the future.

After two straight seasons with no postseason berth, that’s a welcome glimmer of hope for Wolfpack fans even after coveted Raleigh Word of God Academy guard chose to leave his hometown and play for Kentucky.
- Ken Tysiac

Davidson joins field of Charleston Classic

Davidson is the eighth and final team to be secured for the field at the 2009 Charleston Classic, ESPN Regional Television announced Thursday.

Davidson will join South Carolina, UNC Wilmington, Miami, Penn State, Tulane, South Florida and La Salle in the tournament, which will be held Nov. 19-22 at Carolina First Arena in Charleston, S.C.

Teams will play on Nov. 19, 20 and 22 in the bracket-formula tournament. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gminski: Henderson a big loss for Duke

Raycom Sports TV analyst Mike Gminski weighed in Wednesday on what losing wing Gerald Henderson to the NBA means to Duke.

The school announced Tuesday that Henderson will forgo his senior season after signing with agent Arn Tellem.

"It's a big hit for them because I thought (Henderson) was such a catalyst and a confidence instiller on offense," Gminski said. "Obviously he could get to the rim and his jumper was much better last year. I just think they looked to him for a lot of their confidence. . . .I think it's going to put a lot of onus on (Jon) Scheyer to step up from a leadership standpoint, and I think he's capable of that."

With Greg Paulus gone, too, Duke is left with just three players - Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams - in the backcourt. That might require Kyle Singler to play some small forward after playing power forward and even center in his first two seasons.

"I think Kyle is capable of doing that," Gminski said. "It might be a matchup problem for another (small forward), and I think he's got the ability to defend out on the perimeter. So that would give them some flexibility. . . .They lose two really good perimeter shooters (Henderson and Greg Paulus) and certainly that's not Nolan Smith's forte and we haven't seen that from Elliot Williams. So that's going to be a little bit different." - Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Duke's Henderson signs with agent Tellem

Gerald Henderson has officially closed the door on his Duke basketball career by signing with agent Arn Tellem, the school announced Tuesday.

Henderson originally entered the draft without signing with an agent, preserving his college eligibility. But he signed with Tellem on Monday, according to a school news release.

A 6-foot-4 wing, Henderson is the 10th Duke player under Mike Krzyzewski to enter the NBA draft with college eligibility remaining. A first-team All-ACC selection, Henderson led the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game last season as a junior.

Next season Duke will return nine letterwinners, including starters Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Lance Thomas.

The draft is scheduled June 25 in New York. - Ken Tysiac

Report: Wall to Kentucky

The great American recruiting chase for John Wall will end with Kentucky, according to Slam magazine.

Wall, the super point guard prospect from Raleigh's Word of God, apparently has chosen the Wildcats over a raft of offers from Duke, N.C. State, Miami, Baylor, Memphis and Florida.

New Kentucky coach John Calipari had courted Wall to Memphis, where he groomed a pair of one-and-done point guards in the past two seasons. When Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky on April 1, it extended Wall's recruiting process.

Considered the best point guard prospect in the country, Wall went to three different high schools in five years in the Triangle. He exploded onto the national recruiting scene two summers ago at a camp in Philadelphia.

He was first pursued by the Wolfpack, then Duke joined the fray and even UNC's Roy Williams made a late call to Wall during the Final Four. Instead of staying home, Wall apparently went with Calipari.

This would be the second time in three years Duke has lost out on a top-flight recruit, late in the signing process, to Kentucky (forward Patrick Patterson in '07).

-- J.P. Giglio

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wolfpack adds another big man

N.C. State's basketball recruiting class got bigger on Wednesday in both quality and quantity.

Forward DeShawn Painter, a top-75 prospect, committed to play for the Wolfpack in the 2009-10 season, increasing its incoming freshmen class to six.

The addition of Painter, a 6-9 and 210-pound power forward, puts State at the scholarship limit of 13 for the upcoming season. That means room would have to be made to sign Raleigh point guard John Wall, who is still undecided on his college future.

Like Wall, Painter was considered one of the best available prospects left in the class of 2009. He originally signed with the University of Florida but was let out of his Letter of Intent, he said. Painter, who spent the past season at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., grew up an ACC fan in Norfolk, Va.

"I wanted to play closer to home," Painter said. "I love the coaching staff and I fit in with the [N.C. State] players."

With the graduation of forwards Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, Tracy Smith is the only returning post option on scholarship.

Painter, forward Richard Howell and 7-footer Jordan Vandenberg will all add size to State's roster. Dave Telep, of, said Painter is a great addition for coach Sidney Lowe, particularly this late in the recruiting process.

Telep ranks Painter as the 69th-best prospect nationally in the class, five spots behind Howell, but said Painter has a bigger upside.

"He has a nice balance to his game at the power forward spot," Telep said. "He's another guy that you count on to contribute as a freshman and grow as a player."

Painter said the chance to play right away helped him choose State over Maryland.

"We all have the opportunity to play as freshmen," Painter said. "It should be fun."

Painter is one of six Division I signees on the Hargrave roster, Telep said. That type of competition from daily practices will help him in the ACC.

"I feel like I'm prepared from the guys on my team and we played some college JV teams and Division III teams," said Painter, who'll arrive on campus for the second summer session. "Plus, it's military school, so discipline-wise, I think I'm ready."

-- J.P. Giglio

Thursday, May 14, 2009

UNC championship court on sale Friday

Beginning this week, fans can buy a small slab of Tar Heel history.

Pieces of the 2009 Final Four court — upon which North Carolina blew out Michigan State last month for its fifth NCAA title — will go on sale at tomorrow.

A 6x6 square costs $149; a 12x12 square is $225. Plus, 200 limited edition pieces, autographed by coach Roy Williams and several other members of the title team, will run you $499.

"What an outstanding memory to grab hold of from the Tar Heels’ victory in Detroit.” Gary Sobba, general manager of Tar Heel Sports Properties, the multimedia rights holder of UNC athletics, said in a prepared statement.

Steiner Sports Memorabilia also plans to also craft everything from cuff links to keychains out of the wood to sell around the winter holidays, as well, said Pete Kelly of Steiner Sports.

The center jump circle -- about 600 feet of the 7,200 square foot court -- has been donated to the athletics department and will likely go on display in UNC's basketball museum.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Hiring LaRue could help Deacs recruit Lewis

By hiring Rusty LaRue, Wake Forest might have moved to the top of the unusual recruiting chase for Forsyth Country Day School point guard Tyler Lewis.

Lewis might be the top Class of 2012 prospect in North Carolina. On Wednesday, Wake Forest announced that LaRue - one of the greatest three-sport athletes in ACC and Deacons history – was leaving Forsyth Country Day of Lewisville to join coach Dino Gaudio’s staff.

Lewis now has scholarship offers from the Charlotte 49ers, Auburn and Virginia Tech, plus a former high school coach on Wake Forest’s staff.

“I wouldn’t say that this makes it a slam dunk for Tyler to attend Wake if offered, but it does have a big impact,” Rick Lewis, Tyler’s father, wrote in an e-mail. “As I told Rusty many times, we basically selected FCDS because of him.”

Wake Forest hasn’t offered a scholarship yet but has recruited Lewis heavily. And the Deacons’ failure to offer might just be a reflection of Gaudio’s stated reluctance to offer a scholarship to a freshman.

Lewis will start his sophomore season in the fall. He is an unusual prospect because he is just 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds, but possesses exceptional vision, court sense and passing ability. He averaged 12.8 points and 5.3 assists per game last season as a freshman.

The Lewises admire LaRue and Wake Forest, but also are fond of the coaches at Virginia Tech, Auburn and Charlotte.

“Virginia Tech was the first school to offer Tyler and that means a lot,” Rick Lewis wrote. “While many schools questioned his size, etc., Virginia Tech stepped up to the plate and offered as did Auburn and Charlotte.”

LaRue has told the Lewises that Wake Forest still will be recruiting Tyler. That could help the Deacons land him – if they decide to offer a scholarship. If not, Lewis has other attractive options.

“I had and still have tremendous respect and admiration for Coach LaRue,” Rick Lewis wrote. “Wake is an ACC school and is only 45 minutes away, plus the academics are great. While Wake has questioned his size, other schools that have offered don’t think his size is going to be a problem.” - Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Coaches squash 18-game ACC schedule

ACC basketball coaches apparently like their conference schedule just the way it is.

Objections from the ACC's men's basketball coaches squashed the idea of an 18-game conference schedule at the league's annual spring meetings this week on Amelia Island in Florida.

Discussions of increasing the conference schedule from 16 to 18 games stalled when the league's basketball coaches unanimously opposed the idea, according to ACC associate commissioner for basketball media relations Brian Morrison.

ACC coaches are afraid that adding two conference games would make the schedule so strong that they would be reluctant to arrange games with high-profile opponents outside the conference.

An 18-game conference schedule might have helped the ACC squeeze more money out of its television partners, though. Even if the 18-game schedule had been approved, the earliest it could have started would have been 2011-12, after the ACC’s current TV contracts expire.

In football, ACC athletics directors voted to cap travel squads for league games at 72 in a cost-cutting measure that will go into effect his fall.

Other Bowl Championship Series conferences have a 72-man limit on travel rosters. The ACC limited its title game teams to 72 players, but previously had no cap on the number of athletes who could travel and dress for league games.

The league's football coaches also asked commissioner John Swofford to lobby for an early signing date in mid to late December. Football, whose signing date occurs in the middle of February, is the only sport without an early signing date.

Swofford will try to get the early signing date passed at the Conference Commissioners Association meeting next month in Colorado Springs, Colo. Two years ago, the SEC helped stall a previous ACC proposal for an early signing date.

Proponents say signing early would prevent players from changing their minds in January or February after committing to a school, and would stop college coaches from badgering players who are firmly committed.

Early signing date opponents say delaying signing until February gives coaches more time to evaluate recruits.

The ACC also awarded its baseball tournament to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for three years, beginning in 2011. The tournament will be played at BB&T Coastal Stadium, the Carolina League home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, an Atlanta Braves farm team.

Jacksonville, Fla., hosted the tournament from 2006 to 2008. It will be played in Durham this year and Greensboro in 2010. - From staff and wire reports

LaRue joins Wake Forest staff

One of the most versatile athletes in Wake Forest history will return to his alma mater as a member of Dino Gaudio's men's basketball staff.

Wake Forest announced Wednesday that former three-sport Deacon standout Rusty LaRue will return to the school as an assistant coach.

“As a student-athlete he excelled in the classroom as well as on the court and fields of competition. "No student-athlete has better represented what Wake Forest is all about better than Rusty," Gaudio said. "He will be a great addition to our staff as a coach and recruiter and will serve as a terrific mentor and role model."

In 1995, LaRue became the second athlete in ACC history to compete in football, basketball and baseball in the same year. He scored 667 career points as a guard on the basketball team from 1993-96, and is one of seven players in school history to play in four NCAA basketball tournaments.

As a quarterback, he finished his football career with 5,016 career passing yards, the fifth-highest total in school history.

LaRue, 35, played five NBA seasons and was a member of the NBA champion Chicago Bulls team in 1998. He also played professionally in Italy and Russia.

He served as head men's basketball coach at Greensboro College in 2004-05 and most recently was athletics director and basketball coach at Forsyth Country Day School in Winston-Salem.

LaRue replaces Pat Kelsey, who left last month to become an assistant coach at Xavier. - Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What a difference a coach makes

Monday's photo-op at The White House made me think of a different UNC press conference, one more important to the health of the program but not quite as formal.

Matt Doherty's "resignation" in April 2003:

Six years ... and two national titles later:

Photo credits: N&O Ethan Hyman (top), AP (bottom)

-- J.P. Giglio

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rule change stops short

One thing the NBA unequivocally does better than college basketball is limit the number of judgment calls on charge/block fouls.

The NBA did that by adding an arc under the basket. If you attempt to take a charge in the restricted area designated by the arc, it's a defensive foul. Simple.

An ancillary effect of the arc is defenders attempt to take fewer charges, which leads to less contact — and fewer instances an official can influence the outcome of a game.

All the college game had to do was add the NBA arc. The NCAA rules committee, in its infinite wisdom, decided against adding the arc, rather it will "define the area under the basket and prohibit a secondary defender from establishing guarding position in that area."

“In our surveys and rules forums, the coaches wanted the committee to address the increasing contact that seems to occur under the basket,” said NCAA Secretary-Rules Editor for Men’s Basketball Ed Bilik on the NCAA's web site. “Instead of an experimental rule, this clarifies how officials are to call this play throughout the season.”

There's no mention of how the area will be defined (an actual arc — visible to the everyone in the building — would apparently make too much sense).

If the shorter window for early NBA entrant prospects is the "UNC Rule," this has the framework of being the "Duke Rule."

To use a hockey term, the "second man in" can't take a charge. Again, the wording of the release is unclear but you can imagine if a "help defender" (to use a basketball term) establishes position in the defined area — even if he's there first — will be whistled for a foul. There goes 75 percent of Duke's defensive game plan.

But what about the primary defender? Apparently, he can stand under the basket and take a charge, thereby circumventing the entire point of the proposed rule.

So Tyler Hansbrough, Shane Battier (or pick a Duke defender) could still do the flopping act as long as it was against his man. (And you're back at Square One with the official and his judgment).

Without an arc, you're asking the official to make the judgment call on the contact, the location of the contact and the intent of the defense. Not so simple.

The rule still needs to be passed by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 3, but typically that's a formality.

Unsolicited advice for the PROP, kick this back to the subcommittee and add the arc.

Among the other recommendations, the rules committee suggested a change in the injured-free-throw-shooter procedure and the increased use of the replay monitor.

Currently, if a player is injured while being fouled and can't shoot the free throws, his coach gets to choose a shooter off the bench. The new rule would let the opposing coach pick one of the four remaining players on the floor to shoot the free throws. (This rule actually makes sense).

As for the monitor, in the cases of contact that wasn't called an intentional foul on the floor, the officials can review the play and penalize the player with an intentional personal or a technical foul for the contact. (Any rule that increases the use of the monitor, and extends the game, is generally not good).

-- J.P. Giglio

Tudor: TV gets final call on ACC hoops schedule

ACC basketball coaches usually get their way, but an expanded conference regular-season schedule is inevitable.

An increase from the current 16-game slate to 18 may not be voted in by athletic directors and faculty reps during this week's spring meetings in Florida.

But as much as the 12 coaches prefer the status quo, television officials want additional inventory. In a stronger economy, the coaches probably could prevail indefinitely. But with school budgets tight and current TV contracts expiring after the 2010-11 season, the coaches eventually will be told schedule expansion is no longer a point of debate.

Even with extra conference games to offer, the ACC is facing a challenge on TV negotiations. Advertising revenue is down across the board and some dependable corporate backers either are gone or strapped. Wachovia, Circuit City and General Motors were big spenders on college sports when the last round of TV contracts were signed.

At the core of the push for an 18-game schedule is regional TV audience ratings. While ratings are consistently high for North Carolina and Duke regardless of their opponents, the viewer market for most nonconference games among the other 10 schools is soft.

Clemson, a preseason top-25 pick by some last season, played eight non-ACC games that were not even included in the league TV package. Other than a game against Illinois in the ACC vs. Big Ten Challenge, the Tigers didn't have another non-league game on any of the ESPN outlets. Nine N.C. State non-league games were omitted from the TV lineup.

By forcing the coaches to play two more conference games each, the ADs (and TV) will at least create more marketable games. It's not that a Clemson vs. State game is going to be of interest to the big three networks, but it will do better in regional ratings or on ESPN-Something than Clemson vs. Hofstra or State vs. Lipscomb.

The coaches generally contend that 18 league games will lead to worse overall records and a bigger logjam in the middle of the conference standings. They're correct on both counts. But that's the price of expansion in a weak economy.

The irony is that expansion was all about football, where the eight-game conference schedule may never change. Most of the ACC basketball coaches at the time were against adding new league members. In part that was because they feared 18, then 20 and maybe 22-game conference schedules would follow.

Don't bet against it.

-- Caulton Tudor, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Q&A with John Swofford

The ACC begins its spring meetings today on Amelia Island in Florida. Here are excerpts from an interview conducted last week with ACC commissioner John Swofford about the meetings:

Q: Does the economy give Charlotte a better chance at gaining ACC championship events because it’s close to the geographic center of the conference?
A: It’s hard to answer. Actually looking at next year, other than the baseball (from Boston to Greensboro), there wasn’t a lot to move. That was one that was obvious and had a significant savings to it, and the Red Sox were understanding and very cooperative with us. And hopefully that’s a postponement and some day we’ll be able to make that work at Fenway, and in the current economic times we felt that was the right thing to do to come here. We were fortunate to have an excellent minor league park to come to in the home city of the conference. The football championship, of course, is already coming to Charlotte (in 2010 and 2011). For the time being, I think there is a focus on championships in more centrally located venues, whether it be on campus or whether it be off campus. And we’ll just have to see as we move forward beyond the current situation. I think what we want to do is what’s appropriate and what’s right and what positions us well for next year. And see how all of this plays out, and how much time it takes for the economy to strengthen and come back.

Q: Your TV rights package (with ABC/ESPN in football and Raycom Sports in basketball is ending (after 2010-11). When do you begin asking for bids on that? My guess is. . .you’d wait and see if the economy turns around a little bit so people would feel like they have more money to spend.
A: I think we just have to constantly gauge this moving forward. Contractually, with our current rights holders, which are Raycom in basketball and ABC-ESPN in football, those negotiations would come about no later than the next spring. If both parties wanted to alter that and all parties were agreeable to it, it’s alterable. Right now what we are trying to do is really step back and look at potential models and ways of doing our television that would give us our best distribution opportunities and maximize the dollars.

Q: Is everybody still comfortable with eight conference games (in football) or are you going to look at nine conference games again?
A: We took a look at that a year ago with this meeting. And there did not seem to be any real strength to considering nine games, so I read that at this point in time that our schools re comfortable with an eight-game league schedule.

Q: How about 18 (conference) games in basketball?
A: We will have some discussion about it. We’ve already settled for the next two years, we will remain at 16, so any, even discussion about that would relate to the 2011-12 season would be the first that we would even consider that for.

Q: You guys will look at that as a possibility for 2011-12?
A: I think so, and as a possibility. I don’t say that because I think that’s where it’s headed, because I don’t, necessarily. And I would emphasize to fans that any discussion about it is three years off from being reality. Even if it went in that direction.

Q: What are your thoughts on it?
A: I’m very comfortable with where we are now. It’s serving our league well. Our coaches are very comfortable with it. There are pros and cons either way. From a pure business decision there are some reasons to look at 18, but then you could lose some very attractive intersectional games that are of superb value to the television packages. We’ve got three of the six major conferences that are at 18 and three that are at 16. And right now it is very difficult to tell from an NCAA selection standpoint if it makes a difference or not. There’s not a history there that really tells us much on that at this point in time.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, May 8, 2009

ACC to consider 18-game league slate for 2011-12

Men’s basketball coaches and administrators will discuss the idea of an 18-game Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next week at the league’s annual spring meetings on Amelia Island in Florida.

In a telephone interview this week, ACC commissioner John Swofford said he’s comfortable with the current 16-game conference format. He said that even if the ACC approves an increase to 18 games, it wouldn’t take effect until the 2011-12 season - after the league’s current TV deals expire.

“It’s serving our league well,” Swofford said of the 16-game format. “Our coaches are very comfortable with it. There are pros and cons either way. From a pure business decision there are some reasons to look at 18, but then you could lose some very attractive intersectional games that are of superb value to the television packages.”

The idea of playing 18 conference games has been unpopular with the ACC’s coaches. They have said more ACC games would strengthen schedules that already are difficult.
They have cautioned that adding two extra conference games might cause them to drop some marquee nonconference series with quality opponents.

“In the past, the coaches haven’t been in favor of it,” N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler said of the 18-game format.

Fowler predicted that the matter will be discussed but won’t come to a vote next week because the earliest an 18-game schedule could begin is 2011-12. The ACC meetings start Monday and will conclude Wednesday.

Swofford said the jury still is out on whether an 18-game schedule helps conferences get more teams into the NCAA Tournament field. Statistical analyst Jerry Palm of said an 18-game conference schedule doesn’t help teams raise their RPI, which is a tool the Division I men’s basketball committee considers in selecting the tournament field.

The RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, is a mathematical formula that ranks teams based on a combination of winning percentage and strength of schedule. Palm said the increased schedule strength created by adding conference games is more than offset by an accompanying decrease in winning percentage.

“The general effect (of an 18-game conference schedule) in terms of the RPI is going to be negative,” Palm said.

Teams in the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 currently play 18-game conference schedules. The principal argument in favor of an 18-game format is adding games that are more attractive to fans and television executives, who might pay more money for a stronger product.

But if ACC teams add two conference games and drop their marquee nonconference games, there wouldn’t be much value added for fans or television.

“I think an 18-game schedule is a plus,” said Ken Haines, president and CEO of current ACC TV rights holder Raycom Sports. “It would make our scheduling a little easier as long as it wasn’t at the expense of high-profile nonconference games. It remains to be seen whether it would make it more valuable.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pack, Devils, Heels score high in APR

The three Triangle-area men’s basketball teams that capture the nation’s attention are among the national leaders in the classroom according to NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) data released Wednesday afternoon.

N.C. State led all ACC men’s basketball teams with a score of 995 out of a possible 1,000. The APR measures the total progress toward graduation of athletes on each team at each Division I schools. A 925 is considered a passing score.

School athletics officials said N.C. State’s strong showing in the classroom is partly due to coach Sidney Lowe’s efforts to keep players in school after he took over for Herb Sendek in 2006.

Coaching changes often are followed by an exodus of players who transfer to other schools, but that didn’t happen at N.C. State.

“I think academically when Herb left they were in pretty good shape, and Sidney has done a good job of trying to maintain kids in school,” said N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler.

The men’s basketball teams at Duke and North Carolina scored 989 on the APR. The three Triangle teams were the only men’s basketball teams in the ACC to receive public recognition awards from the NCAA for their high APR scores.

North Carolina’s honor comes a month after the Tar Heels won the NCAA title with a win over Michigan State in the national final in Detroit.

“It further shows for us that we’re doing things the right way and that across the board we’re pretty competitive in playing, and now this is just another measure that shows that we’re doing the right things academically,” said North Carolina sports information director Steve Kirschner.

Also receiving public recognition in men’s basketball were Davidson with a perfect score of 1,000 and Winthrop with a 986. South Carolina was among 42 Division I men’s basketball teams to receive a scholarship penalty for a low APR.

The Gamecocks were penalized one scholarship as one of four SEC men’s basketball teams to receive penalties. Georgia Tech, which lost two scholarships, was the only ACC men’s basketball team penalized. - Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Congress hails UNC Tar Heels

The Tar Heels are being praised on the floor of the U.S. House.

North Carolina's Congressional delegation unanimously cosponsored a resolution honoring the men's basketball team of UNC-Chapel Hill, which won the NCAA championship.

U.S. Rep. David Price, an alumnus and a professor at rival Duke University, saluted President Obama's "bipartisanship" in picking UNC on his bracket while employing a former Duke basketball player.

Another alum, Rep. Brad Miller, took a gibe at Price, noting that he has taught "at a nearby institution of lesser reputation."

"I wanted to make sure there was somebody here with absolutely unmixed loyalties who could speak in favor of this resolution," he said.

He praised the school's academic standards for athletes, noting the graduation rate for the basketball team is high.

Congress considered the resolution for 24 minutes.

Rep. Mike McIntyre, who got bachelor's and law degrees from UNC, said that Williams' coaching sent a "strong message" that "dreams, dedication and determination" lead to success.

"God bless the Tar Heel boys," he said.

Rep. Bob Etheridge, who played basketball at Campbell University, said the student athletes were calm under pressure.

"For people who have played basketball, you can really appreciate what it takes, the pressures that are on those young men," he said. "I don't know of any greater pressure that a young person can have."

The team also earned praise from Rep. Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican; and Rep. Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.

A vote on the resolution was postponed because there was no quorum.

-- Ryan Teague Beckwith

(First posted in the "Under the Dome" blog)

Heels' Ellington signs with agent Tellem

Former North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington has signed with agent Arn Tellem in preparation for the NBA draft, Ellington's father confirmed Tuesday.

The player's father, Wayne Sr., said Ellington was on his way to Los Angeles - where Tellem's agency is located - on Tuesday.

Ellington was named the most outstanding player as a junior at the Final Four last month after North Carolina defeated Michigan State to win the NCAA title.

Tellem's extensive NBA client list includes former North Carolina players Antawn Jamison and Sean May.

-- Ken Tysiac

ACC plays catch-up in hoops recruiting

With summer recruiting about to heat up, basketball coaches at ACC schools have a lot of work to do.

Five of the top 11 players on’s top 100 list for the Class of 2010 have committed to schools. None is headed to the ACC. Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas have chosen Ohio State, Tristan Thompson picked Texas, Jeremy Richmond chose Illinois and Perry Jones picked Baylor (insert Dwon Clifton joke here).

The top ACC commitment is from Kinston wing Reggie Bullock, who’s rated No. 14 and committed to North Carolina. Duke also has a top-20 commitment in guard Andre Dawkins of Virginia Beach, Va., who’s at No. 18.’s No. 12-rated prospect, Raleigh Word of God Christian Academy forward C.J. Leslie, recently withdrew his commitment from N.C. State, though he’s still considering the Wolfpack.

The good news for the ACC is that it already has commitments from three top-50 point guards – Kendall Marshall of Arlington, Va. (North Carolina), Ian Miller of Charlotte (Florida State) and Ryan Harrow of Marietta, Ga. (N.C. State).

And there still is plenty of high-level uncommitted talent out there for the ACC to chase. The list is led by forward Harrison Barnes of Ames, Iowa, who is the top-rated player in the nation and still is considering Duke and North Carolina.

But there’s no doubt that the ACC has some catching up to do after several early commitments after the Big Ten and Big 12 got out to a fast start among the elite prospects for 2010.

-- Ken Tysiac

Monday, May 4, 2009

Heels to visit White House on May 11

Barack Obama played pickup with North Carolina's basketball team during his campaign.

He correctly picked the Tar Heels to win the NCAA championship in his bracket. Now he will have a chance to congratulate them in person.

According to a school media advisory, North Carolina will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with the president on Monday, May 11. Visiting the White House to meet the president is a common reward for NCAA championship teams. - Ken Tysiac

Friday, May 1, 2009

Davidson junior spearheads anti-malaria drive

Scott Fowler writes in his "Scott Says" blog:

"Here’s a nice story: Davidson junior guard Bryant Barr is spearheading a charity event to raise money for "Nothing But Nets," an organization dedicated to preventing malaria in Africa by providing anti-mosquito bed nets for families to sleep under."

Read more about Barr's effort in Fowler's blog.

-- Staff

Miami forward Graham to try football

First, Greg Paulus. Now, Jimmy Graham. Who's next, Cheick Diakite?

Graham will try in follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow. The Miami basketball player will play tight end this fall for the Hurricanes.

Like Greg Paulus, Graham has a year of eligibility remaining in football after playing basketball for the previous four years. Unlike Paulus, Graham will stay at his current school.

A 6-8 and 255 pounds, Graham has the size to do some damage on the gridiron. The Goldsboro native has less experience than Paulus, a high school All-American in football, though. Graham only played one year of high school football.

Graham averaged 4.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a senior. He started nine games.

-- J.P. Giglio