It had to be Kansas. Kansas. Kansas.
Roy Williams may be over the heartbreak and heartache his leaving Lawrence caused in 2003, but it’s just getting worse with me. The tweets, emails and blog posts are already out there, claiming that Bill Self has built a better program at KU than ol’ Roy has at UNC over the last 10 years.
Statistics don’t show that (they’re pretty damn even, in fact), but the fact that Tar Heels have now gone home at the hands of the Jayhawks in three of the last six NCAA Tournaments makes it seem that way to a lot of basketball fans.
Both programs have been great all the way back to the Phog Allen and Frank McGuire eras, each having blip periods that caused them to change coaches. But the last 10 years have been basically even-steven, certainly close enough to disavow any notion that one guy has out-coached the other.
Kansas and Self have won more games and have a better record (300-58 for 84%) than Carolina and Williams (282-79 for 78%), but that is largely due to several factors over that 10-year span.
One, Self took over a Kansas team that Williams left in sounder shape than the one Roy inherited from Matt Doherty. Two, the Tar Heels had one dreadful season in the last 10 years, the 20-17 debacle that followed losing four starters off the 2009 national champions. And, three, Carolina’s overall pipeline to the pros has been better than Self’s at Kansas, which ironically has made it worse for UNC.
Thirteen players have been drafted in the first round during the Williams era, 11 of them who left a total of 17 seasons on the Tar Heel table. Compare that to Kansas under Self, which has produced nine first-round picks, one who left after one year, two who left after two and another two who left after three seasons. If you add Mario Chalmers, the MOP of the 20008 Final Four who was drafted in the second round, the Jayhawks have lost 10 seasons of eligibility in the last 10 years.
As for the NCAA Tournament, Self and Kansas have been there all 10 years but with less results than Carolina and Williams in nine trips. KU has one national championship (’08) and reached another Final Four (2012) and could still improve on those numbers this season. The Jayhawks have gone out in three regional finals, one Sweet Sixteen (and counting), one second round ouster and two embarrassing first-round upsets (Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and ’06).
Carolina under Williams has those 2005 and ’09 NCAA titles, one other Final Four and three Elite Eight game goners. Sunday’s loss to KU was the third second-round ouster for UNC and Williams, who holds the record of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with at least one victory. Both Self and Williams have won three national Coach of the Year honors at their current schools.
Their conference records are pretty close, with Self winning a few more regular-season and tournament titles in the Big 12 than Williams in the ACC. But, over that 10 years, the ACC has been the better league top to bottom and won three national championships to KU’s one for the Big 12.
So don’t give me that hoo-ha that Kansas has a better program than Carolina. They are both great. What skews the pooch are those three losses to KU in the three NCAA match-ups, and each one has a story to itself.
At the 2008 Final Four at San Antonio, the Tar Heels were a slight favorite over Kansas after winning both the ACC regular season and tournament and losing only two games all season. But this was the first time Williams faced Kansas, the still-angry KU crowd and all the storylines took away from the game itself.
The Heels played horribly, fell behind by 40-12 in the first half and made a late push that fell short in the 84-68 crusher. Williams (wearing the infamous KU sticker) stayed to watch the Jayhawks win the national championship two nights later, only after Memphis did not foul Kansas with a three-point lead and Chalmers’ dramatic bomb sent the game into overtime.
When the 2012 NCAA brackets came out, Carolina was on another collision course with Kansas in the Midwest Regional, hoping to have John Henson back at full strength from the wrist he sprained in the ACC Tournament. Of course, it got worse after Kendall Marshall went down in the second-round win over Creighton. With back-up point guard Dexter Strickland already sidelined by a knee injury, the Tar Heels were left with freshman reserve Stilman White, who played admirably in the 13-point loss to the Jayhawks in St. Louis.
The committee did it again this season, when it was an even worse scenario for Carolina, which lost two sophomores, one junior and one senior from its 2012 starting lineup that when whole was the only serious threat to Kentucky’s national championship. And the suits sent the Tar Heels to Kansas City (which is like playing Carolina in Greensboro).
By then, UNC had made the NCAA Tournament only due to perhaps Williams’ best coaching job of his 25-year career. Reluctantly, in early February, he scrapped his two low-post offense for a small lineup of four guards and little presence in the paint. The Heels launched and made enough three-pointers to turn their season around and get another NCAA bid, but they went to the Dance living by the long bomb, which was enough to give Williams the hives.
And, yes, they died that way, shooting barely 30 percent for the game and giving in to Kansas’ best half of the tournament thus far. So Carolina under Williams is 0-3 against KU and Self. And, since they will never play in the regular season by mutual consent, it will stay that way until the next time they meet in the NCAA tournament.
With at least five guys 6-9 or bigger next season, Williams will go back to the way he likes to play and, sooner or later, he’ll see his old school again. The NCAA committee seems to like that kind of theater for TV.
Even though, as of this moment, we hate it.
All photography in Hoop It Up is provided by Todd Melet.http://chapelboro.com/ford-corners/kansas-kansas-kansas-ugh/
Win or lose tonight in Cameron, Carolina has to give Duke a game. The Tar Heels cannot knuckle under to an early tsunami as they did at Miami Saturday and during certain halves of certain games earlier in the season.
The tradition of the rivalry demands it, regardless of how mismatched the teams might be. Heck, in 1972 – the day Duke Indoor Stadium was renamed for Eddie Cameron – the BAD Blue Devils (7-6 at the time) upset a third-ranked Carolina team that would win the ACC championship and reach the Final Four. They did it by hanging tough against a far more talented opponent until reserve Robbie West came off the bench to hit a 15-foot push shot to win it at the buzzer. West (like Fred Lind, another sub who keyed a triple overtime win against UNC in 1968) has remained part of Duke Basketball lore ever since.
Then came those two games in 1974, both won by the Tar Heels over last-place Duke teams in the ACC. But not before Bobby Jones stole an inbounds pass and laid in the winner at Cameron and a few weeks later Carolina came back from eight points down with 17 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, where the Heels won 96-92 at a delirious Carmichael Auditorium.
Except for Bill Foster’s first three years as Duke’s coach and Mike Krzyzewski’s first three, the rivalry has been amazingly even. Duke had an unparalleled run between 1997 and 2006 of winning the ACC regular season and/or ACC Tournament ever year. Since Roy Williams returned and defeated Duke for the first time in 2005, the Tar Heels won 6 of 7 games, including four straight at “Hansbrough Indoor Stadium.” Duke has had the better of it lately, winning the last 5 of 7 – but that included Carolina blowing a big lead at Cameron in 2011 and losing on the Rivers’ buzzer-beater last season.
You play with who you have, so there should be no excuses. Still, I’m going to make a few. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Duke has lost more than two players to the first-round of the NBA draft after only one season – 1999, Avery, Brand, Langdon and Maggette. It has happened to Carolina twice – 2005 and 2012 – and essentially three times, when you consider Spurs starter Danny Green was a second-round pick in 2009 with first-rounders Ellington, Hansbrough and Lawson. And, while I’m on this, let’s add a little more kerosene to the fire.
Really, who expected Kendall Marshall to go pro after his sophomore year? How much better would the Tar Heels be with Special K at the point and Marcus as his understudy? Want more?
Travis Wear, who left Chapel Hill with his twin brother like the Colts left Baltimore, would be a senior starter at UNC this season. Instead, he’s a 6-10, 230-pound red-shirt junior for mediocre UCLA, where coach Ben Howland is pretty much gone after the season, playing 30 minutes a game, shooting 53 percent (FG), 40 percent (3P) and 80 percent (FT) and averaging 5.5 rebounds and 11.1 points a game. How much better would he be here as THE low post guy?
And how about Alex Oriakhi, the 6-9, 240-pounder who was allowed to leave UConn and play somewhere else right away after the Huskies went on probation for this season. That somewhere was supposed to be UNC before Missouri’s Frank Haith swooped in and signed Oriakhi, who has started all 23 games for Mizzou, shoots 58 percent from the field and 80 from the foul line while averaging 11 points and just under nine rebounds.
Imagine the Tar Heels strutting into Cameron tonight with two or three (or, hell, even one) of those guys. But that’s not the case and, to be fair, Duke is playing without Ryan Kelly and may not get him back at all this season. Two years ago, the Blue Devils lost Kyrie Irving after a few games all the way to the NCAA Tournament. And after last year, they lost Austin Rivers, whose game-winner in Chapel Hill made him an otherwise-undeserving legend of the rivalry. Remember, a healthy Carolina team avenged that loss with an 18-point pounding the last time the arch rivals played in a game that wasn’t that close.
So the teams aren’t that even this time around. They weren’t back in 2010, when Duke exorcised those four straight home losses with a dreadful drubbing. And they weren’t even the other way in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, when Foster and Coach K were living in the shadow of the Dean.
Both emerged, yes thankfully, and the rivalry continues as the only relevant games of a regular-season diminished by the rush for an NCAA Tournament berth and conference realignment. Even Coach K, who turns 66 today, said it in one of only two mid-season press conferences he holds each year. He acknowledged, like his old rival Smith, he’ll be gone some day and so will ol’ Roy.
“What will remain?” he asked rhetorically. “Duke and Carolina.”
So tonight is the 235th edition and though one team is heavily favored, history has proven that either team could win.
Unfortunately, Carolina has to dance with who it’s bringing, which is short on just about everything but offensive rebounding and occasionally hot three-point shooting. But , win or lose, let’s give ‘em a good fight.
Please don’t be wall flowers.
Looks like it’s another Year of Living Dangerously. In other words, expending our energy rooting against Duke.
We’ve had these seasons before (i.e., 2010), although rarely. When our own basketball team is so young or weak (literally) or mediocre that it is not a safe use of our emotions to pull FOR the Tar Heels as it is to root AGAINST Duke. After losing their second straight ACC game to open 0-2, the Tar Heels obviously are not going very far in the unlucky ides of March ’13. So why not channel our frustration and anger where it can be better utilized: trying to keep the Blue Devils from winning another national championship.
Look at Thursday night’s home loss to Miami on paper, and I don’t mean the stats. The Hurricanes’ roster of 13 players has 10 seniors and juniors. And one of the seniors has been trolling South Beach for five years, another is on the six-year plan! So, as a shell-shocked Roy Williams said after the 68-59 defeat, a lively near-capacity crowd in Carolina blue at the Smith Center wasn’t going to make any waves with the well-seasoned ‘Canes. And their biggest and maybe best player, center Reggie Johnson, didn’t even suit up!
Meanwhile, if there was no such thing as the NBA, John Henson would be a senior, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall juniors. James Michael McAdoo wouldn’t be lost somewhere between post player and small forward and the rest of the Tar Heels wouldn’t be so upset after only the second time in 16 years (including the completely forgettable 8-20 season) that the Tar Heels opened 0-for-2 in the ACC. History buffs have to go back to 1997, Dean Smith’s last season on the bench, to find an 0-3 ACC start. But that team had future pro names Carter and Cota and Antawn and Shammond and seven-footer Serge who wasn’t afraid to go under the basket and throw someone around. (By the way, that team righted itself by winning 16 straight games, cutting down the ACC Tournament nets and reaching the Final Four. Footnote, don’t make your travel plans for Atlanta this season).
That Tar Heel team also had a couple of guys who went out early (Vince and AJ) but not until the next year. When was the last time Miami lost someone prematurely to the NBA? Hell, the Hurricanes’ greatest player ever — Rick Barry — not only stayed four years, he married the coach’s daughter!
After the game, ol’ Roy continued his flimsy reasoning about his players not transferring what they do on the practice court to the game floor. Listen, if your first seven or eight aren’t up to Tar Heel standards, they are in jeopardy of building false confidence trying to get better against worse players. So, it’s like a cat chasing its tail. Whatever success McAdoo has against Joel James and Jackson Simmons in practice isn’t going to help much when Miami’s 6-11, 242-pound senior and future pro Kenny Kadji is shooting his herky-jerky jumper over them or steamrolling down the lane for a slam. Or keeping guards Deron Scott, Rion Brown and Shane Larkin (The U’s only sophomore) from making 6 of their team’s other 9 treys.
And when the pressure of a tight game over the first 30 minutes grabs them by the throat, their three best players — McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J Hairston — fire up enough bricks to start a small house and wind up missing 23 of their 37 shots that contributed to the fatal five-minute stretch in which the Tar Heels managed only three points and went from a tie game to watching the crowd head for the Chapel Hills early. This was such a bad ending that the team gets penalized with one practice before a quick trip to Tallahassee where the Seminoles smacked a much-better Carolina club by 33 just about a year ago.
As ugly as the numbers were, they do show HOPE for the future, but probably not this season that will be fortunate to end with a low seed to the NCAA Tournament. In fact, I now have to agree with some Duke dufus who called a local talk show Thursday and said the Heels aren’t going dancing in March. Maybe he’s not such a dumb Duke dufus after all. While senior Dexter Strickland was struck with a zero line in 26 minutes (check the box score if you dare), skinny but skilled freshmen Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and J.P Tokoto put together their best collective game and helped the Heels stay alive until the dreaded drought down the stretch. Brice’s basket, Tokoto’s tap-in and Paige pretty three from the top of the key kept Carolina in it before it began to counter pressure-packed clangers with Miami’s wide-open 3’s born from defense that hopefully did not translate from practice. Surely they don’t work on staying with the double team so long that the pass recipient gets the ball, looks down at the three-point line to make sure his toes are clearly behind the stripe before draining one of five treys that buried the Heels in the second half.
No, they did not have the injured Lesley McDonald, which gave more minutes to Strickland, Bullock and Hairston, who were all either near tears in the locker room or non-communicado with the media. They all know they have a lot work to do before the flight to FSU and so little time to do it. Meanwhile, two hours prior to the Saturday 2 p.m. tip-off, No. 1 and undefeated Duke plays at No. 20 and offensively gifted N.C. State in Raleigh, a game pitting clearly the two best teams in an otherwise-average ACC this season.
The Blue Devils will be without starting senior forward Ryan Kelly (injured foot), so the Year of Living Dangerously could actually be fun since the Wolfpack should be favored in the game. And State might win, which wouldn’t be a bad way too start would could be another terrible afternoon in Tallahassee.
You can follow Art on Twitter @ArtChansky
What it did have was a 5-freshmen class headed by Tyler Hansbrough, who turned out to be the most decorated Tar Heel in history – the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, four-time All-ACC first-teamer and pretty much a consensus All-American his entire career. He was also a leader nonpareil.
So with Psycho T stirring that drink, it is now easy to see why the 2006 Tar Heels shocked the world by going 23-6 overall, 12-4 in the ACC including the first of four straight wins at Cameron Indoor Stadium before bowing out to Cinderella George Mason in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The 2010 team is not fondly remembered for the way it played the last half of the season but, going in, it had higher expectations than the 2006 team. Huh? Yes.
It was young, too, with only two senior scholarship players and 9 freshmen and sophomores. But, relatively, it had a lot more experience than the 2006 team.
Deon Thompson was a returning starter from the 2009 champs. Ed Davis was the ’09 sixth man who, supposedly, could have been a lottery pick had he gone out, too, after his freshman year. Marcus Ginyard, who missed most of the 2009 season, allowing Danny Green to emerge as a star, was back and counted on to join Thompson as the heart and soul of the net-cutting leftovers.
Ginyard never regained any offensive touch, but junior Will Graves turned in a solid season, starting 34 of 36 games as the team’s third-leading scorer and rebounder and its best regular from the 3-point line.
The team was 12-4 at one point, but after blowing a big lead at College of Charleston, went 8-13 the rest of the way, missed the NCAA tourney completely and drove Williams to the brink of suicide even though it did somehow reach the championship game of the NIT. Hardly any consolation there.
Looking back, with more objectivity, what happened to that team is pretty clear. Thompson and Davis seemed like formidable post players, especially with sophomore Tyler Zeller and the Weird freshmen (twins Travis and David Wear, actually). But Davis, the leading scorer and rebounder at the time, missed the last 14 games, Thompson never stepped up to be a tough guy in the paint and sophomore Zeller was still filling out. Larry Drew II was the point guard everyone relied on, unreliably so. Drew II was gone less than a year later, and the Weirds went even sooner.
Williams rebuilt quickly, once the 2010 nightmare ended and the new freshman class arrived. John Henson, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland looked less lost as sophomores and while Graves’ career ended prematurely with a suspension it allowed Williams to settle on a lineup that eventually won two ACC regular season titles and reached the Elite Eight game each year.
The 2012 team, like the ’05 and ’09 national championships, stayed in the top five and only untimely injuries to Henson and Kendall Marshall kept Carolina from what might have been a dream Monday night match-up with eventual national champion Kentucky. Despite not winning it all or even reaching the Final Four, three Tar Heels opted for the NBA draft and joined senior All-Everything Zeller as first-round picks.
So how does what’s left stack up against the smoldering ruins of the 2005 and 2009 national champions?
And while there are no sure-shot pros (except maybe McAdoo) to compare with Hansbrough and Green from 2006 and Davis, Henson and Zeller from 2010, there is plenty of room for ample contributions from the young’uns.
P. J. Hairston will get plenty of minutes, more if he can improve on his dismal 3-point shooting as a freshman. You will love sophomore Luke Davis, a secret weapon transfer from Gardner Webb (hope Davis doesn’t go to the wrong bench tonight) who will share point guard duties with freshman lefty Marcus Paige. And Desmond Hubert will get his shot in the post rotation.
Besides Paige, the other frosh will have to play perhaps before they are ready. Joel James, at 6-10 and a slimmed down 260, is the eventual hope inside, while the much-leaner Brice Johnson has a ways to go. J.P. Tokoto, a 6-5 athlete still learning to play basketball, could be a wild card as a possibility at the 4 spot along with Hairston when Williams decides to “go small” as they say.
Though no one has said anything, my guess is the lineup that runs out to the drum line tonight will be Paige, Strickland, Bullock, McAdoo and James. But at least five others will get significant minutes. The expectations should be tempered while a young team figures it out, but this is Carolina Basketball and last year did not end the way the previous two seasons of mass exodus did. That will make fans more anxious to be good sooner.
The first game with Duke is a lucky 13 weeks away. So there is plenty of time.
Obviously, the first question was about Williams’ health, and he revealed some details of the scary 24-day period when there was a “95 percent chance” he had cancer in one or both kidneys.
Williams said he suffered from heartburn discomfort over the summer and, after his regular check-up and two X-rays, was told he had a mass in his right kidney that was likely cancerous. Surgery was scheduled for September 20, and Ol’ Roy went on a pe-arranged golf trip with his Foxhole Buddies.
“I’ve always said when I croak, I want to birdie the last hole I play and then keel over,” he joked, adding that he had a short birdie putt on the final hole of the trip and was torn over making it. He missed and admitted being relieved.
As we know now, the mass was benign, an oncocytoma that looks like a cancerous renal carcinoma in most x-rays and scans, and is not in only 3-7 percent of cases. That increased the chances that tumor in his left kidney was also benign, which it turned out to be after a biopsy taken two weeks later.
“The doctors said I was a lucky guy,” Williams sighed, “and I already knew that. I’ve always said I have lived a charmed life.”
For now, Williams is working 4-5 hours a day but pledges to be at full strength by the season so he “can coach this team.” That’s what he promised his players when he gave them the dire diagnosis, and while he still plans to coach 6-10 more years he also said the experience has “changed me, and I will try to smell the roses a lot more.” The time with his family during the ordeal was especially poignant.
Mike Krzyzewski called three times, Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik sent ice cream and Williams received well-wishes from dozens of other coaches and hundreds of fans. That story over, Williams was eager to talk about his young team which lost 4 of the top 17 players drafted by the NBA in 2012 and will be one of the youngest he’s ever had at point guard and in the middle.
He likes 6-foot freshman Marcus Paige, who wears No. 5 and is a lefty, which are the only similarities to departed assist-meister Kendall Marshall. But the “little rascal” is expected to be Carolina’s floor leader when the season opens against Gardner Webb on November 9. Williams also promised fans will love freshman center Joel James, who is 6-10 and slimmed down from 310 pounds to 270.
“He only started playing as a sophomore in high school and he’s had less basketball instruction than any player I’ve ever had,” Williams said. “But I told him Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Apparently the upside, like James, is enormous.
In between kidneys and coaching, Williams spent about 10 minutes answering Kane, who seems bent on extending the academic scandal from the football program into basketball and other sports at UNC. Kane asked Williams if he knew why some of his players had been in the so-called aberrant AFAM classes before 2009 but none since. “Did you find out something?” Kane said.
Williams had been briefed that Kane was there and remained patient with his answers, repeating that “some mistakes were made” but he has been proud of what the university does academically since his days as a student there.
Asked about the scandal for months, Williams maintains that he’s not as concerned with what courses his players take as if they attended class, do the work assigned and get a passing grade. That hasn’t been good enough for Kane, who sees this as some kind of conspiracy to help athletes.
I spoke with him afterward and, acknowledging that Chancellor Holden Thorp has admitted classes were not taught as described in the UNC catalogue and has fired at least five people over it, wondered did Kane get the distinction Williams has been making. Kane wouldn’t answer; guess he likes asking better.
He was defensive, understandable while chasing such an unpopular story in a room full of sports media, but Kane reiterated that these classes were “bogus” and some athletes were in them. Clearly, he was not satisfied with the steps UNC has taken to correct what Thorp described as certain students being “cheated out of a Carolina education.”
But not necessarily cheating. Kane would not tell me where he went to college, as I tried to determine if he understood that the problems at UNC are not only endemic to athletics but to college life in general. Most students find the crip courses and easy teachers and they cluster in those classes, whether athletes, fratty baggers or dorm rats. Who among us hasn’t taken at least one of those courses?
Students find them from other students and, sometimes, from their academic advisors. Now, they can find them on the Internet.
Athletes find them from other athletes and, yes, may have been steered toward them by their advisors. Especially athletes who come in as academic exceptions and need help to make progress toward graduation and stay eligible. It happens at Carolina, N.C. State and even at Duke, believe it or not!
It is Dan Kane’s job to stay on the story, but given how Carolina has responded, canned the culprits and made the changes, it is fast becoming a non-story that has hurt a university’s reputation far beyond what is deserved. If you want to say something stinks, it’s the moneyed pressure of big-time college athletics.
Even Kane implied the story was likely at a dead end because many of those so-called bogus classes did not meet more than once and assigned students to write papers to turn in at the end of the semester.
“Do you know what the retention rule for keeping those papers is?” Kane asked. “One year.”
In other words, Governor Martin and the similar committees investigating past academic transgressions aren’t going to find any proof of anything. And the university is doing what it should be doing – fixing the problems and moving on.
Sorry, sports fans, it’s no longer about the name on the front of the uniform. It’s about the name on the back. That has been the case in professional sports since free agency began, but now it has become endemic to college basketball as well.
And who can blame the kids? Look at the numbers for the first round of the 2011 NBA draft:
|Selected||Guaranteed Rookie Salary||Selected||Guaranteed Rookie Salary|
|No. 1||$5,305,080||No. 16||$1,696,920|
|No. 2||$4,746,480||No. 17||$1,611,960|
|No. 3||$4,262,520||No. 18||$1,531,440|
|No. 4||$3,843,000||No. 19||$1,446,440|
|No. 5||$3,480,120||No. 20||$1,404,000|
|No. 6||$3,160,800||No. 21||$1,347,320|
|No. 7||$2,885,520||No. 22||$1,293,840|
|No. 8||$2,643,480||No. 23||$1,242,240|
|No. 9||$2,563,320||No. 24||$1,192,440|
|No. 10||$2,308,320||No. 25||$1,144,800|
|No. 11||$2,192,880||No. 26||$1,106,880|
|No. 12||$2,083,320||No. 27||$1,074,840|
|No. 13||$1,979,160||No. 28||$1,068,240|
|No. 14||$1,880,280||No. 29||$1,060,560|
|No. 15||$1,786,080||No. 30||$1,052,760|
For that kind of jack, few 19- or 20-year-olds are staying in school, even if they spent a year or two or three with NORTH CAROLINA written across their chests. The two Tylers at Carolina might, as did Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler at Duke. For them, the college experience may have been too rewarding to leave early, or maybe they didn’t need the money as much as most young stars and their families.
But, clearly, the game is changing and only those programs that change with it are going to stay strong or get stronger. Right now, Carolina and Duke look like they are using obsolete plans.
Both have lost one-year players – Carolina Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright, Duke Corey Maggette, Kyrie Irving and probably Austin Rivers. But neither is now restocking fast enough to keep pace, and the Tar Heels or Blue Devils may not be picked to win the ACC next season for the first time in a long time. N.C. State, with young talent already on the roster, is adding more next season.
And it’s not about where a player may be drafted this season; it’s also about where he might go next year if he stays in school. The domino effect forces some kids to go before they may really want to.
In 2005, Sean May and Roy Williams did not have the conversation that Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and later Marvin Williams had with their coach during the regular season. They were all dedicated to winning a first national championship for Coach Williams, but Felton and McCants particularly knew that was also their best route to being high first-round draft picks. Though he never started a game as a freshman, Marvin’s talent and potential were obvious to the pro scouts who had him rated as a first-rounder all season. Meanwhile, May insisted he was staying in school.
Then May got on a roll in late February and March, finishing the regular season with 26 points and 24 rebounds against Duke in the nationally televised finale at the Smith Center. His pro stock kept rising through the NCAA Tournament, where he won the MOP in the Final Four after Carolina beat Illinois.
THEN May and his coach had a conversation. Considering he had come off his first completely healthy season in college and he would be returning to a team without a proven point guard and no other incumbent starters, May wondered how his pro stock could possibly be as high as a senior. So he went out, too, and made Carolina the first team to ever have four lottery picks in the same year.
The Tar Heels recovered quicker than expected after losing their top seven players, mainly because they had an incoming freshman named Tyler Hansbrough, and a top-rated recruiting class the year after. An Elite Eight season (2007) was followed by a Final Four (2008) and another national championship (2009).
Carolina lost four starters from 2009 and the next season missed the NCAA Tournament completely. Fortunately, Williams followed up with two more good recruiting classes and only untimely injuries kept the 2012 team from getting back to the Final Four and perhaps winning another NCAA title.
It may not be as quick of a recovery this time, because the model is changing. Kentucky has proven it can compete for a Final Four berth every season with virtually a new team. The so-called one-and-done high school stars, who only go to college because they have to, are no longer labeled as bandit outcasts.
They are simply basketball players who are not revered because they make good grades, but are star ballers. So that is making it okay for players to watch their draft status through their careers and go when it looks like they can maximize their guaranteed first-round money.
Maybe Kendall Marshall doesn’t go out this year if all three of his fellow starters weren’t leaving, threatening his perceived value on a less-talented team next season. Marshall is this year’s May, climbing the draft board late to the point where he almost had to go.
Harrison Barnes stayed a second season and probably hurt himself, because his limitations were exposed as a sophomore and, despite making first-team All-ACC, leaves as a widely considered overrated player compared to his enormous expectations coming in to college. He needs to be careful about his pre-draft workouts or perceived weaknesses could leave him sitting in the green room until late in the first round. According to the chart above, that could cost him a couple of million bucks.
John Henson could have stayed and perhaps improved his current top 20 draft status next season, but debilitating wrist and ankle injuries during the tournaments surely gave him pause. If he got hurt again, he might have been branded as too fragile for the rigors of the NBA.
Carolina now waits on what would be the most devastating loss, freshman forward James Michael McAdoo, who got to shine ironically due to Henson’s injuries. Many pro scouts think he has the most upside of any Tar Heel player already declaring for the draft.
McAdoo’s departure, which could be announced next week, would leave Carolina with zero experienced big men and a front court of raw sophomore Desmond Hubert and incoming recruits Joel James and Brice Johnson. The Tar Heels may be all right at point guard with incoming freshman Marcus Paige, not quite the passer but a better scorer than Marshall, and Dexter Strickland returning to back him up.
But, clearly, UNC is not seen in the same light as Kentucky, where it’s become a haven for one-year stars on their way to the NBA. Coach John Calipari gets them to play together and showcase their talent, which are both assets put toward winning a national championship and getting drafted early.
Two still-unsigned players who fit that mold eliminated Carolina from their consideration – Las Vegas 6-5 forward Shabazz Muhammad and 6-11 center Nerlens Noel from Connecticut, the top two high school stars in the class of 2012. They will wind up at Kentucky or another school that not only supports one-and-dones, but now actively recruits that path.
Carolina and Duke may have to rethink their recruiting strategy or start overstocking their rosters. Because, in the short run, it’s no longer about the name on the front of the uniform.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/the-name-game/
Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall are perfect examples of why players DO and DON’T make the All-ACC first team in basketball. Barnes was supposed to, Marshall wasn’t.
Carolina’s entire dominating front court made the first team – Barnes, the ACC’s third-leading scorer, John Henson, the top defender, rebounder and shot blocker, and unanimous pick Tyler Zeller, the ACC Player of the Year for his stellar senior season. But Marshall HAD to be in there somewhere.
He’s the best point guard in the ACC and, thus, one of its best five players. He leads the league in assists (299) and will break the single-season record this weekend at the ACC Tournament in Atlanta (currently held by Georgia Tech’s Craig Neal with 303) and assist-turnover ratio. And if you define “most valuable” as the player a successful team can least do without, Marshall is the man for the Tar Heels in a landslide. Imagine them going 27-4 and 14-2, winning the ACC regular season championship, without the lithe lefty. Wouldn’t have happened. Not even close.
Several key factors put players in the “lead” position for All-ACC, and only one of them is actual performance based on statistics.
EXPECTATIONS. Barnes is the classic example of this, because he entered the ACC last year as not only the most-ballyhooed freshman in the conference but also in the country. Cripes, he made preseason first team All-American before he ever played a college game! So the stoic Black Falcon was, and remains, on the fans and voters’ minds and his steady, if not spectacular, play all-season garnered the fifth-most votes and only two ahead of Marshall atop the second team.
Duke’s Austin Rivers, who had the fourth highest number of votes, benefitted from the same expectations coming into college. The door was open for Rivers to take over for Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler as the Blue Devils’ best player, and he brazenly stepped through it. Rivers had a great season and his team played for first place in the last game, but unquestionably the winning shot he made against Carolina on February 8 justified those expectations for a lot of people.
If that shot did not go in, or if Carolina had not allowed it to be the game-winner, Rivers would have wound up on second team. He is the seventh-leading scorer in the ACC but NOT among the top six 3-point shooters or the top ten in 3-point shooting percentage.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE. Virginia’s Mike Scott, who shot the highest percentage in the ACC, became the face of the over-achieving Cavaliers after their fast start. Scott is a terrific inside player, no doubt, but in his two biggest games of the season – losses to UNC – he underperformed because of foul trouble. By then, however, he was already entrenched in the minds of enough voters to make first team, even though Virginia skidded and hung onto the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament by beating eighth-seeded Maryland in overtime on the last weekend.
ASSISTS. Marshall surprised many people by improving his play this season after taking over in February of his freshman year and completely turning the Tar Heels around. Never has a player gotten more raves and reviews and less All-ACC votes. The reason? Marshall excels in the still-unappreciated art of passing the basketball. People see it, the amazing court vision, the pin-point long passes, the drives and dishes that set up his teammates. But, for some reason, passing remains less important to the common fan than putting the ball in the hole, even though the latter cannot happen without the former. The ACC still lists assists as its 13th statistical category, behind 3-point percentage defense!
NBA scouts, who have Marshall high on their mock draft board (along with Barnes, Henson and Zeller), appreciate the skill and know it will translate into a pro career even as Marshall continues to struggle with his shooting.
PUBLICITY. Not as important in these days of viral, 24/7 news dissemination, but an organized publicity campaign can still affect a player’s All-ACC chances. In Carolina’s case, there were simply too many stars to promote, which is why no school has ever placed four on the All-ACC first team and only one other (Duke in 2002) has had three previously.
Rivers benefitted from being the only player on his team with a chance to make the top five in All-ACC voting, so the internal and external notoriety he received helps (his father Doc, the Celtics coach, seen sitting behind the Duke bench at many games did not hurt). Put that together with Rivers’ expectations coming in, his flashy stutter-step drives (on which he often travels) and long-range bombing, and it’s understandable why he made it.
Any voters who sent in their ballots before Saturday night’s game might have changed their first-team, second-team selections after watching Marshall dominate the Blue Devils and Rivers succumb to a ramped-up Carolina defense. As is, the votes weren’t that close, with 13 separating Rivers on the first team from Marshall.
UNC Coach Roy Williams, unwittingly, does not help his players’ chances with his candid, oft-flippant post-game remarks in which he praises them but will then point out a “bonehead” play that kept them from having a near-perfect performance. Ol’ Roy is not that calculating in his comments, but in this case he may have helped draw that fine line between one of his players who made the first team (Barnes) and one who just missed it.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/the-fine-voting-line/