Thursday, March 29, 2012

UNC's Barnes, Henson, Marshall turning pro

CHAPEL HILL — Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall are leaving North Carolina and will enter the NBA draft, the school announced in a statement on Thursday.

Barnes, a forward, and Marshall, a point guard, are sophomores who are both foregoing their final two years of eligibility. Henson is leaving the Tar Heels after his junior season.

In addition to senior Tyler Zeller, Barnes, Henson and Marshall were most responsible for the Tar Heels’ success during the 2011-12 season. UNC fell short of its goal of winning a national championship, but the Tar Heels finished 32-6, won the ACC regular season championship and reached the NCAA tournament Midwest regional finals.

“It’s a great day for three youngsters who are taking another step toward their ultimate goal of playing professional basketball,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “On a very small stage, it’s a sad day for me because I won’t get to coach them again. All Tar Heel fans will miss them greatly, as well.”

The announcement comes four days after the Tar Heels ended their season with an 80-67 loss against Kansas in the Midwest regional final in St. Louis. UNC lost while Marshall sat on the bench, sidelined by the broken right wrist he suffered in a victory against Creighton in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Andrew Carter

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NIT title game important for Johnny Dawkins

It may only be the NIT, but Thursday’s championship game against Minnesota in New York could be an important step for Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins.

In his fourth season at Stanford, the former Duke all-American and longtime first assistant to Mike Krzyzewski appears to be gaining traction.

It’s not been an easy path for the 48-year-old Dawkins.

After his first three teams finished 20-14, 14-18 and 15-16, there was some speculation that the rebuilding task was too much for Dawkins to handle.

Even though Stanford got a four-point win over N.C. State early and gave Syracuse a scare in the preseason NIT title game, the Cardinal could do no better than 10-8 in Pac-12 Conference play.

It wasn’t until March that Dawkins' generally young team clicked. With six wins in the past seven games, the Cardinal (25-11) could begin next season as the league favorite regardless of what happens Thursday in Madison Square Garden against Tubby Smith’s Gophers (23-14).

Four of Dawkins’ starters are either freshmen or sophomores _ 6-1 Chasson Randle (14 ppg), 5-11 Aaron Bright (11.6 ppg), 6-6 Anthony Brown (8.8 pgg) and 6-9 Dwight Powell (5.7 ppg).

“Our guys have really worked and stayed with it all season,” Dawkins said after Tuesday’s 74-64 semifinal win over Massachusetts.

“Having gained this experience throughout this tournament, I think will bode well going into the future. I think this will help us understand how to win games in this type of atmosphere, which will make us a better team in the future.”

-Caulton Tudor

Sunday, March 25, 2012

UNC' point guard Kendall Marshall out against Kansas

ST. LOUIS — Kendall Marshall will not play today when North Carolina plays against Kansas in the NCAA tournament Midwest regional final. Marshall, the sophomore point guard, suffered a broken bone in his right wrist in a victory a week ago against Creighton.

Stilman White, a freshman who started and played 32 minutes in UNC’s 73-65 overtime victory against Ohio on Friday night, will start against Kansas. White had six assists and no turnovers in the victory against Bobcats.

Marshall participated in some of the Tar Heels’ practice on Saturday, but he said he likely wouldn’t play unless he felt significant improvement in his wrist. Marshall said he thought he’d likely be able to play if the Tar Heels advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.

-Andrew Carter

Saturday, March 24, 2012

UNC's Stilman White, toast and an iPhone game

ST. LOUIS -- You've heard UNC head coach Roy Williams at various points this season describe Tar Heels guard Stilman White as a guy who's out there, who's not of the normal, who's a bit of a character. Williams, the Tar Heels coach, recently described White as a "wacko." It was a term of endearment.

White started his first college game on Friday night in place of the injured Kendall Marshall , and when the Tar Heels play against Kansas here on Sunday in the NCAA tournament Midwest regional final, there's a good chance - a great chance - White will be starting again.

So, naturally, the national media members who have gathered here want to know more about White. About why he's this guy that Williams likes to rag on. Williams was happy to oblige Saturday.

Here's how Williams opened up a story about White: "Let me explain to you something now. This morning at breakfast. Kendall's standing up and says, 'Who's toast is this over here?' Looked at our table, no. Looked at the next table, no. Looked at the next table, no. 'Who's toast is this?' "

Williams went on.

"John [Henson] said, 'Toast, toast, anybody's toast?' Twenty-one people in there looked at Stilman and Stilman says, 'Oh, that's my toast.'"

Now, I wasn't in the room when Williams recounted this story. So I can't tell you the reaction among reporters who listened. Me, I would have been laughing.

The moderator of the press conference asked White if he had a response. And White said:

"I was kind of into my iPhone game and I was working on a high score, so I had to wait until I finished that round before I could pick my toast up."

So naturally the next question was about what game White was playing in the moment he forgot about his toast.

"It was Super Jetpack, I think," White said. "It's a good game."

UNC point guard Kendall Marshall speaks on his injury, playing status

ST. LOUIS - Kendall Marshall doesn't know if he might play on Sunday (5:05 p.m., CBS) when North Carolina plays Kansas in the NCAA tournament Midwest regional semifinals. Marshall is hopeful, of course, but he said earlier Saturday that he wouldn't play if UNC had a game Saturday.

Marshall suffered a broken bone in his right wrist six days ago during the Tar Heels' victory against Creighton. Here's what Marshall had to say, in his own words, on a variety of topics:

-on if he did anything basketball-related in practice on Saturday:
"Yes, I did. I didn't go through any contact things. I went through a lot of the walk-through stuff. And shooting drills, things like that. And thankfully, because of my off hand, my jump shot's almost better - because I have to really focus on my form and stuff. But it didn't feel too bad. Obviously there's going to be pain. But we'll see [Sunday]."

-on how much range of motion he has:
"Well the brace that we have - it does a great job of not letting me go too far. So that's helped out a lot. The range of motion is getting gradually better every day. And that's a positive sign, not just for the game, but just getting healthy in general that I feel like there's been a tremendous improvement every 24 hours."

-on if he thinks he'll play Sunday:
"I don't know. We'll see [Sunday]. See how I feel after shoot-around."

-on how difficult it'd be for him to sit and watch again:
"I don't know if I can go through that again. You know last night after the game I couldn't sleep. I'm sitting here thinking about game plans. I'm like, what's wrong with me? I still play on the team. If it comes down that I feel like I'm not able to help my team and the best thing for me is to be in a suit,  then that's what it will be and I'll still try to contribute the best way that I can."

-on if he could play right now:
"As of right now, it's still the same thing as yesterday. You know, I'm not playing. But if I do to continue to feel better, you know, there's no telling. I could be out there playing."

-on if he has been fitted for another wrist brace:
"I did. This morning I got put in the brace that I would be playing in and it's a little more sturdy. Like I said, it really holds my wrist into place and doesn't bend it. So that's definitely a positive."

-on what basketball-related skill causes him the most difficulty with his wrist injury:
"The toughest thing is actually passing the ball, which sucks. But the passing and the catching is a little tough. But I feel like I did a good job today [Saturday]. You know, I really told the managers and my teammates, 'Don't hold back. You know, throw it the way you would do in a game.' And I felt like I responded well. But it still hurts. It's still painful. So we'll see."

-on if he could play in the Final Four if UNC advanced:
"I'm sure with a week's rest, if we have a win [Sunday], a week's rest would be great. And I feel like I'm almost positive that I'd be able to play in a week. But we're just focused on [Sunday] right now."

-on what his parents have told  him:
"My parents told me, you know, nobody knows how my wrist feels but me. And they want me to do what's best for me. And not just what's best for the team or what's best for my hand, but what's best for my health. And the last thing they want me to do is injure it."

-on how the UNC offense looked without him:
"It was a little tough. You know, it's obviously a different look. My team is accustomed to me being out there, you know, 35 minutes a game. So it's hard to make that adjustment. The biggest positive you  can take out of that is that they did find a way to win. They did find a way to hit big shots. And I think that was great for us, that no matter what's been thrown at us to still find a way to win that game, I'm proud of them."

-on watching the struggles and how it affects his decision to want to come back:
"No. I really try to separate the two. Because I want to do what's best for my health. But at the same time, I do have a competitive edge. I want to be able to be out there and play, you know. And any of these games could be the last game of our season. And it was tough to watch, because that is my team. That is who I want to fight with every night. But I'm extremely proud that they still found a way to win."
-on how Kansas players want him to play:
"That's all competitors, you know. You don't want to - that's like kicking a wounded soldier. You know, you don't want to do that. You want to see them when they're at full strength. And I'm looking forward to competing. I see a player like Tyshawn in front of me and you want to compete against him. You know, you want to compete against the best ... but at the end of the day, I still have to do what's best for me."

- Andrew Carter

Status of Kendall Marshall unchanged for UNC on eve of NCAA Elite Eight

ST. LOUIS -- Kendall Marshall participated on a limited basis in North Carolina's practice on Saturday but he said he would not have played had the Tar Heels had a game to play on Saturday. The Tar Heels will play Kansas at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday afternoon in the NCAA tournament Midwest regional finals.

Marshall suffered a broken bone in his right wrist during UNC's victory against Creighton six days ago. He hadn't participated in any basketball activities until Saturday. Marshall attempted shots and attempted passes, which he said were difficult.

He said catching passes, though, caused him the most pain. Marshall during practice wore a new brace on his wrist - the same kind he would wear if was to play on Sunday. The brace, he said, stabilizes his injury.

"I didn't go through any contact things," Marshall said of his participation in practice. "I went through a lot of the walk-through stuff. And shooting drills, things like that. And thankfully, because of my off hand, my jump shot's almost better - because I have to really focus on my form and stuff. But it didn't feel too bad.

"Obviously there's going to be pain. But we'll see tomorrow."
Marshall said his status would be decided after the Tar Heels' shootaround before the game on Sunday.

- Andrew Carter

Crothers: Roy Williams can't forget his last game against Kansas

The last time UNC coach Roy Williams faced his former employer, the Kansas Jayhawks, he called it "one of the worst nights of my career."

That matchup occurred in the 2008 NCAA Tournament semifinals and when I spoke to him about it more than a year later during the research for Williams' autobiography "Hard Work," he could still recall in detail almost every play from that game.

He said he walked onto the court that night in San Antonio believing his team was going to play great. Before he knew it, the Tar Heels trailed 40-12.

He also admitted that he coached the game feeling so ill that he threw up into a towel and so dizzy that he had to hold onto a chair to keep from falling. At one point he asked his assistant coach Steve Robinson to call a play because he couldn't.

Though the Tar Heels made a run in the second half, UNC lost 84-66.

"It felt like somebody reached in and grabbed my heart and shook it in front of my face," Williams told me. "That Kansas game will eat at me for the rest of my career. Playing so poorly was bad enough, but playing so poorly against the team I coached for 15 years made it even worse. I wanted to win that game more than any game I have ever coached... Watching us play felt like a nightmare. I still to this day have not watched a tape of that Kansas game, and I probably never will."

Think he wants to win this one?

- Tim Crothers

Friday, March 23, 2012

'... if Duke was playing against the Taliban ...'

Associated Press (and former Charlotte Observer) business writer Christina Rexrode started calling CEOs at the start of the 2012 NCAA basketball tournament for their brackets. The North Carolina alums who picked up the phone had few kind words for Duke.

Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine  told her he went to UNC's basketball camp as a kid, and still wears his UNC hat to meetings to antagonize co-workers who went to Duke. So he was heartbroken when older son Brian  chose to do the same.

"I told him, 'OK, you're going to Duke, and I can get over that,'" Levine recalled. "But you can't wear that Duke stuff when you come home.'"

Cute, but hardly impolitic. For that, we turn to U.S. Rep. Brad Miller.

After speaking with the state's five-term congressman last week, Rexrode decided to call back when North Carolina State made the Sweet 16 as well, and ask about divided loyalties.

"The way I deal with it is, I scream my lungs out for Carolina," Miller said. "I make no pretense that I am at all half-hearted in my support for Carolina. Nobody in North Carolina would trust a politician who claimed to be neutral on a matter as important as college basketball."

Miller said he rooted for N.C. State against Georgetown, And when they play out-of-state. And any time a Wolfpack win doesn't affect Carolina's ranking.

Duke is another story altogether.

"I have said very publicly that if Duke was playing against the Taliban," Miller said very publicly again, "then I'd have to pull for the Taliban."

Guess who's not running for re-election?

- Jim Litke, Associated Press

For N.C. State, 3s the key to beating Kansas Jayhawks

ST. LOUIS — When Duke beat Kansas, at a neutral site, back in November, the Blue Devils made 11 3-pointers, compared to only two for the Jayhawks.

When Davidson beat Kansas, at a neutral site, a month later, the Wildcats made 11 3-pointers, compared to only six for the Jayhawks.

In all six of its losses this season, Kansas — a prototypical inside-out team — was out-scored from 3-point range. And four of those losses came at a neutral site.

If N.C. State needs a roadmap for tonight's Midwest Regional semifinal against the Jayhawks, it just needs to follow the semi-circle, 20 feet and 9 inches from the basket.

In its six losses, Kansas was out-shot from 3, 55 to 26. Its opponents shot 41.9 percent from 3 (55-131) in Kansas losses and 32.5 percent (159-489) in Kansas wins.

The Jayhawks (29-6) are built on the power game of forward Thomas Robinson (17.7 points per game) and 7-footer Jeff Withey (9.9 ppg). Like North Carolina, they are willing to trade 3s for 2s. That means Scott Wood, the top 3-point shooter in the ACC, C.J. Williams, Lorenzo Brown and Alex Johnson will be important for N.C. State's upset chances tonight.

Wood made four 3s in State's third-round win over Georgetown and the Pack is 10-0 when he makes at least four 3s.

Williams broke out of a scoring slump against Georgetown with 14 points — his first double-digit game since Clemson (Feb. 25) and only his second in the past 11 games.

Brown has made 6 of his 10 3-pointers in the postseason and has shot at higher clip than the regular season.

Johnson did not score in the first two NCAA tournament games but he's capable of helping out from 3.

-J.P. Giglio

UNC vs. Ohio: Three keys for the Tar Heels

ST. LOUIS — Won’t be long now, folks. North Carolina’s game here against Ohio in the NCAA tournament Midwest regional semifinals will begin in about four hours at the Edward Jones Dome. The Tar Heels will attempt to advance to the regional finals, where they’d play either Kansas or N.C. State.
But first, three keys for top-seeded UNC against No. 13 Ohio:

First …
Avoid turnovers, especially in the backcourt. It’s unlikely that Kendall Marshall, the sophomore point guard who sustained a broken right wrist in UNC’s victory against Creighton on Sunday, will play tonight. In his absence the Tar Heels will rely on Stilman White and Justin Watts to handle the bulk of the point guard duties.

White, Watts and whomever else might be handling the ball for UNC will face a difficult test tonight. Ohio plays an aggressive defense, and specializes pressure in the backcourt. You can bet the Bobcats will try to increase that pressure tonight.

Ohio has forced turnovers on 25.8 percent of its opponents possessions, which among the best ratios in the nation. Ohio ranks third nationally in steals, with 334, and it’s a team that does a great job of getting into the passing lanes and making it uncomfortable for opposing teams to settle into their offense.

Second …
The Big Three must come up, well … big. Without Marshall, there will be more pressure on Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller. And none of them can avoid an off game tonight.

The frontcourt is one area where UNC has a clear advantage, both in talent and size. Ohio won’t start a player taller 6-foot-8, and the Bobcats won’t have a defensive answer for Henson and Zeller on the interior. Barnes, meanwhile, can create mismatches because of his versatile skill set.

Before his injury, Marshall had proven to be a capable scorer. So when Barnes, Zeller or Henson – or any combination of the three – struggled offensively, Marshall could mitigate the damage with scoring of his own. But Marshall isn’t likely to be on the court tonight, of course, and UNC can’t afford unproductive games from the big three.

It’s almost a given that Zeller and Henson will have successful games, given their physical advantages, but Barnes could be the x-factor. We’ve been waiting a while for Barnes to break out and completely dominate a game. Now would be a good time.

Third …
Guard against the 3-point shot while making 3-pointers on offense. There are two ways Ohio can win this game: The Bobcats either need to force a lot of turnovers, limiting UNC’s field goal attempts. Or Ohio needs to shoot well from behind the 3-point line. Of course, the Bobcats will try to do both tonight.

Ohio this season is averaging 21 3-point attempts per game, and the Bobcats on average make seven of those. They were 9-of-18 in their victory against USF in the third round of the tournament and Ohio is likely to try to use the 3-point shot tonight to offset its disadvantage on the interior.

UNC did a good job defending the perimeter against Creighton, and the Heels need that kind of defensive performance again. Conversely, the Tar Heels need to make 3-pointers of their own. If the Heels are making 3s, that means Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston are having an impact – and that’s a good thing given the load that Barnes, Henson and Zeller will shoulder.

Almost game time now.
-Andrew Carter

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Entertaining reader email claims UNC guard Kendall Marshall's injury is a hoax

CHAPEL HILL -- I've received a lot of email over the years. Some of it nice. Some of it mean. But I don't know if I've ever received an email quite like the one that popped into my inbox at 12:49 p.m. today.

The individual who wrote me - whose name I'm withholding to protect the guilty - claimed that North Carolina invented Kendall Marshall's injury so that the Tar Heels could remain in the news and overshadow N.C. State's appearance in the Sweet 16.

When I shared a snippet of the email earlier today on Twitter, it seemed people were interested in discussing it. So here it is - the full version - for your enjoyment:

SUBJECT: Marshall's wrist injury

Mr. Carter:

Did you actually see a doctor cut the wrist??? How many times has UNC played this card during the years??? You and I know there is no doubt Marshall will play this weekend. Roy knew that NC State was in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Titanic sunk, and lo and behold, the Pack was in the sweet 16. Roy knew the media would be all over the Wolfpack and he was not going to let that happen. We all know it is only about the Heels. So excuse me if do not believe the story...How is Barnes ankle??? Roy cried all year about that and he was 1st team ACC. I think the league should start fining the Heels for these false reports.


No, thank you.

- Andrew Carter

Duke's Ryan Kelly has surgery on right foot

Duke's Ryan Kelly had surgery on his right foot on Tuesday to repair damage suffered when he sprained it in practice before the ACC tournament.

The junior forward will be unable to participate in training for the next 6-8 weeks.

Kelly, who played high school basketball at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, averaged 11.8 points per game this season, hitting 40.8 percent of his 3-pointers. He scored a career-high 23 points in the Blue Devils' win over Wake Forest on Feb. 28.

After injuring his ankle in practice the Tuesday before the ACC tournament, Kelly missed Duke's final three games.

The offense wasn't the same without him.

The Blue Devils only made 38.6 percent of their shots from the floor in their final three games, and if one adds the loss to UNC to close the regular season to the mix, Duke closed the year by hitting 22 of its last 93 3-point attempts (23.6 percent).

Before the Blue Devils' NCAA tournament loss to Lehigh, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said there was a chance Kelly would play in situational situations. Kelly dressed against the Mountain Hawks, but he didn't participate in the pre-game shootaround nor the lay-up lines.

- Jack Daly

A Tar Heel surprise in NBA draft? has a big one at No. 9

James Michael McAdoo (Getty Images)'s Scott Howard-Cooper has an interesting 2012 NBA mock draft out today.

It has, no surprise, Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis at No. 1. At No. 2 is North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, a sophomore shooting guard.

But it gets really interesting for North Carolina fans later in the top 10. That's where Howard-Cooper lists, at No. 9, freshman forward James Michael McAdoo. He's ahead of  junior forward John Henson (No. 13), sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall (No. 18) and senior center Tyler Zeller (No. 22), despite his limited playing time.

McAdoo has played well of late in place of Henson, who missed time with a wrist injury.

Two Duke players, freshman Austin Rivers at No. 14 and junior Mason Plumlee at No. 29, are the only other ACC players he projects to go in the first round.

And don't get us started on the NBA listing players who have not announced they are leaving school  in a mock draft on its own website. Tampering much?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

UNC point guard Kendall Marshall fractures wrist in win over Creighton

North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall fractured his right wrist in the Tar Heels' NCAA tournament victory over Creighton this afternoon. UNC announced the injury following the game.

Marshall's status for the rest of the tournament is unknown, according to a release by the university. More details to follow in update reports this evening.

- Staff reports

John Henson to return today for UNC

GREENSBORO — John Henson, the North Carolina junior forward who has missed the Tar Heels’ past three games with an injured left wrist, will return today for UNC’s game against Creighton in the third round of the NCAA tournament Midwest region.

It’s unclear if Henson will start today for the Tar Heels, a UNC basketball spokesman said. James Michael McAdoo, a freshman forward, has started the past three game in place of Henson. McAdoo scored a career-high 17 points in the Heels’ 77-58 victory against Vermont here on Friday night.

-Andrew Carter

Saturday, March 17, 2012

UNC's Harrison Barnes & Creighton's Doug McDermott describe relationship: In their own words

GREENSBORO - During their playing days at Ames High in Iowa, Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott won 53 consecutive games and back-to-back state championships. They never lost.

Now they'll meet again here on Sunday - Barnes the North Carolina sophomore forward, and McDermott, the Creighton sophomore forward, reunited again. The Tar Heels, the top seed in the NCAA tournament Midwest region, and the No. 8 Bluejays play one another on Sunday afternoon in the third round.

They spent plenty of time talking on Saturday about their relationship, and their past. Here they are, in their own words:

Doug McDermott: Me and Harrison, we have talked back and forth a lot these last couple years, just checking on each other. I was his way of transportation in high school. He didn't have his driver's license, so I took him from place to place quite a bit and it's going to be cool being able to match up with him. I think once we step on the floor, it's just going to be a competitive game. I think all that stuff will be set aside and we're both competitive dudes, so I think it should be a really fun game.

Harrison Barnes: His growth has been tremendous, just having the ability to go to Creighton, go to a system where he's able to grow and develop. And now everyone's starting to see that, see his efficiency magnified, and see him get the shots he needs and the right location he needs them in, and it's been great. And as a former teammate, it's been fun to watch. Fun to watch him grow as well.

DM: I think you guys probably know it all. He just -- he's a good kid. In high school he was 4.0 all the way throughout high school, just strictly basketball, he's all about his business. So I really looked up to him and how hard he worked. I think part of the reason I'm where I'm at right now is just because the kind of role model he's been working hard and to get where he's at.

HB: I don't know if I necessarily set the example for him, but just being his teammate we all kind of fed off each other. Just the work that he put in on his shot, I wasn't necessarily the best shooter on the team, so kind of I looked at him for that. And he probably saw the way that I came in the gym and worked out did certain things like that. He definitely dedicated himself to the weight room I think during high school and that really shows now. So I think we both kind of fed off each other.

DM: I think I was pushing a Nissan Murano in those days. I remember taking him   we went and played with the Iowa State guys quite a bit after school, so we would immediately when the bell rang we'd go straight to play with those guys. And I just remember    I got something strange about Harrison is he was in the choir and the band, so every once in awhile I would take him to those places. But he usually hit us up, any of our teammates up to take him rides around the town.

HB: Oh, yeah had one of the nicest cars I think on the team at the time, so it was a luxury to be able to ride shotgun in that. But Doug was always there. Any time I needed a ride to the gym, we would always go shoot together, stuff like that, always go out to eat. So he was a great teammate and a good friend.

DM: We had a couple close games. I think the closest our senior year was a 12 point game. Actually on our senior night Des Moines Hoover came in played us really tough, so that was a little bait of a scare. But other than that we had some pretty big blow outs, but it was a bunch of fun. Just everywhere we went people were giving us their best shot and each place was packed, sold out, so it was a blast. I'll never forget those days.

HB: We were close friends. We used to hang out a lot off the court. That was kind of how our whole team worked and that's what gave us the chemistry on the court. But no, we would hang out at his house. I don't think it was NCAA violation because we were teammates, you know, with his dad and everything, but    um, that was always fun. No, we were close friends on and off the court.

DM: I just remember going to our senior year. He would be at the gym at probably 6:00 a.m. lifting and then getting shots up afterwards. So that's something our whole team kind of looked up to him, and every once in a while there would be a day where we had a day off of practice and he would send us a group text to come work out with him. So he was just a great leader all the way through, throughout high school. And it's pretty cool to see how far he's come and a lot of that has to do with the hard work he put in in high school.

- Andrew Carter

John Thompson, Chris Corchiani recall 1989 N.C. State-Georgetown game

COLUMBUS, Ohio — John Thompson III doesn't remember the last time N.C. State and Georgetown met in the NCAA tournament, but his dad does.

Georgetown, coached by John Thompson, beat N.C. State, 69-61 in the Round of 16 in the 1989 NCAA tournament. Former Wolfpack guard Chris Corchiani was called for a travel with 1:47 left in the game, which was the second game the Hoyas won in that tournament that included a controversial finish.

Georgetown, the No. 1 seed in the East, beat 16th-seeded Princeton in the first round when Alonzo Mourning blocked a shot by Princeton guard Bob Scrabis at the buzzer.

"When you were asking that question the first thing that went through my head was there are a lot of people in Princeton, New Jersey who think Alonzo Mourning fouled Bobby Scrabis on the last shot of that game, too," Thompson III said Saturday. "So that must have been a theme that year."

As soon as Thompson III finished his comments, his dad — standing behind a curtain next to where the press conference was set up at Nationwide Arena — yelled: "And both of them are wrong."

The elder Thompson, who is in Columbus doing radio for Westwood One, had little sympathy for N.C. State fans, who through the magic of YouTube, are still smarting from referee Rick Hartzell's travel call on Corchiani.

“Who won that game?” Thompson said. “If we had lost, and it had been the other way, I’d be doing the same thing they are.”

Corchiani watched N.C. State's second-round win over San Diego State and will be at the arena for Sunday's game said he didn't watch a replay of the call for 15 years.

"I remembered it well enough when happened," Corchiani said.

With 1:47 left, and the Wolfpack down three, Corchiani drove down the left side of the lane and dropped in a shot over Mourning, Georgetown's dominant center. Instead of a potential three-point play, and a fifth foul on Mourning, Hartzell called a travel on Corchiani.

"There it is!" CBS analyst Billy Packer said during the broadcast of the game, in reference to Mourning's fifth foul.

After Hartzell's call becomes clear, Packer is incredulous.

"That's nowhere near a walk," Packer said.

Corchiani made peace with the call before the start of the 1989-90 season. Hartzell worked a preseason game at Reynolds Coliseum and, according to Corchiani, apologized to him and former coach Jim Valvano for getting the call wrong.

"I have nothing but respect for (Hartzell)," Corchiani said. "It's kind of ironic that they would play Georgetown again but I'm over that game."

Corchiani and the 1989 N.C. State team was recently in the spotlight again after Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta were thrown out of the N.C. State-Florida State game on Feb. 18 in Raleigh.

Corchiani and the '89 team, which won the regular-season ACC title, were honored before the UNC game in Raleigh with the "Wolfpack Unlimited" award on Feb. 21.

-J.P. Giglio

UNC's John Henson says his wrist is improving

GREENSBORO — The latest John Henson update is that there is no update. Not really. Well, that’s not entirely true. Asked about his injured left wrist earlier today, Henson said it’s improving.

“It’s getting better and we’ll see how it feels after practice and go from there,” Henson said.

North Carolina is practicing now (at about 3 p.m. on Saturday) for its game on Sunday against Creighton in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Henson, the Tar Heels’ junior forward, has missed the team’s past three games after he suffered a sprained left wrist last week in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.

Henson was wearing on his left wrist a special kind of tape designed to help keep his wrist more stable. Asked how happy he’d be not to answer more questions about his wrist, Henson smiled widely.

“I’ll be so happy, man,” he said. “I can play and just not have to answer the questions. I mean, we don’t have much time left in the season, anyways. So I’m just hoping I can get out there and help the team.”

UNC will not update Henson’s status after the team practices this afternoon. Which means the Henson Watch will continue another day.

-Andrew Carter

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coach K hopeful Ryan Kelly might play some vs. Lehigh

GREENSBORO – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is hopeful that Ryan Kelly might be healthy enough to play some “situational” minutes against Lehigh on Friday night, but he said Thursday that he won’t be a part of the regular rotation against the Mountain Hawks.

Kelly was receiving treatment and wasn’t available for interviews Thursday, but he hasn’t practiced with the team since spraining his right foot in practice last Tuesday.

“There’s steady progress,” Krzyzewski said, “but not good enough as of this morning where I would have confidence in putting him in a game except maybe to shoot the free throw or handle maybe a possession or two in an end-game situation.”

Without Kelly, Duke’s offense stagnated at the ACC tournament in Atlanta. Duke made 37.1 percent of its field-goal attempts while averaging only 59.5 points in the two games, well below its season average of 77.5.

-Jack Daly

Bullock, McAdoo hope to feed off each other

GREENSBORO – Both Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo are in some ways experiencing the NCAA tournament for the first time this weekend in Greensboro.

Bullock, a sophomore guard, missed the postseason last year because of a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. McAdoo, on the other hand, is a freshman.

McAdoo saw extended minutes in last week’s ACC tournament because of John Henson’s left wrist injury. Now, the two anticipate they will be on the court at the same time in many stretches during UNC’s second-round game against Vermont Friday night.

“This means a lot to me because I just observed last year, and I saw what that team needed,” said Bullock, who is averaging nine points and five rebounds a game. “I’m just trying to be a great defensive player who can make shots coming down the stretch.”

McAdoo and Bullock know they need to do well in their roles to help UNC reach the Final Four.
McAdoo says he knows what the biggest priority is for him and Bullock.

“I feel like we’re the best rebounding team in the nation,” McAdoo said. “That’s somewhere where we have to exploit teams.

Early in the season, Bullock and James sat on the bench together as backups.

“When we weren’t starting, we were on the bench always talking about what we were going to do on the court,” Bullock said.

But starting guard Dexter Strickland was lost for the season with a knee injury in late January. Since then, McAdoo took notice of Bullock’s improvements as a better defender.

McAdoo sees that he is just a freshman on a team full of marquee players. He sees Bullock as a friend and mentor.

Though UNC fell to Florida State in the ACC Tournament championship game, Bullock was proud of McAdoo’s toughness given the circumstances.

“I think it helped his confidence a lot just knowing that he’s playing more,” Bullock said of McAdoo. “He’s a big part to our team. With him out there with me now, we hope not to be the weak link on the team.”

-Nate Taylor

Roy Williams compares John Henson and Ty Lawson injuries

GREENSBORO — The comparison is a natural one. In 2009, North Carolina began the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed, and with one of its star players, Ty Lawson, attempting to recover from an injury that placed his status for the tournament in doubt.

On Friday, North Carolina will begin play in the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed, and with one of its star players, John Henson, attempting to recover from an injury that has placed his status in doubt.

For Lawson, it was a toe that ailed him. For Henson, a wrist. Different injuries, of course, and different situations, UNC coach Roy Williams said earlier today. Williams acknowledged that what happened then, with Lawson, and what’s happening now, with Henson, are similar in some respects.

But in others the scenarios don’t compare.

“I'm awfully uncomfortable talking about it because I don't know what I'm going to do,” Williams said, asked whether the experience he went through with Lawson’s uncertainty has helped him prepare amid Henson’s injury. “Ty's was a little different; Ty hurt it and then came back and played and was very successful and then it ballooned up on him again. So it was almost like a recurrence, but he didn't get it hit again.

“It's just the swelling went up there. There is the difference of that and there's also the difference of that with Bobby [Frasor] particularly I knew that we would be very solid at the point guard spot. Bobby is not Ty, but Bobby had played that position before and I had tremendous amount of confidence in him. We had so many weapons with Danny and Wayne and Tyler; we just had a lot of weapons there.

“But I also know that Ty Lawson came in in the second game against LSU and if he had not played that game, I don't think we would have won that game. His second half performance was about as good as any half I've ever seen a point guard play in any stage. So, yeah, it does, there are some similarities, but it certainly [has not] made me more comfortable in what I'm trying to decide right here.”

Lawson sat out UNC’s first NCAA tournament victory in 2009, but returned to help lead the Tar Heels to a victory against LSU in the third round. Henson’s status, meanwhile, remains in doubt for UNC’s game on Friday against Vermont.

-Andrew Carter

UNC arrives in Greensboro for NCAA tournament: What to watch

GREENSBORO — Welcome to Greensboro. I have arrived here for NCAA tournament preparations and, more important, so too has North Carolina. The Tar Heels will hold their open “practice” here at the Greensboro Coliseum later today at 2:15. And before that, we’ll have a chance to hear some words of wisdom from Roy Williams and his players.

UNC will play Lamar tomorrow afternoon but, in the meantime, some things to watch between now and then:

First …

The John Henson watch. Will Henson play or won’t he? Is his injured left wrist feeling better or not? Can he catch, dribble and shoot … or can’t he?

Henson warmed up for the ACC championship game on Sunday in Greensboro, and he appeared to be catching and shooting just fine. But he struggled with the dribbling. He remained dressed for Florida State's 85-82 victory against UNC, and could have played in an emergency situation. But he stayed on the bench.

The Tar Heels have been careful with Henson in practice this week, and have kept him limited. And even if he is healthy enough to play, few would be surprised to see him take a break against Vermont.
Stay tuned …

Second …

Will the Tar Heels flip a switch and keep it on? There were more than a few times along the way to this point when the Tar Heels looked like they might be bored. With a few notable exceptions, UNC mostly coasted through November and December, and then began ACC play with a couple of easy victories before playing at Florida State on Jan. 14.

And we know what happened then.

The Heels’ 90-57 debacle of a defeat at FSU served as a kind of turning point for UNC. The embarrassing lost refocused the Heels, and it gave them new energy. Still, though, UNC has been prone to lapses in energy and intensity since then, too.

Look no further than the Heels’ 85-82 defeat against the Seminoles in the ACC title game on Sunday, when the North Carolina started the game flat and never overcame its poor start. All along, we’ve been waiting for UNC to flip a switch, so to speak, and turn into the kind of dominant team that a lot of people expected the Tar Heels would be entering the season.

And they have been that team at times this season – for a half, or for a 10-minute stretch or, in the case of the 88-70 victory at Duke, for an entire game. But can the Heels be that team consistently over the course of several games? Now we get to find out.

Third …

Will Creighton beat Alabama? The Bluejays and the Crimson Tide play on Friday at 1:40 and the winner will play UNC here on Sunday in the the round of 32 (assuming, of course, that UNC beats Vermont on Friday).

If Creighton emerges victorious on Friday, it’d set up a reunion of sorts between UNC’s Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott, Creighton’s sophomore all-American forward. Both Barnes and McDermott were stars on the same Ames (Iowa) High School team, which they led to back-to-back undefeated state championships.

Barnes entered this season surrounded by considerable expectations, and he enters the tournament averaging 17.4 points per game. He earned first-team All-ACC honors.

McDermott, though, has perhaps exceeded his own lofty expectations. He became the first sophomore in Missouri Valley Conference history to be named the league’s player of the year. He enters the tournament averaging 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. And if you like good storylines, root for Creighton on Friday.

It’d be fun to see McDermott matched against his old high school teammate, who isn’t too bad in his own right.

NCAA tournament reunion for Lutz and Wolfpack

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The last time Bobby Lutz coached in an NCAA tournament game, he was Charlotte's head coach, in 2005. The 49ers' opponent? N.C. State.

The Wolfpack beat Lutz and the Niners 75-63 in a first-round game in Worcester, Mass. in 2005. N.C. State star Julius Hodge helped the Wolfpack erase a 14-point first-half deficit with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

"We were up big," said Lutz, who was 2-5 in five NCAA tournament appearances with Charlotte. "Then Julius took over the game late."

The Pack went on to beat Connecticut in the second round before losing to Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.

Lutz, in his first season as an assistant to Mark Gottfried with the Wolfpack, coached at Charlotte through the 2009-10 season and then was an assistant for Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State last season.

His wife, Janet, and his two daughters are driving to Louisville, Ky. tonight to watch Iowa State take on UConn, the defending champions.

"Fred got them tickets, and they’ll be back for us tomorrow," Lutz said. "I’m very excited about it.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pitino: Louisville must disrupt Davidson

   Louisville coach Rick Pitino has been busy studying the Davidson Wildcats in advance of their NCAA tournament game Thursday and, to hear him talk, he's impressed.

   Pitino said the Wildcats push the offensive tempo as consistently as any team the Cardinals have faced this season. Because Davidson has five players averaging in double figures, keeping the Wildcats off balance will be critical.

  "Anytime you play a team like that, you have to disrupt their passing ability," Pitino said. "It all starts with pressure on the basketball. If you allow them to pass the ball around, they're going to pick you apart...and certainly they have that ability."

   Pitino called the Southern Conference "a very underrated league.

  "We played Charleston early in the year who beat Davidson at home and we were life and death to beat Charleston at our place," Pitino said. "It's a very good league, very underrated."

-- Ron Green Jr.

Davidson ready for Louisville challenge

It took the Davidson Wildcats four seasons -- and a six-hour plane flight from Charlotte to Portland, Ore., on Tuesday -- to get back to the NCAA basketball tournament.

How are they dealing with the moment?

The Wildcats were playing 'Hangman,' the spelling game, in the locker room Tuesday while waiting to take the court for their official practice session at the Rose Garden where they'll meet Louisville Thursday.

"We've got to do something to kill the time," guard Nik Cochran said.

So much for nerves.

The Wildcats may be underdogs to fourth-seeded Louisville, which won the Big East tournament Saturday night in New York City, but they sounded unfazed by the challenge facing them. They know all about Louisville's basketball legacy and coach Rick Pitino's success but Davidson is focused primarily on being Davidson.

"We're going to come out with the confidence we've had all year," center Jake Cohen said.

Will they change the way they play to adapt to the defensive pressure Louisville is likely to employ?

"We're not going to change anything. We're going to do what we've been doing all season," guard J.P. Kuhlman said.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Virginia faces tough road in NCAA tournament

Florida State got rewarded for winning the ACC championship over North Carolina on Sunday in Atlanta, but Virginia got punished for losing its ACC tournament opener against N.C. State on Friday.

All four of those ACC teams, and Duke, made the 68-team field for the NCAA tournament beginning Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.

But among the five ACC teams to land NCAA bids Sunday, no one fared worst in the draw than the Cavaliers (22-9).

Tony Bennett's team ended up with a 10th seed in the West Regional and will open in Omaha, Neb., against No. 7 Florida (23-10) of the SEC.

The Seminoles (23-9 after Sunday's 85-82 ACC title win over North Carolina) get to play in the inviting East Regional and will open in Nashville, Tenn., against a St. Bonaventure team (20-11) that N.C. State defeated.

Seeded third in the East Regional, Florida State needs only to get past only the Bonnies and then either No. 6 Cincinnati or No. 11 Texas to reach the regional semifinals in Boston.

Virginia, on the other hand, will have to deal with Missouri - the West Regional's second seed - if the deliberate Cavaliers can get past the Gators (23-10) in the opener.

The Tigers, coached by former Miami head coach Frank Haith, rate among the quickest teams in the country and force the sort of fast tempo that Virginia hopes to avoid.

- Caulton Tudor

Davidson earns 13th seed, faces Louisville

The Davidson Wildcats have been tabbed the West Region's 13th seed and will face fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday in Portland, Ore.

It's the first appearance for the Wildcats since they made their magical run to the regional finals in 2008 as the No. 10 seed behind future NBA lottery pick Stephen Curry. They beat Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before losing to Kansas.

Davidson earned its 11th tournament bid after a thrilling double-overtime win over Western Carolina to capture the 2012 Southern Conference tournament title.

The winner of the Davidson-Louisville game faces the winner of fifth-seeded New Mexico (27-6) and 12th-seeded Long Beach State (25-8) on Saturday.

- Associated Press

N.C. State is last team announced in NCAA tournament field

With the suspense peaking, N.C. State was the last team announced for the NCAA tournament on Sunday evening.

The Wolfpack, a No. 11 seed, will face San Diego State (26-7) on Friday in Columbus. Led by Mountain West Conference player of the year Jamaal Franklin, the Aztecs lost to New Mexico in the MWC championship.

After winning two games in the ACC tournament and falling short in the final seconds in the semifinals against North Carolina, N.C. State was on just about every prognosticator’s bubble heading into Sunday night.

As more and more teams were revealed, it looked like the Wolfpack may be on the outside looking in.
But after San Diego State was displayed, the N.C. State logo flashed on the screen, giving Mark Gottfried an NCAA tournament appearance in his first season as Wolfpack coach.

-Jack Daly

North Carolina is No. 1 seed, plays Friday

North Carolina will begin play in the NCAA tournament on Friday as the top seed in the Midwest region. The Tar Heels will play either Lamar or Vermont on Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum.

If the Tar Heels advance, they would then play on Sunday against either Creighton, the No. 8 seed in the region, or Alabama, the No. 9 seed.

Kansas is the second-seeded team in the Midwest, which sets up the possibility that the Tar Heels and Jayhawks could play one another in the regional championship game in St. Louis. Georgetown is the No. 3 seed in the Midwest, and Michigan the No. 4 seed.

The Tar Heels are tournament's third No. 1 team. Kentucky, the No. 1 seed in the South, received the top overall seed, and Syracuse, the No. 1 seed in the East, received the second overall top seed. Michigan State, the top seed in the West, received the final No. 1 seed.

-Andrew Carter

Duke is a No. 2 seed, faces Lehigh

Duke is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and will face Lehigh in its opening game on Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The Mountain Hawks (26-7) won the Patriot League championship over Bucknell. Lehigh lost by nine points at Michigan State earlier this season.

The Blue Devils are in the same region as No. 1 overall seed Kentucky. No. 3 seed Baylor and No. 6 seed UNLV are two potential opponents for the Blue Devils.

If Duke can get past Lehigh, it would face Notre Dame or Xavier in the second round on Sunday in Greensboro. Notre Dame is coached by former Duke assistant Mike Brey.

The Blue Devils’ had a strong NCAA tournament resume with wins over No. 1 seeds North Carolina and Michigan State in addition to Kansas and Michigan.

After winning the NCAA title in 2010, Duke was eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Arizona last year.

-Jack Daly

ACC all-tournament team

ATLANTA — Florida State’s Michael Snaer earned ACC tournament MVP honors on Sunday after he led the Seminoles to an 85-82 victory against North Carolina in the tournament’s championship game. With the victory, FSU won its first ACC men’s basketball championship in school history.

Snaer on Sunday led the Seminoles with 18 points, and he made four 3-pointers. He averaged 18 points in Florida State’s three tournament victories.

North Carolina senior forward Tyler Zeller and sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall joined Snaer on the all-tournament first team. Florida State senior point guard Luke Loucks also received first-team honors, as did N.C. State sophomore forward C.J. Leslie.

North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Florida State’s Bernard James, N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown, Duke’s Austin Rivers and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin all made the all-tournament second team.

-Andrew Carter

No ACC comment on the no-call

The ACC declined Sunday to talk about the multiple controversies involving the referees and N.C. State at ACC tournament game on Sunday, but ESPN did, even the participants in the game-deciding sequence from Saturday's memorable game between the Wolfpack and North Carolina exchanged messages of mutual respect on Twitter.

ESPN showed the highlight of UNC's Kendall Marshall's game-winning shot over N.C. State's Alex Johnson with 10.2 seconds left in the 69-67 UNC win on a seemingly endless loop on Saturday night and into Sunday afternoon before the broadcast of the title game between the Tar Heels and Florida State at 1 p.m.

In a game that featured 42 fouls, including eight on charge or block calls, there was no call after Marshall and N.C. State guard Alex Johnson collided with about 12 seconds left while Marshall dribbled to the basket.

During ESPN's broadcast of the game, color analyst Len Elmore said after Marshall's shot: "Are you kidding me? With all of the contact and all of the fouls called? How can you ignore that play? It's gotta be a block or a charge but you can't ignore it."

On Sunday, ACC commissioner John Swofford, associate commissioner Karl Hicks and head of officials John Clougherty declined to comment about the officiating issues at the tournament, which started on Thursday when three officials each wore the initials "KH" on a piece of white tape on their sneakers.

The apparent tribute by officials Jamie Luckie, Mike Eades and Bernard Clinton was a reference to veteran ACC official Karl Hess, who declined an invitation to work the ACC tournament.

Hess ejected two former N.C. State players, Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta, from their seats behind the scorers' table at the RBC Center on Feb. 18. Subsequently, the conference reprimanded Hess for not following the proper protocol in ejecting the fans.

Hess, whom Swofford has referred to as one of the best officials in college basketball, was invited to work the ACC tournament by Clougherty but declined, because he did not want to be a distraction, Clougherty said, and instead Hess worked the Big East tournament in New York.

The officiating issues moved back into the spotlight in the second half of the N.C. State-UNC game on Saturday. Brian Dorsey, who worked the Feb. 18th game in Raleigh with Hess, called two fouls on N.C. State's C.J. Leslie in a 32-second span in Saturday's game. Leslie had 22 points in the game before fouling out with 8:03 left in the game.

After the game, Leslie declined to comment about the foul situation, so did N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, who had several heated exchanges with Dorsey during the second half of Saturday's game.

"Can't talk about that, you get fined," Gottfried said on Saturday.

N.C. State Debbie Yow declined to comment on Sunday about the issues between the program and the officials.
Marshall and Johnson diplomatically took the debate from the Philips Arena floor to Twitter on Saturday night.

Marshall, whose Twitter handle is "KButter5" wrote to Johnson, whose handle is "SupermanJohnson": "@SupermanJohnson coulda went either way, but I'll take it! make noise in the tourney bro."

Johnson responded: "Hopefully we get selected tomorrow and we will meet again! Lol."

A review of the ESPN telecast shows that Dorsey called four of the five fouls on Leslie and was involved in four key calls in the game.

Dorsey called a charging foul on Leslie at 8:35 in the second half, which was Leslie's fourth foul, and a reach-in on Leslie on a Harrison Barnes shot attempt at 8:03.

With 58.6 seconds left, Dorsey whistled Scott Wood for a foul on Barnes, with UNC trailing 67-66. Ray Natili was the official closest to the play but Dorsey came across the court to make the call.

On UNC's final sequence, Dorsey was on the baseline on the same side of the floor as Marshall and Johnson but didn't make a call with 10.2 seconds left, despite the similarities between the Marshall-Johnson collision and the charge he called after the Leslie collision with UNC forward Justin Watts at 8:35.

ESPN's Elmore was critical of the officiating throughout the second half of the broadcast, pointing out the inconsistencies of calls on similar plays.

"It's unfortunate because the officials out here have great reputations, that's why they're doing this game but everybody has a bad day," Elmore said. "Unfortunately, somebody has to pay for it."

Elmore also got on the officials when North Carolina's Tyler Zeller, who led all scorers with 23 points, fouled out, missing the final frenetic 68 seconds of the game.

"We mentioned both benches might have a quibble with the way this last eight minutes have been officiated," Elmore said. "Wow."

ESPN had to blur out Gottfried's reaction, which included profanity, to the no-call by Dorsey before the Marshall basket. 

"That's a charge!" Gottfried clearly screams to Dorsey.

ESPN's cameras didn't capture Dorsey's response but official Tim Nestor physically interceded and moved Dorsey to the other side of the court, away from Gottfried and the N.C. State bench.

A review of the game broadcast showed Dorsey made 16 foul calls in the game, same as Natili, with 10 against N.C. State and six against UNC. Natili made nine calls against UNC with seven against State and Nester had six calls against State and four against UNC.

Dorsey was involved in four block/charge calls, two in N.C. State's favor and two in UNC's. 

Johnson was involved in three block/charge collisions. He picked up a charge on James Michael McAdoo and Watts in the first half. Dorsey called the charge on Watts with 2:06 left in the first half.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ACC Tournament elevator

UP: A North Carolina-Florida State rematch. It’s not often that a potential ACC tournament championship game between UNC and Duke would seem like the less appealing of potential championship games. But that was the case on Saturday after the Tar Heels’ 69-67 victory against N.C. State in the ACC tournament semifinals. UNC and Florida State will play today for the second time this season and we all remember what happened the first time, when FSU handed the Heels an embarrassing 90-57 defeat that was the most lopsided defeat of the Roy Williams’ time at UNC.

UP: Justin Watts: The UNC senior has been a forgotten, unheralded player throughout his senior season. But all along, his teammates have spoken about how invaluable Watts has been behind the scenes. On Saturday, he proved his worth on the court, too. He did everything from playing point guard for the Heels, to defending N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie. And Watts’ late steal when the Pack had a chance to tie the game was among UNC’s most important plays.

UP: Florida State’s defense. During their 62-59 victory against Duke in the second ACC tournament semifinal, the Seminoles held the Blue Devils to 37.3 percent shooting. Duke’s 59 points were a season low, and the Blue Devils also committed 16 turnovers. Florida State turned those into 19 points.

DOWN: The officiating in UNC’s victory against N.C. State. Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried declined to comment about the officiating after the game, so we’ll do it for him: It was inconsistent, at best. On both ends. The officials often wavered on block/charge calls, and seemed to call them differently throughout the game - or sometimes not call them at all. In some moments, they called the game tightly and in other moments they let both teams play physically. Consistency lacked.

DOWN: N.C. State’s finish. As much as Wolfpack fans might want to gripe about the refs, N.C. State had chances in the final moment to beat UNC, but the Wolfpack didn’t make winning plays. Instead they turned it over twice in the final minute with opportunities to either take the lead or tie the game.
Number of the day: 15. That’s how many times the lead changed before UNC prevailed with a 69-67 victory against N.C. State. The ACC tournament in recent years has been criticized for not being what it once was, and the UNC-State game provided a glimpse into the past. Emotions boiled while both teams played at a high level. The crowd at Philips Arena rose to its feet to watch the final minute or so – and with good reason.

DOWN: Statistical line of the day: During a low scoring semifinal Saturday, North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller stood out – even amid foul trouble. In 32 minutes against N.C. State, Zeller scored 23 points and had nine rebounds. Just another day for the ACC’s Player of the Year.

They said it: “We can’t think about that game and try to use that to win or we’re going to get beat. We can’t think it’s going to be easy or that we’re going to beat them by 30. It’s North Carolina. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what it’s going to come down to – who’s the toughest? Who’s the most focused?” –Florida State senior guard Michael Snaer on playing UNC for the ACC championship after the Seminoles’ 33-point victory against UNC on Jan. 14.

-Andrew Carter

UNC vs. Florida State: Who has the edge

Kendall Marshall (7.5 ppg, 9.7 apg) vs. Luke Loucks (6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg)

Loucks has developed into a solid starter in his senior season with the Seminoles, but Marshall is arguably the best point guard in the ACC and he recently set the ACC’s single-season record for assists. His ability to score has also improved, as evidenced most recently by his game-winning shot on Saturday against N.C. State in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.

Reggie Bullock (8.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg) vs. Michael Snaer (14.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Bullock has been an underrated part of UNC’s success during the second half of the season, and he’s developed into a very good defensive player. But Snaer is among the top eight players in the conference, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski described Snaer on Saturday as the fiercest competitor in the ACC. Snaer has made two game-winning 3-pointers at the buzzer this season.
EDGE: Florida State

Harrison Barnes (17.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) vs. Deividas Dulkys (6.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg)

Dulkys had the game of his college career during FSU’s 90-57 victory against UNC in Tallahassee on Jan. 14. He scored 32 points and made 8 of his 10 3-point attempts. Since, though, he hasn’t scored more than 14 points in any game. Barnes has had a somewhat quiet season, given his level of expectations and those surrounding him, but he’s still one of the better players in the conference.

James Michael McAdoo (5.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg) vs. Bernard James (10.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg)

McAdoo made his first career start on Saturday and is likely to start again today in place of the injured John Henson. McAdoo has played well during the final one-third of the season, and he has become more confident and aggressive. But James, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force, is a tough matchup for anybody, let alone a freshman making his second start.
EDGE: Florida State

Tyler Zeller (16.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg) vs. Xavier Gibson (7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

Gibson is one of six Florida State seniors who have helped build the Seminoles into a regular ACC contender in recent seasons .His role has expanded this season, and he scored 16 points in FSU’s victory earlier this season at Duke. But Zeller is the ACC Player of the Year for a reason. He has been UNC’s most consistently productive player night-in and night-out since conference play began.

UNC’s P.J. Hairston, Justin Watts, Stilman White and Desmond Hubert vs. Florida State’s Okaro White, Jeff Peterson, Ian Miller and Jon Kreft

The Tar Heels’ bench was a weakness for most of the season and a major question mark entering the post season. But UNC’s reserves have put together their best back-to-back performances of the season. Still, the Seminoles have enviable depth. White is a rangy, athletic player who can take it inside or shoot from the perimeter, and Miller, an aggressive penetrator who can create his own shot, would start for most teams in the conference.
EDGE: Florida State

Both teams will have no shortage of motivation. The Tar Heels are attempting to win the ACC tournament championship for the 18th time, while Florida State is seeking its first tournament championship. A Florida State victory would crown the Seminoles’ arrival as an ACC power, and it would provide proof that FSU’s 90-57 victory against UNC earlier this season wasn’t a fluke. A victory for UNC, meanwhile, would cement a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the Tar Heels, who desperately want to avenge that 33-point loss against Florida State – a defeat that was the worst of Roy Williams’ nine seasons as the Heels’ head coach.
EDGE: Even

-Andrtew Carter

Friday, March 9, 2012

DeCock: Duke will have hands full in semis sans Kelly

ATLANTA - Thanks to a late turnover by Virginia Tech, Duke escaped with a narrow win Friday night, but the 60-56 win raised as many questions as it answered for the Blue Devils.

Namely, who knew Ryan Kelly was so important to Duke?

Sure, the 6-foot-10 forward from Raleigh can stretch defenses with his 3-point shooting ability, and he's averaging 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds, but it turns out his mere presence in Duke’s forward rotation is absolutely and unquestionably essential. The rest of it is a bonus.

With first Mason Plumlee and then Miles picking up early fouls, Krzyzewski used Josh Hairston liberally and resorted to a four-guard lineup for large portions of the game. (Micheal Gbinije, the presumed fourth option, never got off the bench.)

That let Virginia Tech hang around right to the finish. The Hokies had the ball down four with 26.4 seconds to go, but their turnover turned into an Austin Rivers and-one at the other end, all but sealing the win for Duke.

Perhaps more damaging, with the weakened forward rotation, Duke had to look outside for offense even more than usual, which ended up with an unusual result: A team-high 13 3-point attempts for Tyler Thornton, who made, uh, three. As a team, Duke went 5-for-26 from international waters while the two Plumlees and Hairston combined for 19 points.

That’s one thing against a team like Virginia Tech, which has a short bench and isn’t the biggest team in the world, but the situation will be completely different tomorrow, no matter the opponent.

Miami has Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji; Florida State has Bernard James and a cast of thousands. Whether it’s fouls to give, inside offense or sheer bulk on the boards, either team will have a significant advantage on Duke sans Kelly.

It was easy to guess that would be the case going into Friday’s game, but the narrow escape against the Hokies confirmed the worst-case scenario: The Blue Devils are going to have their hands full.

- Luke DeCock

John Henson vs. N.C. State: A look back

ATLANTA - If John Henson's injured left wrist keeps him out of North Carolina's ACC tournament semifinal game against N.C. State here on Friday, the Wolfpack likely wouldn't be too disappointed. Henson has simply dominated N.C. State throughout his career, and the Wolfpack hasn't had any answer for him inside.

Here's a look at how Henson has fared against N.C. State during the past three seasons:

Jan. 26, 2010 - North Carolina 77, N.C. State 63
7 minutes
2 points
1-2 FG
0-2 FT
0 offensive rebounds
2 defensive rebounds
3 blocks

Feb. 13, 2010 - North Carolina 74, N.C. State 61
26 minutes
9 points
4-9 FG
1-5 FT
3 offensive rebounds
5 defensive rebounds
3 blocks

Jan. 29, 2011 - North Carolina 84, N.C. State 64
30 minutes
16 points
6-10 FG
4-8 FT
4 offensive rebounds
12 defensive rebounds
7 blocks

Feb. 23, 2011 - North Carolina 75, N.C. State 63
33 minutes
8 points
3-7 FG
2-2 FT
4 offensive rebounds
11 defensive rebounds
6 blocks

Jan. 26, 2012 - North Carolina 74, N.C. State 55
28 minutes
9 points
4-9 FG
1-4 FT
2 offensive rebounds
8 defensive rebounds
5 blocks

Feb. 21, 2012 - North Carolina 86, N.C. State 74
33 minutes
14 points
6-11 FG
2-4 FT
2 offensive rebounds
11 defensive reboundsd
2 blocks

So in UNC's past four games against N.C. State, Henson has averaged 11.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and five blocks per game. If Henson is unable to play - and it appears there's a good chance he won't - then freshman James Michael McAdoo would make his first career start. McAdoo finished with 14 points and a team-high 8 rebounds in UNC's 85-69 victory against Maryland on Friday. McAdoo played a career-high 29 minutes.

- Andrew Carter