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2013-14 ACC Post-Mortem

by - Published May 27, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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With Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse entering, much was expected of the ACC this year. The end result? Well, the ACC was still pretty good, but it wasn’t exactly the super conference some expected it to be. In fact, even before the NCAA Tournament came and went with just one team making the Sweet 16 and going no further, it seemed clear that the conference underachieved relative to expectations this season.

The truth, as is often the case, is a bit more complicated than that. That’s especially true when you realize that ACC teams won five in-season tournaments in non-conference play. It was also a nice year for the conference in terms of individual talents.

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Saturday notes – January 11, 2014

by - Published January 12, 2014 in Columns
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Conference play is in full swing across the country now, and there have been some early surprises as usual. Saturday brought more of them in a busy slate.

A big note of the day comes in the form of a question: who thought North Carolina would be the only winless team in the ACC three games in? For good measure, though, Duke is now 1-2 for the first time in seven years.

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Could North Carolina’s big weekend change their season?

by - Published November 26, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – A week made a big difference for North Carolina.  It’s still November, but in a week North Carolina basically went from outhouse to penthouse with a weekend in Connecticut that was all they could have wanted.  It could change the direction of their season.

Even before North Carolina lost to Belmont last Sunday, the Tar Heels didn’t look good.  It wasn’t shocking that they lost to Belmont, a well-tested team, but they were supposed to win being at home.  After that, the question wasn’t even if they could beat Louisville in a potential championship matchup in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, but rather, could they even get past Richmond first?  It was one more thing for this team to deal with after the off-season issues and unresolved eligibility concerns with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald.

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How UNC plays without Hairston will shape their season

by - Published August 24, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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One story that has seemingly been a constant this off-season is the life and times of P.J. Hairston. There’s good reason for it: the North Carolina rising junior led one of the nation’s most visible programs in scoring last season and bypassed a weak NBA Draft to return to school. Usually, that would mean a lot of talk about him as a potential All-American the following season and about how high he could go in the next draft with an additional year of development. Instead, he has had an off-season to forget. While his fate is still to be determined, what hasn’t been talked about much is that if he does eventually return to the court, the Tar Heels could be one of those teams that has some early adversity but is much more dangerous later in the season.

Every season, some teams have early personnel adversity they must overcome that is temporary in nature. Often, this takes the form of injuries, but disciplinary issues can come into play as well. The team usually loses a game or two they might not lose with a full squad, but at some point they will have that squad together. When that team is finally whole, they end up much more formidable.

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Better defense in the second half is just what North Carolina needed

by - Published January 30, 2013 in Columns
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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – North Carolina got a road win on Tuesday night that won’t help their NCAA Tournament profile, but could help them get there.  The Tar Heels came into the game just 2-4 on the road and hope that an 82-70 win at Boston College will help them pick up more of those later on.  To do that, they will need to improve on some things that they improved upon slightly in this game.

North Carolina hasn’t played well defensively in ACC play, and the first half of Tuesday night was no exception.  The Tar Heels force plenty of turnovers – nearly 15 a game, more than any ACC team except Duke – but when opponents don’t cough it up they tend to make shots at a good rate.  The Eagles turned the ball over nine times in the first half but shot 48 percent from the field, going 5-10 from long range.  In the second half, they shot below 42 percent and were just 2-10 from deep, and it was more important since they turned it over just once in the second half.

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2011-12 ACC Post-Mortem

by - Published May 19, 2012 in Conference Notes
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Kendall Marshall, Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland.

Those three Tar Heels were supposed to anchor the North Carolina backcourt entering the 2011-12 season. With Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels figured to have one of the deepest set of guards in the country to pair with a great front line led by Tyler Zeller and John Henson. And that’s before accounting for Harrison Barnes, projected to be one of the best wing players in the country.

But injuries decimated North Carolina’s backcourt, forcing coach Roy Williams to run with little-used freshman Stilman White and jack-of-all-trades Justin Watts in the team’s most important game of the season, an Elite Eight clash with Williams’ old squad, the Kansas Jawhawks, in St. Louis. … Continue Reading

The countdown to Selection Sunday starts — less than a month to go

by - Published February 14, 2012 in Columns
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It’s hard to believe, but Selection Sunday is officially less than a month away — 26 days to be precise.

That means it’s separation time. The best teams throughout the nation need to raise the bar to claim a regular-season conference championship and jockey for NCAA Tournament seeding.

For the vast majority of the 31 conferences that receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, winning a regular-season conference title is about more than bragging rights. In many conference tournament formats, the regular-season winner gets a bye or home court advantage — sometimes both — at some point in the upcoming conference tourneys. Teams like the America East’s Stony Brook, Big Sky’s Weber State, and SWAC’s Mississippi Valley State won’t be getting at-large bids to the Big Dance if they don’t capture a conference championship in the tournaments. So they’ll take any advantage they can get. … Continue Reading

Round 233: UNC vs. Duke tips off with more than pride at stake

by - Published February 8, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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The first of two regular-season meetings between two of the most hate-filled rivals in American sports goes down tonight when Duke makes the short trip to the Dean Dome to visit North Carolina.

As is usually the case in recent years, this game has significant importance in the standings, with both teams jockeying with Florida State for the top spot in the ACC. North Carolina enters the game at 7-1 in conference action, while Duke slipped to 6-2 after losing to Miami. Duke can ill-afford another loss, especially because the Seminoles and Tar Heels will not meet again this regular season.

Besides the usual hostility generated by one of the most intense rivalries in the game, the 233rd match up between these teams — UNC leads the all-time series 131-101 — is critical for both teams. Duke is facing more than its fair share of critics after a lackluster performance against the Hurricanes. Meanwhile, North Carolina needs to prove it can beat an elite team, sometime the Heels haven’t done in a few months.

For the Blue Devils, coach Mike Krzyzewski will be looking for renewed passion from his team after calling them out for lacking the energy to compete with the Hurricanes in the overtime loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Expect his team to rally around his battle cry, especially on the road surrounded by the Enemy in Powder Blue. To win, Duke will need to play smart defense, something the Blue Devils haven’t done consistently this season.

On the other hand, North Carolina seems to be on the rise, especially after a gutsy win in College Park last weekend in which Maryland tried to beat up the Tar Heels. Unlike the game in Tallahassee in which Florida State annihilated UNC, the Tar Heels responded after getting hit in the mouth and clamped down in the second half to erase a nine-point deficit to win by nine. However, the Tar Heels haven’t beaten a team guaranteed to be in the NCAA Tournament since they knocked off Wisconsin in Chapel Hill Nov. 30. North Carolina needs a win at home against the team’s arch rival to validate the argument that this team should be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That adds a lot of pressure to both teams, and that might favor North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a roster full of players who have been through this rivalry at least three times after last season. Duke has struggled with leadership on the court, and the Blue Devils must get someone to step up or else things could ugly for Duke pretty quickly.

Let the battle begin.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino got his wish with Memphis, as the Tigers will be joining the Big East starting in 2013-14, according an ESPN.com news services report. Pitino had lobbied for the Conference USA’s Tigers to join the Big East to help replace the power that will be departing with West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in coming years.

Florida coach Billy Donovan tried to preach that Kentucky faced all the pressure entering the Gators/Wildcats clash Tuesday night, with the home team trying to extend a 15-game winning streak and 48-game undefeated streak at Rupp Arena, according to the Associated Press. That psyche-out didn’t seem to work as the Wildcats clobbered Florida 78-58.

If Connecticut can rally around the toughness of coach Jim Calhoun, the Huskies won’t be out of the picture despite a bleak couple of weeks, including a horrid loss Monday night at Louisville. Calhoun told ESPN’s Andy Katz that he doesn’t plan to let spinal stenosis to force him into retirement, and the coach could return to the sidelines sometime this season if the pain in his legs and back subsides.

There’s also health concerns for another coach: College of Charleston’s Bobby Cremins. The 64-year-old Cougar coach took a leave of absence Jan. 27, and he told people that he’s just taking a break to recuperate from a lack of energy, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

Alabama’s tournament chances could be in some jeopardy after the team indefinitely suspended junior Tony Mitchell for misconduct, writes TideNation’s Alex Scarborough. The junior forward averages 13.1 ppg and 7.0 rpg in more than 30 minutes per game for the Crimson Tide.

Percolating hoops intrigue makes February a fantastic month for sports

by - Published February 1, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s February — one of the most underrated sports months of the year.

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, the biggest event in U.S. sports will command the attention of tens of millions of viewers, generating tens of millions of dollars for everyone associated with the event.

A few weeks later, the NBA All-Star game will show the NFL how exhibition weekends should be run. In my opinion, the NBA All-Star weekend festivities are the best of any pro sport, with baseball coming in a close second. Did anyone actually watch the Pro Bowl last weekend?

We don’t have any winter Olympics this year, but that’s a February event, too.

And then we have college hoops. To casual fans, March is the month of joy. But February is the month that sets the table for March. Dozens of teams are jockeying for position right now, fighting for a better seed and location or merely a bid to the Big Dance.

The schedule-makers know what they’re doing, too. Next Wednesday — just days after the Super Bowl — the top rivalry in college hoops will go down for the first of two meetings in a month when Duke visits North Carolina. That’s a nice way for the NCAA to tell America: “Guess what? Football is over. It’s time to set your sights on the hardwood.”

And of course, as we work through the thick of conference play, we’ll have the rush of bracket projections to feed the hoops addiction. Hoopville will join the fray as usual, starting this Friday. We choose to wait until February because it just feels right. By now, we have a large enough sample size to judge teams’ résumés and make projections that have a good shot of standing up during the final few weeks before Selection Sunday.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Get ready for more technical fouls and a shorter leash on players or coaches who act out. Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog reports that John Adams, the NCAA’s national officiating coordinator, sent a notice to all officials that implored them to clamp down on bad behavior.

Clemson has indefinitely suspended junior Milton Jennings, a former McDonald’s All-American, because of academic reasons, according to the Associated Press. Jennings averages 8.9 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

Arizona will finish the season without junior Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in a loss to Washington last weekend, according to a CBS Sports.com report. He averaged 4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg and 1.7 apg this season.

Iona is looking to remain one of the premier programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and the university extended the contract of coach Tim Cluess to help make that happen, according to a CBS Sports.com report.

Don’t mess with a player’s routine. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes shared some of the details of his routine with Andrew Jones of Fox Sports to explain why he changed his shoes at halftime of the Tar Heels’ win against Georgia Tech. Like the rest of the team, Barnes started the game with pink shoes to help promote breast cancer awareness. But he went with his usual Kobes in the second half.

VCU coach Shaka Smart stirred some commotion in the commonwealth during a teleconference Monday, writes Myron Medcalf for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Smart asserted that Virginia’s best schools reside in the CAA. He didn’t call out the ACC teams in Blacksburg or Charlottesville by name, but Smart felt compelled to give UVA coach Tony Bennett a call to clarify his comments.

The NCAA won’t be seeking any further action against Connecticut freshman guard Ryan Boatright regarding an investigation into his eligibility because of money and benefits that he and his mother received, according to the Associated Press. But the AP reports that the Boatrights’ lawyer isn’t finished with his actions against the NCAA, lambasting the organization for releasing private information.

The only coach to ever lead Canisius to an NCAA Tournament win died Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Joseph Curran, 89, passed away in Mystic, Conn. He led the Golden Griffins to a 76-66 record in six seasons, which included a shocking four overtime victory against No. 2 North Carolina State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament.

Monson’s 49ers reap the rewards of a tough schedule

by - Published January 24, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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If any team could claim to be battle-tested heading into conference play, it had to be Long Beach State.

The 49ers loaded up their nonconference slate with the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville and Xavier. The team struggled through many of those games, ending up with a 7-6 record heading into Big West play.

But don’t be fooled. The 49ers were more than competitive against the big boys, with single-digit losses on the road at San Diego State, Kansas and North Carolina. Plus, the 49ers beat Pittsburgh, Xavier and Auburn. None of those are particularly outstanding — the Xavier win came during the Musketeers’ tailspin following the brawl against Cincinnati. But in short, Dan Monson’s team learned how to win and how to believe in itself.

This team has taken that lesson and applied it well through the first seven games of Big West play. Long Beach State sits atop the conference standings with a 7-0 record, and only Cal Poly stayed within 10 points of the 49ers.

If Long Beach State can continue to plow through the Big West and claim an automatic to the NCAA Tournament, the 49ers should be a popular first-round upset pick. Their lack of hefty wins will prevent the team from earning a seed much higher than a No. 12 or 13 spot. But that just makes this team a sound pick to upset any No. 4 or 5 seed from a major conference on a neutral court.

The benefits of such a tough schedule might not show up in the win-loss columns immediately. But if Long Beach State goes 1-1 or 2-0 during the first weekend of March, that tournament success will be partially due to the team’s preparation early in the season.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Murray State will get back leading rebounder Ivan Aska, who grabs 6.0 rpg and scores 12.6 ppg, for the team’s game against Eastern Illinois Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Michigan could have big Jon Horford back for the Wolverines’ game against Purdue Tuesday, coach John Beilein told Wolverine Nation’s Chantel Jennings for ESPN.com. Horford has been out with a stress fracture since early December.

Arguably the most intense and spite-filled rivalry in the ACC, Maryland and Duke will clash for the first time this season Wednesday night in College Park. And the Terrapins will likely have freshman 7-footer Alex Len, even though he twisted his ankle during the Terps’ loss at Temple last weekend, according to the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke.

Of course, that’s no disrespect to the North Carolina vs. Duke rivalry. And this year, coach Roy Williams won’t have his best defender, Dexter Strickland, who tore his ACL in the team’s win against Virginia Tech Thursday, according ESPN.com’s Robbi Pickeral.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is considering adding a hometown hero to the Razorbacks squad, according to the Associated Press. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and plans to play for Anderson as a walk-on or scholarship player. He was a star high school basketball player in Arkansas before leaving the state to play for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan railed against the rule that allows graduated players to transfer and play immediately during a news conference Monday, writes Benjamin Worgull for Badger Nation.com.

Avery Bradley Skills Academy

August 11-13, 2014 at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

More information is available by clicking here.

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

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Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by

bostonuniversity

Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

March 9, 2014 by

hofstra

The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by

cornell

Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

Hoopville Archives

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

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Mass Elite and Boston Warriors, two of the largest programs in Massachusetts, teamed up for a college showcase on Wednesday night. Here are some evaluations from that event.

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Travel team profile: All For One

All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

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Conference Coverage

2013-14 Big Ten Post-Mortem

July 8, 2014 by

bigten

The Big Ten had some teams slip as the season went on, but plenty of others picked up the slack in another good year for the conference.

2013-14 Sun Belt Post-Mortem

July 7, 2014 by

sunbelt

Membership changes have been happening at quite a pace of late in the Sun Belt, and it was a new member that stole the show for much of this past season and seems poised to lead the way in the future.

2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

bigsky

The teams that have led the way in the Big Sky of late were right there again this season. One of them won both the regular season and conference tournament, and also had a nice time with the post-season awards as well.

2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

meac

The 2013-14 season was N.C. Central’s year in the MEAC, as the Eagles completed their four-year ascent to the top of conference.

2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

June 30, 2014 by

big12

When it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney.

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