Thursday, August 27, 2009

N.C. State gets new jerseys, date for opener

Courtesy of N.C. State's official men's basketball twitter site, here is a photo of the team's new jerseys:

Also, the Wolfpack has a date - 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the RBC Center - for its season opener against Georgia State.

Because of scheduling conflicts, N.C. State had to petition the NCAA to get an early start to the season. When the ACC released its schedule Tuesday, the Wolfpack's opener had been listed as TBA.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

FIU-UNC still the likely scenario

Florida International still is expected to open the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament against North Carolina on Nov. 9, said Rick Giles, president of the company that set the match-up.

But if the Golden Panthers opt to pull out of the season-opening basketball tourney because they don't want to play the defending national champion Tar Heels, it sounds as if the Gazelle Group will have quite a few other options.

"We've had a number of calls today from teams willing to step into FIU's shoes,'' Giles said. "…But we're not at that point in the process."

Giles said he is perplexed by FIU's angst over playing the Tar Heels at the Smith Center. He said the contract, signed in 2008, well before Isiah Thomas was named head coach, is clear that the Gazelle Group has "sole authority" to choose, among other things, opponents during the tournament.

"The contract was clear that FIU's first-round opponent would be either UNC or Ohio State,'' he said.

Is playing Tar Heels that much worse?

Florida International does not want to face North Carolina, the defending national champion, in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. It has even gotten its legal department involved to try to get out of the game.

But is playing Ohio State — the opponent FIU says it was supposed to face — that much better? Really?

Yes, the Tar Heels boast one of the top recruiting classes in the country, return some experience from the title team and are already being predicted a pre-season top 5 team.

But OSU's team isn't too shabby, either. The Buckeyes return five starters from a squad that went 22-11 last season -- including Evan Turner, who led the Big Ten in scoring.

So for FIU, a minor mid-major that has quite a few holes to fill under new coach Isiah Thomas, the opponent swap is probably the difference between losing by 25 (or more) and 15 (or more). In traveling 828 miles to Chapel Hill rather than 1,150 to Columbus.

In getting a few extra fans to tune into the matchup, which will mark Thomas' debut as FIU's head coach, rather than flip the channel.

There's no doubt the Gazelle Group, organizer of the tournament, flipped the match-up because of potential ratings. It's what it should have done. That's its job.

The only surprising thing is that FIU didn't expect it when it hired Thomas as coach.

Athletics director Pete Garcia (a former assistant coach to North Carolina football coach Butch Davis at Miami) is apparently trying to stand up for the little guy, saying that a national program such as Duke or UNC wouldn't have its opponent so rudely swapped (even if the contract allows it).

But didn't that just happen to North Carolina, too? And the Tar Heels aren't complaining.

Plus, they have to play the Buckeyes in the semifinals of the tournament, too.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FIU wants out of UNC hoops matchup

North Carolina "will be happy to play whichever team shows up" for its basketball season opener at the Smith Center on Nov. 9, associate athletics director Steve Kirschner said.

The question is: what team will that be?

When the ACC schedule was released Tuesday, Florida International -- with new head coach Isiah Thomas -- was listed as UNC's opening-game opponent in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament.

But FIU had been expecting to play Ohio State, and is now getting its legal department involved to try to get out of the match-up with the defending national champion Tar Heels, said Rich Kelch, the Golden Panthers' assistant athletics director for media relations.

FIU athletics director Pete Garcia could not immediately be reached for comment, but he told the Associated Press he felt like the Golden Panthers were being bullied by the organizers of the tournament.

"Would they do what they're doing to us to Duke, or to North Carolina? No," Garcia told AP, adding that his team is committed to playing in the tournament. "But they'll do it to FIU and any other school out there like FIU."

Regardless of what happens during the event's early two rounds, the tournament format calls for four hosts -- UNC, Ohio State, California and Syracuse -- to automatically advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. (UNC's second opponent in the tournamentis NC Central on Nov. 11; it will then play the Buckeyes in the semifinals Nov. 19, with the championship game the following day.)

Rick Giles, president of the Gazelle Group, which organizes the tournament, told the AP said the contract language allows for his organization "to have the sole authority" over sites, dates, times, teams and opponents in the tournament.

The tournament organizers didn't announce the pairings until after 6 p.m. on Tuesday; there was enough gray area about the field that Kirschner said he contacted the Gazelle Group earlier Tuesday to ask if the game on the ACC schedule should read, "TBD." But he was told to list FIU.

Kelch said his school didn't learn it was supposedly playing the Tar Heels until it heard about UNC's schedule from the media.

Kirschner said the Tar Heels will gladly play whoever they are told to play.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Schedules for North Carolina's four ACC teams

Here's a look at the 2009-10 schedules for state's four ACC teams.

Among the highlights: Defending national champion North Carolina visits Kentucky and Texas while Duke will face Gonzaga and Georgetown.

-- Staff and wire

ACC composite hoops schedule

Here's a look at the ACC's composite hoops schedule for 2009-10.

Analysis of Duke's hoops schedule

Home: UNC-Greensboro, Coastal Carolina, Charlotte or Elon, Radford, St. John's, Gardner-Webb, Long Beach State, Penn, Tulsa

Road: Wisconsin, Georgetown

Neutral: NIT Tip-Off semifinals and final (if Duke advances), Gonzaga, Iowa State.

Analysis: This schedule is front-loaded with easy early games that will allow a Duke backcourt that's short on depth to develop. The Blue Devils are likely to count on freshmen Andre Dawkins and Mason Plumlee or Ryan Kelly to play significant minutes. Six straight games to start the season against opponents that aren't in BCS conferences will ease their transition to college basketball.

Outside the conference, Duke will get a chance to market its program at traditional big city hot spots. Highlights include games against Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden, Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Iowa State at Chicago. The Blue Devils also will visit Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Games at North Carolina on Feb. 10 and at home against the Tar Heels on March 6 are the in-conference highlights. The Blue Devils' in-conference schedule should be somewhat challenging. They play twice each against the Tar Heels, Maryland (which should be the ACC's third-best team because Greivis Vasquez is back) and Clemson, which has defeated Duke in the teams' last two meetings.

Oct. 24Pfeiffer, TBA
Nov. 3Findlay, 7
Nov. 13UNC Greensboro, 7
Nov. 16Coastal Carolina, NIT Tip-Off at Durham, 7
Nov. 17Charlotte or Elon, NIT Tip-Off at Durham, 6
Nov. 21Radford, 7
Nov. 25NIT Tip-Off semifinals at New York, N.Y., 7 or 9
Nov. 27NIT Tip-Off final at New York, N.Y., 5
Dec. 2at Wisconsin, 9:15
Dec. 5St. John's, 3:30
Dec. 15Gardner-Webb, 7
Dec. 19vs. Gonzaga at New York, N.Y., 4
Dec. 29Long Beach State, 7
Dec. 31Pennsylvania, 6
Jan. 3Clemson, 7:45
Jan. 6vs. Iowa State at Chicago, 10
Jan. 9at Georgia Tech, 2
Jan. 13Boston College, 7
Jan. 17Wake Forest, 8
Jan. 20at N.C. State, 9
Jan. 23at Clemson, 9
Jan. 27Florida State, 9
Jan. 30at Georgtown, 1
Feb. 4Georgia Tech, 7
Feb. 6at Boston College, 2
Feb. 10at North Carolina, 9
Feb. 13Maryland, 1
Feb. 17at Miami, 7
Feb. 21Virginia Tech, 6:30
Feb. 25Tulsa, 7
Feb. 28 @ UVa, 7:45
March 3 @ Maryland, 9
March 6 UNC, 9

Note: Duke must win the Preseason NIT regional on its home floor to advance to the semifinals in New York.

-- Ken Tysiac

Tough title defense for UNC

UNC's schedule:

Nov. 9 FIU, 7
Nov. 11 N.C. Central, 9
Nov. 15 Valpo
Nov. 19 x-Ohio State, 9:15
Nov. 20 x-Cal or Syracuse
Nov. 23 Gardner-Webb, 7:30
Nov. 29 Nevada, 7:45
Dec. 1 Michigan State, 9
Dec. 5 @ Kentucky, 12:30
Dec. 12 Presbyterian, 7:30
Dec. 19 @ Texas, 2
Dec. 22 Marshall, 7
Dec. 28 Rutgers, 8:30
Dec. 30 Albany, 7:30
Jan. 4 @ College of Charleston
Jan. 10 Virginia Tech, 7:45
Jan. 13 @ Clemson, 9
Jan. 16 Georgia Tech, 2
Jan. 20 Wake, 7
Jan. 26 @ N.C. State, 9
Jan. 31 Virginia, 7:45
Feb. 4 @ Virginia Tech, 9
Feb. 7 @ Maryland, 2
Feb. 10 Duke, 9
Feb. 13 N.C. State, 4
Feb. 16 @ Georgia Tech, 9
Feb. 20 @ BC, noon
Feb. 24 Florida State, 7
Feb. 27 @ Wake, 2
March 2 Miami, 8
March 6 @ Duke, 9

-- J.P. Giglio

Improved slate for State

Home: Georgia State, New Orleans, Northwestern, Winthrop, Florida, Holy Cross, N.C. Central, Georgia Southern, Elon

Road: Marquette, Arizona, UNC-Greensboro (@ Greensboro Coliseum)

Neutral: Akron, Austin Peay, Auburn

Analysis: The big games (Florida, Marquette) stay the same from last season with Arizona swapping in for Davidson.

Some of the filler (Elon, Georgia State) is a significant upgrade from the Presbyterian's and Lipscomb's of the world and Holy Cross is a potential pitfall.

If State repeats its 6-10 ACC record, it would have to go 11-4 outside the league to enter the ACC Tournament with a shot at a postseason bid.

Even if road trips to Marquette and Arizona end with a loss, and Auburn is as good as it was last year, that's a one-game mulligan.

The ACC schedule is a bear with two games with UNC and Maryland and road trips to Wake, rather early, and Florida State in the first three games.

TBA Georgia State
Nov. 20 x-Akron, 3:30
Nov. 21 x-Austin Peay, 8:15
Nov. 22 x-Auburn, 8:15
Nov. 29 New Orleans, 2
Dec. 1 Northwestern, 7
Dec. 5 @ Marquette, 3
Dec. 12 y-Georgia Southern, 2
Dec. 17 Elon, 7
Dec. 20 @ Wake, 7:45
Dec. 23 @ Arizona
Dec. 29 Winthrop, 7
Dec. 31 @ UNC-Greensboro
Jan. 3 Florida, 3
Jan. 6 Holy Cross, 7
Jan. 9 UVa
Jan. 12 @ Florida State, 7
Jan. 16 Clemson
Jan. 20 Duke, 9
Jan. 23 @ Maryland
Jan. 26 UNC, 9
Jan. 30 N.C. Central, 2
Feb. 3 @ UVa, 7
Feb. 6 @ GT, 4
Feb. 10 VT, 7
Feb. 13 @ UNC, 4
Feb. 17 Maryland, 9
Feb. 20 Wake, 2
Feb. 27 @ Miami, 4
March 3 @ VT, 7
March 7 BC, 2

Notes: x-Glenn Wilkes Classic, Daytona, Fla.; y-Reynolds Coliseum.

- J.P. Giglio

ACC releases hoops schedule

The ACC released its basketball schedule today.

Some quick dates to note:

March 6: UNC at Duke: Now that Tyler Hansbrough is gone, can UNC continue its streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium?

Nov. 12, 14 or 16: State will open the season against Georgia State, although the exact date is still TBA

Dec. 5: Wake Forest at Gonzaga; UNC at Kentucky, N.C. State at Marquette

-- Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Calipari: N.C. State's best non-hire ever

N.C. State wasn’t able to pry coach John Calipari away from Memphis three years ago.

It might have been the most fortunate non-hire in the school’s history.

Calipari, who seemed incredibly close to being N.C. State’s basketball coach but accepted a raise to stay at Memphis, now has both his trips to the Final Four vacated.

The NCAA announced Thursday that Memphis will have to forfeit all of its 38 wins and its appearance in the NCAA championship game in 2007-08. Memphis was found to have given approximately $1,713.85 in impermissible travel benefits to the brother of a player.

On May 5, 2008, the SAT’s testing service canceled the test score of a player on the 2007-08 team, making him ineligible. The player in both violations has been identified in published reports as Derrick Rose.

Apologists for Memphis will say it’s not fair for the NCAA to hold the school to be held responsible for a test score that wasn’t invalidated until after the season was over. They will say the NCAA clearinghouse’s approval of Rose’s transcript should absolve Memphis of responsibility.

But NCAA rules are clear that schools, not the clearinghouse, are held responsible for correctly determining initial eligibility. School officials have long been aware of this fact.

Calipari’s supporters will correctly say that the NCAA didn’t consider any allegations against him and made no finding against him personally. Paul Dee, the former Miami athletics director who chairs the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, said Calipari was helpful and responsive when he appeared before the committee.

The only effect this case will have on Calipari is to expunge the wins and Final Four appearance from his record that season. So now Calipari has Final Four trips vacated in 2008 with Memphis and 1996 with Massachusetts.

“Whenever you have a situation where you have a penalty that not only affects the team’s records but also the individual’s personal record, you do have an impact on that particular individual and their career, that is to be sure,” Dee said.

Except for bad publicity, though, there doesn’t seem to be much of an impact on Calipari. He has escaped Memphis for Kentucky in time to put together one of the best recruiting classes of all time and build for what could be more trips to the Final Four.

He might have built N.C. State into a Final Four-caliber team, too, and the Wolfpack is a long way from that status under coach Sidney Lowe. But with the way Calipari leaves NCAA sanctions in his wake, N.C. State is better off without him.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Duke basketball gets Gameday visit

ESPN's College Gameday show will come to Duke on March 6 for the final show of the 2009-10 men's basketball season, the network announced. The Blue Devils play host to North Carolina that evening.

The network will be at different campus sites for eight straight weeks beginning Jan. 16. The show also will visit Clemson on Jan. 23 before Duke's game with the Tigers. The Gameday show features one-hour shows each Saturday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, August 14, 2009

UNC alumni game sold out

North Carolina school officials have announced that the Tar Heels' professional alumni men's basketball game is sold out.

The game, scheduled for Sept. 4 at the Smith Center, will feature North Carolina's current NBA and other professional alumni. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and the UNC Children's Hospital. The alumni game will begin the school's celebration of the 100th year of its basketball program.

Ken Tysiac

Krzyzewski 'excited' about Dawkins

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he is excited about Andre Dawkins' early entry into the Blue Devils' program.

"He is a very talented player and an excellent student," Krzyzewski said. "He worked hard throughout his high school career and this summer to put himself in this position. He will be an outstanding addition to the university and our basketball team."

As reported this morning by the News & Observer's Robbi Pickeral, Dawkins had been scheduled to join the Blue Devils in 2010. But he has completed the English 12 course necessary to enter Duke a year early and plug a glaring hole in Duke's backcourt.

Elliot Williams' unexpected transfer to Memphis had left Duke with only two true scholarship guards - Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. Dawkins, who made the all-star team at the prestigious NBA Players Association camp earlier this summer, was regarded as a top-25 player in the Class of 2010.

After playing as a freshman at Deep Creek High in Chesapeake, Va., he transferred across town to Atlantic Shores Christian Academy, where he repeated his freshman year. After realizing he had all the core credits required by the NCAA and realizing that he needed only to pass English 12 to graduate, Dawkins decided to forgo a fifth year of high school.

He averaged 20.5 points and 4.8 rebounds last season, leading his team to a 32-2 record.

Ken Tysiac

Dawkins officially headed to Duke for 2009-10

Shooting guard Andre Dawkins, a highly-ranked 2010 basketball recruit, signed his acceptance letter to Duke on Tuesday and will play for the Blue Devils this season, his father said this morning.

Dawkins, who attended Atlantic Shores Christian School (Virginia Beach, Va.), would have been high school senior this fall. But he only needed one more course – English 12 – to graduate, and he passed his on-line final on Monday.

His family plans to hold a graduation party today, where he will receive his diploma. He will move into the Duke dorms on Tuesday.

Because Dawkins had already attending four years of high school – he went to one year of public high school before he transferred to Atlantic Shores and was re-classified as a freshman – his family started pondering a year ago whether he should go to college a year early. Once Duke guard Elliot Williams opted to transfer, leaving the Blue Devils thin on the perimeter, the family approached Duke’s coaches about what it would take for Dawkins to enroll at Duke for this season.

“It’s been a whirlwind,’’ said Dawkins’ dad, who is also named Andre. “But he studied hard, and worked hard to pass his course. And we’re all very excited.”

Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Duke vs. Sendek: A Pack fan's conundrum

Talk about indigestion.

The NIT Season Tip-Off, whose field was announced Wednesday, presents the ultimate conundrum for N.C. State fans, whose team isn't even involved in the tournament.

To reach the tournament semifinals, Duke needs only to prevail at home in a four-team bracket that includes Charlotte, Elon and Coastal Carolina. The only obstacles between Arizona State and the semifinals out West are Texas State, Texas Christian and Cal State Northridge.

So it's extremely likely that on Nov. 25 - the day before Thanksgiving - N.C. State fans will have to choose between Mike Krzyzewski and Herb Sendek if they want a rooting interest as they prepare their holiday feasts.

It begs the question - what's a loyal Wolfpack fan to do in that situation? Krzyzewski and Duke are rivals who still appear on N.C. State's schedule each season.

N.C. State fans had little reason to object to Arizona State - until Sendek left the Wolfpack and Raleigh to quickly make the Sun Devils an NCAA Tournament team.

So does a fan hold a bigger grudge against an institution, or against a personality? The best guess here is that the cult of personality rules in the United States.

Pressed to make a decision, your average Wolfpack fan would root for Duke ahead of Herb Sendek any day.

Ken Tysiac

Duke to host NIT Season Tip-Off regional

Charlotte, Coastal Carolina and Elon will visit Duke on Nov. 16 and 17 to take part in the East Regional of the NIT Season Tip-Off, Duke officials announced Wednesday.

In first-round games, Duke will meet Coastal Carolina and Charlotte will play Elon. The following day, the losers will meet in a consolation game, and the winners will play for the right to advance to the tournament semifinals held Nov. 25 and 27 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Each team in the tournament is guaranteed four games, so there will be consolation rounds at sites to be determined on Nov. 23 and 24. Arizona State, LSU and Connecticut are the other three regional hosts.

ESPN's various networks will provide television coverage of the tournament.
Duke is 18-2 all-time in five appearances in the tournament, with championships in 1985, 2000 and 2005.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 10, 2009

Q&A with Pete Strickland

The Wolfpack Club held its annual Wake County golf outing Monday at N.C. State's new Lonnie Poole Course. Here's what N.C. State assistant basketball coach Pete Strickland had to say as he walked off the 12th green:

Q: Tell me what you think of this course.
A: That’s kind of the thing that strikes me the most, is, it’s kind of ours. Which is kind of neat. Even when you’re fixing ball marks, you’re like, absolutely, let’s make sure this one’s right. There’s just a sense of ownership even though I’m just on the staff here, that makes you proud.

Q: Is there anybody among your guys that stands out this summer as helping himselfA: We can’t watch them, so we’re only going on hearsay. . . .Apparently (C.J. Williams) had a great weekend in the pro-am (run by Jerry Stackhouse). We can’t really go there, but what we’ve heard is he’s had a great summer.

Q: What does that mean for you?
A: Particularly when you have it from a guy who’s coming back, that’s kind of the leadership you need. He’s kind of at the front of the class saying, “Let’s go.” That’s the example work ethic wise that you’re looking for your returning guys to set. Dennis (Horner), I think has had a really good summer. So I think a lot of our returnees have had a signature summer, and that really bodes well.

Our first meeting with our guys before summer school, Coach Lowe was talking to the team. He gave our new guys some basics that any coach gives. Sit in front of the class, thinks like that, you’re not going to miss class. Afterward C.J. went up to the freshmen and poked his head in between DeShawn (Painter) and Richard (Howell) and said, “You really need to sit in front of the class." I almost had to do a double take. . . .He meant it so sincerely. So that’s the kind of leadership I think we’re getting from him and Johnny (Thomas) and Dennis and Julius (Mays). That’s the kind of leadership you need if you’re going to be the program we’re going to be.

Q: Dennis is going to be a senior. What have you seen from him?
A: A really directed summer. He had some things he needed to get after academically that he did, as anybody would going into their senior year getting ready to graduate. And he attacked it with all teeth bared. So we were really pleased with his attention to academics this summer, and he got in the gym as much as he possibly could. You saw him being more attentive and more pointed about what he needed to do.

Q: You’ve mentioned academics twice in this conversation. How proud are you of N.C. State’s APR (which led the ACC) and the academic things going on in the program?
A: It’s a little bit like this (golf) course. We’ve got just a real bit piece of that ownership. Our academic support program is second to none. . . .It’s just really a reflection of the system N.C. State has in place, and that’s not false humility, either. Those guys get it done on a day-in, day-out basis, and our guys are attentive to them.

Ken Tysiac