Friday, November 30, 2007

Ellington shoots down doubters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Davidson needs help for Curry

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

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

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

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

-- Kevin Cary

Big 10 stereotypes proving true

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

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

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

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

Some random thoughts after Tuesday’s games:

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

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

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

- Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 19, 2007

Davidson's top 25 ranking, finally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing Engin Atsur at N.C. State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pack's new issue? Managing minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wake signs its top 3 recruits

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

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

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

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

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

Davidson gets needed break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Kevin Cary

UNC coach Williams praises Davidson's Curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Scott Fowler

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Extending bad hoops into March

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 12, 2007

Emory a good warm-up for Davidson

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2007

King goes deep for Duke

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

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gardner-Webb's roots were in NAIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are different now.

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

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

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

-- David Scott

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Davidson a step slow in win

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pack goes big - real big

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Ken Tysiac

Davidson's season through crystal ball

Just how good will Davidson be this season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

-- Kevin Cary

Duke, UNC need to work this trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ken Tysiac

Saturday, November 3, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Kevin Cary

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Duke's Thomas shows energy in exhibition

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

"The competition was great," Thomas said.

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Tysiac