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This national championship is a little different for Roy Williams and North Carolina

by - Published April 6, 2017 in Columns

Roy Williams has now won three national championships, and all of them are undoubtedly wonderful for him. He’s now a long way from the time he was constantly asked if he could win “the big one.” But this one probably feels a little different than the first two, and not for the most obvious reason that has already been much-talked about – a sense of redemption from a year ago.

Simply put, this North Carolina team doesn’t hold a candle to his first two title teams from a talent standpoint.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Monday, March 27, 2017

by - Published March 27, 2017 in The Morning Dish

Four teams are all that remain. There is something unexpected, and yet at the same time expected, about the teams that remain. In particular, Sunday’s regional finals provide a big study in contrasts, yet both also provide great stories.

The first game was held at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. The SEC was guaranteed to have a team in the Final Four, and Florida and South Carolina split their two meetings during the season. Florida looked good for a lot of the half and into the second half, before South Carolina started to wear down the Gators. The Gators, you will recall, won an overtime thriller on Friday night in the second game, which didn’t tip until after 10 p.m. Eastern and didn’t end until after 1 a.m. That had to play some role later on, even though no player or coach will ever say it.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 30, 2016

by - Published January 30, 2016 in The Morning Dish

What Shaka Smart did at VCU changed the idea of what the program should be. He wasn’t just one more coach who came in, won big as the program did for years as one of the CAA’s signature programs, then moved on to greener pastures. Yes, he won big, highlighted by their run to the Final Four in 2011, but they were consistent winners. He brought them into the Atlantic 10 and made them winners there, including a conference title last season, before leaving for Texas.

Now Will Wade inherits a stronger tradition, but higher expectations. And while the Rams had a relatively non-descript non-conference showing, they now look like a team that grew from it. About halfway through Atlantic 10 play, the Rams have yet to lose, the latest being Friday night’s 79-69 win at Davidson.

… Continue Reading

PlayPlay

Michigan State and Big Ten look for port during storm

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Columns

As college basketball officially starts its 2011-12 season, teams from the Big Ten place themselves right in the middle of the action.

As I am writing this, I am anxiously awaiting tip-off of the North Carolina vs. Michigan State game being played on the bow of the USS Carl Vinson in homage of Veterans Day. Regardless of the outcome, this is a very important game for college basketball and its relativity to America. … Continue Reading

North Carolina: Tar Heels Undergo Second Consecutive Facelift

by - Published May 6, 2010 in Columns

For the second consecutive season, North Carolina must deal with sizable roster changes. And the biggest difference literally will be the size on the roster.

Twin forwards Travis and David Wear have decided to leave the Tar Heels, and their father said the freshmen will look to play closer to home in southern California. The unexpected loss of the 6-10 Wear twins damages coach Roy Williams’ depth in the frontcourt, with only 6-10 John Henson and 7-foot Tyler Zeller returning to man the post.

Besides the Wears’ departures, North Carolina is losing 6-9 senior forward Deon Thompson and 6-10 sophomore forward Ed Davis. Despite missing the end of the season with a broken wrist, Davis decided that he is ready to take his game to the NBA. Thompson will graduate after laboring through this past season as the lone remaining starter from the Tar Heels’ 2009 championship squad.

With only two scholarship players taller than 6-7, Williams will need to use some creative lineup combinations. However, that challenge might present an opportunity that is conducive to returning the Tar Heels to the top of the ACC.

When North Carolina won its most recent championships in 2005 and 2009, the Tar Heels had elite guards to run the speedy Carolina offense, in addition to hustling big men who collected plenty of rebounds and outworked opponents in the post. No disrespect to Sean May or Tyler Hansbrough, but Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson were the engines of their respective championship squads.

The Tar Heels limped through the ACC this past season as their offensive sputtered. Sophomore point guard Larry Drew II shouldered much of the blame for the offensive struggles — fair or not. However, during the Tar Heels’ run to the NIT championship game, Drew played significantly better, showing a modest feel for running an up-tempo offense without losing control.

Regardless of how many big men Williams has in the lineup, Drew and his backcourt mates must dictate the pace of the game. If Drew cannot boost North Carolina’s offensive efficiency from No. 92, Williams will give the responsibility to Dexter Strickland or incoming freshman Kendall Marshall. According to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency statistics, North Carolina has finished in the top 10 for offensive efficiency every year since 2004. A No. 92 ranking is utterly unacceptable.

Some of the Tar Heels’ struggles this past season might actually be attributable to North Carolina’s over-reliance on big men. The perimeter players were woefully inconsistent, shooting 32.8 percent from three-point range. That poor shooting allowed opponents to pack the post to deny dribble penetration or entry passes. With the arrival of Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock and the increased minutes for junior Will Graves, North Carolina should be better at stretching defenses next season.

The 2010-11 Tar Heels figure to look nothing like this past season’s squad. And for North Carolina fans accustomed to seeing their team in the NCAA Tournament, not the NIT, that might not be a bad thing.

Tar Heels Struggle For a Variety of Reasons

by - Published February 21, 2010 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – North Carolina certainly had some question marks entering the season.  Chances are, though, not many people imagined the Tar Heels would be 3-9 in the ACC with four games to go in the regular season.  Not many imagined that Roy Williams would be experiencing what he called “the most frustrating time I’ve ever had in coaching, there’s no question about that.”

North Carolina has seven McDonald’s All-Americans on its roster, so there’s no shortage of talent despite heavy personnel losses from last season’s national championship team.  But talent alone doesn’t win anything, and this team is clearly lacking in several areas.  That was apparent once again in the Tar Heels’ 71-67 loss at Boston College on Saturday, their ninth in 11 games.

The first problem is point guard play.  Larry Drew II isn’t his dad, who spent 11 years in the NBA.  He’s a nice point guard, but not one you win a national championship with and he’s certainly not a replacement for Ty Lawson in a running offense.  With Lawson, the Heels could run even on made baskets; with Drew, that’s rarely possible.  His assist and turnover numbers are nice, and he shoots over 40 percent from long range, but those numbers are not only deceiving, but they’re all down in ACC play just like the team’s success.

While Dexter Strickland has the athleticism to be the running point guard, he lacks the skills to play the position.  He’s emerged as a player who Williams has to have in the game because he gives great effort, but he’s not a point guard.

The second problem is that this team gives the ball away.  North Carolina averages nearly 16 turnovers per game and has just five more assists than turnovers on the season.  Perhaps more telling is that they have a negative turnover margin for the season and have had more turnovers than assists in nine of the 12 ACC games.  On Saturday, they turned it over 11 times, which is below their average, but Boston College made them hurt as they scored 16 points off them.

Another important problem is shooting, something Williams was concerned about before the season.  This team lacks a sniper from long range, something they had in bunches with Wayne Ellington as well as Danny Green and Lawson.  Drew shoots just over 40 percent and Will Graves about 38, but no one else on the team will strike fear in opposing defenses with their jump shot.

The next problem is mental toughness, and that was shown on several occasions on Saturday.  Although North Carolina started the season well and looked like it would be another NCAA Tournament season in Chapel Hill, when the going has gotten tough, the Heels have been stopped.  Nowhere was this more evident than when Boston College would stop a run the Tar Heels made and it would do more than just slow the momentum.  Instead, almost every time it seemed to demoralize the Tar Heels.

“It seems like when we scored we were just… it was like we would kind of lose hope,” said Drew.  “We just have to understand that if a team goes on a run, that doesn’t mean that we stop playing hard and start giving up.”

Added Tyler Zeller, who returned after a stress fracture in his right foot sidelined him for over a month: “That’s what good teams do.  They know how to get momentum, they know how to counter momentum, and they don’t get flustered when the other team has the momentum.”

Williams has seen this very clearly with his team since about the time the calendar rolled over to 2010.  He sees that the confidence with this team is nothing like what it was earlier in the season, another problem they have.

“College of Charleston and Clemson, in a short period of time, shook us a little bit,” said Williams.  “We have never reacted in a positive way and gotten tougher with it since then.  We will make some runs in a game, and then we turn around and allow the other team to make some runs.”

Williams said he didn’t think the Tar Heels played with the necessary sense of urgency in the first half on Saturday.  They started well in the second half, but just like with the season, things got a little tough and the Tar Heels didn’t get going.  They have been hit hard by injuries that have led to seven players, including Zeller and Ed Davis, missing games, and senior Marcus Ginyard looks nothing like a player who was once very highly recruited.  But Williams, who has also been hit by the injury bug with a torn labrum in his left shoulder that required surgery in November, knows his team is too talented to have a 3-9 ACC record, the most ACC losses they have had since 2002-03.  He also knows that the talent doesn’t matter as much as how the team plays.

“You’ve got to freakin’ play,” Williams said.  “If my back’s against the wall and I’m getting my tail kicked, I’m going to fight you until I die.”

Right now, this team, talented though they are, isn’t doing that.

Heading into the weekend, there was a feeling within the team that the Tar Heels were poised to go on a run to end the season.  Williams felt that an 8-8 ACC record, combined with their wins over Ohio State and Michigan State in non-conference, would get them in the NCAA Tournament.  If they were to run the table, they would pick up wins over Florida State and at Wake Forest and Duke, so there would seemingly be plenty of quality wins.  But that won’t happen now.

“I thought we were going to win today and get on a great run and we’d be in the NCAA Tournament,” said Williams.  “Now I’ve got to readjust and see if we can get it done by starting with the next game.”

Williams isn’t mailing it in at all for this season, but his frustration seems likely to continue unless the Tar Heels improve in a number of areas.  The question marks that were there before the season remain, and new ones have emerged, but few if any thought it would lead to the Tar Heels being where they are right now.

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

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March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
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"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
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Review on Hoopville coming soon!

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