The No. 5 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 3-0 on the season, embarks on its quest for a Battle 4 Atlantis tournament title Wednesday at high noon when the Tar Heels take on the 3-0 Butler Bulldogs.
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The Tar Heels join a stacked field in what UNC head coach Roy Williams says is the premier early-season tournament this year.
Two Final Four teams from last season, Florida and Wisconsin, could stand in the way of UNC in the Bahamas.
But Coach Williams says for now, he’s focused on the feisty Bulldogs, who defeated the Tar Heels 82-71 in the Maui Invitational semifinals back in 2012.
“We’re 3-0, we’ve done some good things, and we know we’ve got to get a heck of a lot better. We’re a different team. They’re [Butler] a different team. But there are some guys that were around when they beat us by 88 points or something like that the last time we played them. I remember that. It’s a wonderful tournament. Looking at all the tournament fields, I think it’s the best field of any of the preseason tournaments. It’s a big-time challenge for us,” Coach Williams says.
Junior guard Marcus Paige says the team’s balance gives the Tar Heels an edge on the competition.
“With that type of balance and our defense as hungry, alert and aggressive as it was today [vs. Davidson], I would expect to have a bunch of guys in double figures on any given night,” Paige says.
One of those UNC players in search of a breakout season is sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks. He’s off to a promising start. Meeks tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Davidson.
Meeks says he’s been getting some advice from former Tar Heel and fellow big man, Sean May.
“I talk to him all the time. He tells me about having soft hands, looking at the ball all the way through, being aggressive on offense and also getting down in a defensive stance for the entire game. He’s really been a good asset to my life,” Meeks says.
Paige has noticed a major difference in the impact of Meeks and junior forward Brice Johnson, who’ve both reshaped their bodies to withstand the physicality of ACC basketball.
“You can see they’re really skilled. Brice has upped his weight and is more of a physical presence. Kennedy shed his weight. They both had that skill set even last year, so now they’re able to utilize it more with more minutes and a bigger role in our offense. It’s great to have,” Paige says.
So far, Paige has been happy to take a backseat in the scoring. He says he understands the best Roy Williams teams always look to dominate inside first.
“When we have big guys as skilled and talented as them that are ready to handle the rigors of playing top-quality opponents with their bodies now we can play inside out. That’s always how Coach Williams’ best teams have played,” Paige says.
The Tar Heels will need to watch out for Bulldog Kelan Martin, who scored 23 points off the bench on 9 for 13 shooting in Butler’s most recent 80-39 thrashing of Loyola (Md.).
UNC is tied 2-2 with Butler in the all-time head-to-head series and will be hoping to tip the scales in its favor when the two schools collide at Imperial Arena Wednesday.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-begin-battle-4-atlantis-face-bulldogs/
Scanning his closet for the perfect Caribbean-themed floral shirt, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams could not help but mutter under his breath. “Aw shucks,” and “gosh darn” were just a few of the obscenities mumbled by the coach as he prepared for his team’s Thanksgiving getaway to the Bahamas.
Call it a tropical vacation if you like, but the schedule makers clearly were not too concerned about Coach Williams’ personal relaxation time. The Tar Heels will play against a loaded field in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Paradise Island in Nassau. Half of last year’s Final Four (Florida, Wisconsin) plus four other teams that were in the NCAA tournament (including the Heels) will slug it out for the right to be called champions of Atlantis.
In order to rule a kingdom that sits entirely underwater, you would need a lot of power. Luckily for UNC, they have had plenty of power down on the low blocks three games in. Statistics have them as the 4th most prolific rebounding team in the country, with close to fifty a game. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have materialized as an awesome tag team in the post, as the team’s two leading scorers and rebounders thus far (Meeks- 16.7 points, 11 boards, Johnson- 14.7 points, 7.7 boards). Each is also shooting above sixty percent for the young season.
The big men will be critical in an opening round matchup against perennial over-achievers Butler. The Bulldogs, known for their scrappy team defense and shooting, will come out firing, but it will be essential for Carolina to exploit their massive size advantage early. To give this matchup a visual perspective, Meeks at 6’9”, 270 pounds, will likely be defended by their senior forward, Kameron Woods, who stands the same 6’9” but carries a meager 200 pounds. Meeks should be able to feast on Woods and lead the Tar Heels into their Thanksgiving game on a high note.
With an opening win, Turkey Day could have UNC facing off against the winner of 22nd ranked UCLA and Oklahoma, each a tournament team a year ago. The Sooners have started off slowly, already taking a loss in their second game of the season to Creighton. The Bruins, on the other hand, are breaking scoreboards with an offense that boasts two twenty-point scorers (Norman Powell, Bryce Alford) and arrives in Nassau 5th in the country with 95.3 points per game.
Should the Heels face off with UCLA, point guard Marcus Paige’s shots are going to have to start falling at a rate higher than 38 percent, especially if the game turns into the fast-paced track meet many expect. Key contributions from freshman wing Justin Jackson may also be an X-factor in this potential matchup. Not only has Jackson shown he can score efficiently (13.3 PPG, 63% shooting), but his rangy 6’8” wingspan could give the 6’4” Powell and 6’3” Alford some trouble defensively as well.
On the other half of the bracket, 18th ranked Florida takes on Georgetown in what could be a tough game for the Gators, who will potentially be missing two key starters due to injury. The other quarterfinal features the Badgers and their senior All-American forward, Frank Kaminsky, rolling through UAB and a short-handed Florida team, straight to the title game for what could be a battle of epic proportions with the Tar Heels.
Of all the teams in the bracket, the Wisconsin Badgers were surely the squad that caught ol’ Roy’s attention the most. Coach Williams works long and hard; you can’t blame the man if he wants to enjoy a nice vacation at a place called “Paradise Island.” The problem is that Wisconsin makes that impossible. There is no paradise to be found when trying to game plan for a Badger team that is blowing teams out with ruthless efficiency, shooting over fifty-two percent AS A TEAM, validating last year’s final four march.
Led by Kaminsky, the seven-foot Player of the Year candidate, Wisconsin is off to a 4-0 start with the closest of those games being a twenty-four point nail-biter against Boise State. The Heels will have to find a way to guard the big man, who can star inside or outside depending on how he feels. If he sees Brice Johnson, he may try to use his height inside. If it’s Kennedy Meeks on Kaminsky, look for Frank to take the slower Meeks out on the perimeter, where he shoots the three ball at forty-three percent.
If Carolina can continue to rebound and share the ball like they have to start the season, there is a real chance for them to be crowned Kings of Atlantis, but it cannot be overstated how tough the road is ahead of them. Call this tournament a measuring stick, because it will be the first chance against elite quality competition for this team to show its growth.
Winning in the Bahamas would prove to doubters that this squad does indeed have enough talent to compete for a national championship. Losing would not be the end of the world. Just don’t be surprised if Roy ends up in his famous squatted position, screaming like crazy, and pulling a few hairs out along the way.
Fun Fact: The games are being played at the Imperial Arena, a grand ballroom normally used for weddings and events. A temporary court and seats are put into place just for this tournament.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/roy-williams-stolen-vacation/
The North Carolina baseball team downed Gardner-Webb 7-2 Tuesday night to improve to 31-21 on the season and improve chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
With the loss, the Runnin’ Bulldogs dropped to 23-27 on the season. UNC starting pitcher Taylore Cherry had a lot to do with it. Cherry tossed six shutout innings to stymie the Bulldog bats.
Skye Bolt slammed his second home run of the year to propel the Tar Heels to the victory at Shelby High Schools Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium.
More good news for Carolina came in the form of Wood Myers returning to the lineup after a broken hand on April 25 in the Virginia Tech series. He rebounded nicely with a pair of hits and an RBI.
In total, the UNC offense exploded for 16 hits against a bevy of Gardner-Webb pitchers. The Tar Heels are now 17-2 when scoring at least six runs.
Carolina will now head to Florida Wednesday in advance of a three-game series at Miami starting Thursday. Thursday night’s opener is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be available courtesy of ESPN3 on WatchESPN.com.
With the loss, the Bulldogs dropped to a 6-10 overall record on the year.
Luis Paula delivered a gem on the mound for Carolina, striking out nine batters over six innings.
The offense was in fine form as well as Alex Raburn smacked his first career home run for the Tar Heels. Korey Dunbar’s early double gave UNC the 3-0 lead. Head Coach Mike Fox’s squad never looked back from there.
Henry Sisson, a sophomore transfer from Davidson, made his first career appearance as a Tar Heel and struck out the only batter he took on.
This weekend, the Tar Heels return to ACC action with a three-game road trip at College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins. Game one on Friday will start at 6:30 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/diamond-heels-cruise-past-gardner-webb-7-1-face-terps-weekend-series/
Photo courtesy of GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL– The No. 12 UNC women’s basketball team had no problems dispatching Wingate 93-61 in an exhibition contest Tuesday night at Carmichael Arena.
Freshman Allisha Gray led the Tar Heels with 15 points. In all, six players were in double-figures for Carolina.
Wingate actually closed with one point of the Tar Heels at 18-17, but from there, Carolina took over by ending the first half on a 33-10 run.
UNC scored 37 points off 24 turnovers and had an incredible 18-0 edge in fast-break points.
Next up for the Tar Heels is the start of the regular season on Friday at 4:30 p.m. against Air Force at Carmichael Arena.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tuesday-takedown-no-12-unc-women-beat-wingate-in-final-warm-up/
CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNC baseball team steps out of the ACC Wednesday to face a Southern Conference opponent for the fourth time this season when The Citadel makes the trip to Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels are coming off a 1-1 decision in a series against No. 6 N.C. State that was cut short due to inclement weather Sunday. Game three of the series will not be made up, which marks the second time this season Carolina did not complete a series against a conference opponent. The first one was against Boston College.
The Citadel is second in the SoCon and holds a 27-18 overall record. The Bulldogs are coming off their first loss in 11 games.
First pitch Wednesday night is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium. It’s the last game until final exams conclude, so there are no games again until next Tuesday and Wednesday when Carolina hosts James Madison.
Tune in to Wednesday’s game live on WCHL and by clicking here immediately following the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/no-1-unc-baseball-hosts-the-citadel/