The U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) will be bestowing an annual award that honors the late Dean Smith given “to an individual in college basketball who embodies the spirit and values represented by Smith,” according to the official release Wednesday.
What a marvelous idea, akin to what has been proposed by various people since Smith retired in 1997. UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham told Media Relations Director Steve Kirschner two years ago that such an award should be initiated. Sports Information Director Emeritus Rick Brewer, perhaps the closest person to Smith outside his personal and basketball families, suggested it to sportswriter and former USBWA president John Feinstein at the 2015 ACC Tournament.
When brought up at the organization’s next meeting, it passed “in 30 seconds,” according to current President Pat Forde, who with Feinstein and ESPN.com columnist Dana O’Neil were in Chapel Hill Wednesday to make the announcement. The USBWA has since worked with Kirschner, Cunningham and the Smith family to frame out the parameters of the award that can go to a coach, non-coach, presumably a former player, “both male and female, from all divisions of the NCAA and NAIA.”
There was a lot of joy and sincere sentiment at the press conference, also attended by Smith’s widow Linnea and son Scott. There was also a touch of hypocrisy.
Apparently, any writer with a regular column in print or on-line who pays dues can join the USBWA, which has had hundreds of members since being founded in 1956 and names an All-American Team each year and also gives out annual national awards for Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Courage.
The USBWA has no control over what its members write, and many of them have had UNC in their gun sights for years over the academic scandal. Some have refused to believe the scandal is an aberration of what was long hailed as a model athletic program, the problem started in the old African American Studies (AFAM) department and was taken advantage of by a relatively small percentage of Tar Heel athletes over an 18-year span.
Forde has been one of Carolina’s harshest critics, banging out columns with sweeping accusations and indictments, suggesting that UNC might before due process self-impose penalties like vacating a national title. He was the headline subject of one Tar Heel blog entitled, Pat Forde Can’t Stop Talking About North Carolina’s Academic Scandal. In that piece, Forde said of Marcus Paige, the Academic Player of the Year in college basketball:
“And the brainiac junior also is tasked with being the erudite face of a program that has become a national laughingstock because of an 18-year academic scandal that undercut the school’s previously strong reputation.”
At the time of Forde’s quote, “an 18-year scandal” went back to 1996-97, when Smith was still coaching the Tar Heels. So Forde was asked if getting behind the Dean Smith Award somehow exonerates the Hall of Fame coach from any involvement in the eyes of the USBWA.
“This is independent from the scandal,” Forde said. “It is everything Dean did away from basketball.”
Asked again if this particular honor absolves Smith and we may never see his name mentioned in another story about the scandal (after this one), Forde said, “We wouldn’t put Dean Smith’s name on an award if we did not feel his character deserved it.”
Frankly, the rush to judgment from the ABC posters is to be expected. But from an organization of the best basketball writers in the world, well, that speaks to the sometimes unhealthy competition of the 24-hour news cycle. And it isn’t likely to stop whether the NCAA throws the Tar Heels in jail or says it’s “all good” and let’s P.J. Hairston come back and play his last two years. Either way, the reactions will be strong.
What the scribes say about Carolina Basketball, good and bad, will always go back to Dean Smith because he took a team in rubbles when no one else wanted the job and created a paradigm that every other program in the country, including Duke, sought to emulate. And now it is coached by one of his deepest disciples, a man who credits everything he knows about life and college basketball to his mentor.
So while UNC and the Smith family should be thrilled about this off-the-court recognition, and its charitable association with their Opening Doors Fund, I am happy it is another step in restoring a reputation that Dean Smith helped build.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/arts-angle-does-honor-absolve-smith/
If UNC extending Roy Williams’ contract through 2020 – with a hefty compensation bump – doesn’t speak to the confidence Carolina has about men’s basketball avoiding serious sanctions from the NCAA, then what else can it do?
The Tar Heels don’t want another washout recruiting year while the NCAA process grinds to an interminable conclusion. That Williams and any of his players were not cited in the recent Notice of Allegations and the basketball program was not charged with “academic fraud” has left experts who have studied the NCAA for decades convinced any sanctions against UNC men’s hoops will be light.
In other words, no past victories or championships vacated and no future post-season bans coming. There is no way on God’s green earth that Carolina would have extended Williams if it believed anything to the contrary. Remember, Butch Davis was whacked because he hired John Blake who violated NCAA rules galore.
Williams already lost one 5-star recruit, Kinston’s Brandon Ingram to Duke, over the uncertainty before the NOA came out. Three of the top ten seniors from the high school class of 2016 are from North Carolina – 6-10 Harry Giles (#1) from Winston-Salem; 6-1 Dennis Smith, Jr. (#4) from Fayetteville; and 6-8 Edrice Adebayo (#8) from Pinetown – and all have been offered scholarships by Williams, who can now walk into their homes with more confidence than he had last year when he could barely get anyone to come visit the campus.
Of course, Williams can’t guarantee any of the recruits anything before the Committee on Infractions passes judgment, but Ol’ Roy will be armed with enough documentation that compares Carolina’s NOA to, say, Syracuse’s and NCAA precedent in similar cases that should offset rival recruiters who spend more time talking trash about the Tar Heels than they do pushing their own programs.
That, and his long-term contract extension, should help convince recruits who have UNC high on their list to at least wait until the spring signing period (as Ingram did), by which time the whole NCAA mess should finally be over and done with.
UNC has until August 20 to respond to the Notice of Allegations, and the NCAA has 60 days to respond to the response. That moves us into late October. Then the Committee on Infractions hearing must be scheduled, after which it takes 6-8 weeks for the COI to render its decision. So Carolina should know its fate before the end of the 2016 season and well before the April signing period commences.
Williams has said he would like to coach “6 to 10 more years” and this contract extension brings him to a month shy of his 70th birthday. So he could go even longer. That is not old for coaches these days. Jim Boeheim is already 70. Mike Krzyzewski is 68 and, of course, the ageless Larry Brown is 74 and still fielding contending teams at SMU.
The contract itself, not counting bonuses, looks to be worth more than $2.5 million right now, including what Williams gets from Nike and for his radio and TV shows from Learfield. Keep the team’s APR (Academic Progress Rate) above 975 and just make the NCAA Tournament and that’s another 100k. Win it all and ol’ Roy’s cumulative bonus could max out at $925,000. Including escalators through 2020, Williams will be making well north of $3 million by then, plus bonuses.
If this makes you want to vomit, it is about half of what John Calipari and Rick Pitino earn and not even one-third of what the King of the World takes home from Duke. I agree, it’s an obscene income for the profession, but it’s also the market value for Hall of Fame coaches and, believe it or not, Williams is still at the low end of that particular scale.
As we all know, Ol’ Roy is a good old boy from the mountains who, upon getting the head job at Kansas, kidded that he was making more money than he thought they printed. When he returned to UNC, he told Dick Baddour that he did not want to go backward, meaning just pay him what he was making at KU. That was 12 years ago, and coaches salaries have really gotten out of hand since then.
Making two million and living a pretty frugal lifestyle, Williams only paid attention to his competitors when their deals were all printed up in a USA Today chart or some of his coaching buddies told him he was way behind guys who have never been to a single Final Four (Roy has seven), let alone won two national championships. The Memphis coach, Josh Pastner, was making more than Williams before this latest raise. I know, Josh who?
So as I’ve debated with some people, including faculty members, who believe the whole college athletic thing is out of control, we’re not sure how we got to where we are in Division I. But we’re here, and to be competitive on the field and court, you have to stay competitive in every other way, as well.
[NOTE to the Wolfies who read this site more than their own: Before you start upchucking about taking easy classes to stay competitive, check what kind of cow-dung courses some of your jocks take.]
A friend said recently that last year Williams was recruiting with both hands tied behind his back, and this year it will be only one hand tied. Hopefully, if the timing works out and the recruits agree to wait, not-so-poor Ol’ Roy will be free at last in plenty of time to reload for his next run.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/arts-angle-not-so-poor-ol-roy/
Bill Guthridge, former UNC men’s basketball coach and longtime assistant to Dean Smith, passed away Tuesday night.
Guthridge served as Smith’s assistant coach for three decades. When Smith retired in 1997, Guthridge stepped in to lead the team.
Guthridge served as head coach of the Tar Heels for three seasons. He took the team to the NCAA Final Four twice in his three seasons and was named national coach of the year in 1998, before retiring in 2000.
Guthridge lived in Chapel Hill following his retirement. He was 77.
Listen to WCHL’s Ron Stutts and Freddie Kiger as they remember Coach Guthridge:
Woody Coley walked on to the UNC basketball team as a sophomore and played for Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge through his senior year in 1977. He spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge:
Vince Carter played for Guthridge and shared thoughts on social media:
— Vince Carter (@mrvincecarter15) May 13, 2015
Here’s the full statement from UNC Athletics:
Former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Bill Guthridge passed away last evening (May 12). He was 77 years old.
Guthridge led the Tar Heels to two Final Fours in three years as head coach and was the consensus National Coach of the Year in 1998. He won more games than any college head coach in history after two seasons and tied Everett Case for most coaching victories after three years. He played or coached in 14 Final Fours, more than any person in NCAA history. That includes two as a head coach at Carolina, 10 as a Tar Heel assistant coach, and one each as a player and assistant coach at his alma mater, Kansas State.
“Bill Guthridge was a gentlemen coach, but a fierce competitor, and an incredibly loyal member of Dean Smith’s staff for three decades,” says UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “When it was his turn as head coach, he immediately won an ACC championship and took two teams to the Final Four. I learned very quickly when I came to Chapel Hill how beloved and respected he was by people all across this community. His loss is deeply felt by our university and the basketball world. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Guthridge was Dean Smith’s assistant for 30 years. He joined the UNC staff in 1967 after five years as assistant to Tex Winter at Kansas State. In his 33 seasons at Carolina, the Tar Heels won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993), played in 12 Final Fours, won the ACC Tournament championship 13 times and played in the ACC Tournament championship game a total of 22 times. The Tar Heels finished first or tied for first in the ACC regular season 16 times, finished second or tied for second in the ACC regular season 11 times, and finished third or tied for third in the ACC regular season six times.
He was a part of 867 wins in 33 seasons at Carolina and 960 college coaching victories overall, including 93 wins on the staff at Kansas State. He was on the sidelines for a record 73 NCAA Tournament victories, including 71 at Carolina and two at Kansas State.
The Parsons, Kan., native posted an 80-28 record in three seasons as Carolina’s head coach. Guthridge led the 1998 and 2000 UNC teams to the Final Four. He joined Ohio State’s Fred Taylor as just the second man in history to lead teams to two Final Fours in his first three seasons as a head coach. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1997-98 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award), CBS/Chevrolet, the Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club and The Sporting News. That year, UNC went 34-4 and Guthridge set the NCAA record for wins by a first-year head coach with 34. He directed UNC to the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and was named the ACC Coach of the Year.
He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. He coached 1997-98 National Player of the Year Antawn Jamison and 1998-99 NBA Rookie of the Year Vince Carter, both of whom entered the NBA Draft after their junior seasons. In his tenure at UNC, he coached five National Players of the Year, six ACC Players of the Year, five ACC Rookies of the Year and 28 first-team All-ACC players. He also coached 66 players who were selected in the NBA and/or ABA Drafts.
Guthridge was an assistant coach along with Hall of Famer John Thompson under Dean Smith in 1976 when the United States won the Olympic gold medal in Montreal.
He and his wife, Leesie had two sons, Jamie and Stuart, and a daughter, Megan.
Linnea Smith, wife of Coach Dean Smith, and the Smith family issued the following statement:
Current UNC Basketball Coach Roy Williams offered this statement:
Antawn Jamison was the consensus National Player of the Year in 1998, Guthridge’s first season as head coach. He issued the following statement:
Some students will wait hours in line to see a Carolina-Duke basketball game. And others spend weeks camping in a tent.
Krzyzewskiville hosts some of the craziest college basketball fans out there, the Cameron Crazies.
Since 1986, Duke students have pitched tents outside Cameron Indoor Stadium months before the game.
Senior Anand Raghuraman wasn’t always a Blue Devils fan, but the Seattle native was quickly drawn into the UNC-Duke rivalry.
“There’s so much history to it and you look at all these pump-up, hype-up videos and the crowds just jumping around and people making last minute, game-winning shots,” Raghuraman says.
Raghuraman has tented for three of the four years he’s been a student at Duke. And it’s not until temperatures dive below 25 degrees that the Cameron Crazies are permitted to leave their tents.
“When it’s hovered around 26 or 25… that’s really miserable. You’re just kind of looking at your iPhone and thinking… Oh man… please for the love of God… go below 25. And sometimes it doesn’t and it sucks,” Raghuraman says.
The freezing cold isn’t the only element the Cameron Crazies have to deal with, and sometimes it takes more than just blankets and sleeping bags to protect them from the weather.
“This one day there was a huge wind storm and basically the tent felt like it was going to fall over. And so, we’re all in there and we’re all laughing at the fact that if this thing, we have also this battery in there, and so if the tent catches fire or somehow the battery explodes, we’re all going to die and that would be the saddest thing ever,” Raghuraman says.
The Seattle native wasn’t always a Blue Devils basketball fanatic, so what does his family think about all this?
“My mom tells me everyday… like… what are you doing? I’ve Skyped her a couple times in the tent and she immediately just clicks the off button. She just doesn’t even want to see me in there,” Raghuraman says.
Duke faces off against Carolina Wednesday night and leading up to that game, per tradition, one hundred tents will be lined up outside Cameron Stadium in hopes of punching a ticket to the game.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/cameron-crazies-camp-k-ville/
UNC’s Sasha Seymore is used to winning titles… but not always in basketball. Despite being the senior class president and the recipient of the most prestigious scholarship UNC offers, Carolina basketball player may just be the sweetest title yet.
Seymore: I’ve always dreamed of playing basketball for North Carolina, so to make the team was in and of itself a dream come true. It’s such a special opportunity to put on a Carolina basketball jersey and say I’m part of something that has such a historic legacy.
Seymore played in six games as a walk-on for the Tar Heels before tearing his ACL in a game against Alabama-Birmingham. Seymore’s injury marked the end of his Carolina basketball career.
Seymore: I know there are a million kids out there who have the same dream that I’ve had. There are a million kids that have wanted to play basketball for North Carolina. So to even have gotten this opportunity in the first place is just such an incredible blessing.
Seymore says his injury won’t stop him from setting new goals.
Seymore: I really like setting goals and accomplishing them and I really like going after something so I think this is just another challenge and just another goal. It’s just another thing to overcome. And when I think of it like that, it gives me another thing to beat and I like that.
Whether he’s chasing his goals on the court or in the classroom, Seymore has one motto to live by.
Seymore: I think it’s a little bit cliché to say, “keep following your dreams, never give up on that,” but that’s entirely true. That’s exactly what I did and each step in the process I had this end goal in mind of this is where I wanted to be and this is what I wanted to do. And as long as you keep that in mind, it’s entirely possible to do whatever it is that you want to do.
Seymore will be working abroad in Ireland next semester as the recipient of the Mitchell Scholarship—one of the most prestigious scholarships in the nation.http://chapelboro.com/unc-mens-basketball/seymore-follows-dreams-2/
I guess it’s not too early to ask the question: Will Carolina make the NCAA Tournament this season?
The Tar Heels have missed the Big Dance only once in Roy Williams’ 11 years back in Chapel Hill, and while the current team is much better than the 2010 squad that went to the NIT final, several early season losses have already raised the question.
A disappointing defeat to then-unranked Butler in Nassau and a damaging home loss to Iowa have led to a 6-3 record after nine games, with UNCG in Greensboro Tuesday night and perhaps the most important non-conference game of the season against 12th-ranked Ohio State Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.
The Tar Heels did bounce back from Butler by knocking ranked UCLA and Florida out of the Top 25 to finish fifth in the Battle4Atlantis. And following a blowout of ECTC at home came what might be termed a “good loss” at No. 1 Kentucky because Carolina hung around with the best team in the country for much of the game.
After Ohio State are winnable (and must-win) home games against UAB and William & Mary before the rugged 18-game ACC schedule begins on January 3 at Clemson. That’s why the overall record by then needs to be 10-3 rather than 9-4. It is only a one-game difference, but doesn’t 10-3 sound so much better than 9-4?
College teams always want to have double-digit Ws by the time conference play opens. And the ACC has three teams in the top 10 (Duke, Louisville and Virginia) with Miami and Notre Dame joining UNC at the back end of the polls.
UNC’s home-and-home partners this year are Georgia Tech, Louisville, Duke and N.C. State. The road “singles” are at Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt and Miami, which means the Tar Heels do not give a return game to home opponents FSU, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Virginia.
Dean Smith used to laugh when the late Jim Valvano said his goal was to finish 8-6 in the old 14-game ACC schedule. Smith was amused that Jimmy V was conceding six losses for his Wolfpack. So you will never catch Roy Williams saying his goal is to go 9-9 in league play but, realistically, that’s about what the Tar Heels have to do to get into the 2015 Big Dance.
Beating Ohio State, which has already lost to Louisville, would help the old RPI and mean the Heels defeated three teams that were ranked at the time, albeit all on neutral courts. Those wins are offset by the loss to Butler and the awful performance against Iowa at home. So call Carolina on the bubble right now.
The days of putting on a powder blue uniform and being a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament are long gone due to the balance around the country and a drop-off in Tar Heel talent since their 2009 national championship team. There are no seniors among the current top ten players, which bodes better for next season than this one. And certainly, things have to improve for Carolina to not only earn an NCAA bid but to get one of the top 16 seeds.
Right now, the biggest concern is how discombobulated pre-season ACC Player of the Year Marcus Paige looks while splitting time at point guard and on the wing. He is still the team’s scoring leader, although his average is down three points from last year, and while his shooting stats are about the same, Paige’s assists are also down from his career average to this point.
Paige did light it up versus Kentucky in the second half, draining four three pointers. But he’s having trouble getting the ball in open spaces, and Carolina needs him to score in both halves against the better competition that’s coming.
While the starting bigs are averaging 25 points a game and 16.4 rebounds between them, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have to play even bigger. They are both around the basket, getting their hands on a lot of 50-50 balls, but they don’t snag enough of them and neither finishes particularly strong. If they did, their shooting accuracy would be even higher than Meeks’ 62 percent and Johnson’s 51.
The two players who have to keep elevating their games are junior J.P. Tokoto and freshman Justin Jackson, who log the most minutes on the court behind Paige. The sky-walking Tokoto leads the team with 21 blocks, and Jackson possesses the all-around game to make him a star in the ACC someday.
On paper, that’s a pretty damn good starting five – Paige, Jackson, Tokoto, Johnson and Meeks – with solid minutes coming from Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson and Joel James. It has the makings of a top 10 team, if the Tar Heels can keep their motors running for every minute they are on the court and cut down on turnovers and carelessly committing too many fouls.
State is 8-2 against a typically soft early season schedule and suffered a killer home loss to Wofford. Time is running out for the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels have more time left to prove their worth, but they had better make the most of it.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/arts-angle-already-bubble/
Eight teams. Eight fan bases. Three days. Twelve games. One mega-resort. 3,300 seats. And don’t forget that kooky dancing basketball…
Just what was the Battle 4 Atlantis like, anyway?
All week long, through upsets and nailbiters, as ranked teams fell to confident challengers, people both here in Nassau and back home in America have been commenting about how strong a tournament this has been. But it took a trip to the Caribbean to actually get here, and the Imperial Arena (actually the Imperial Ballroom) isn’t very big. UNC folks were everywhere at the Atlantis – only Wisconsin’s fan base was bigger, and every other team was far behind – but still, this was a pretty tough ticket to get.
So here’s a look at part of what you might have missed – with photos taken (mostly) on Friday before and during UNC’s match with Florida.
The lobby of the Atlantis Resort’s Royal Towers. Just like in the States, the Christmas decorations were out before Thanksgiving.
Heather and Colin of Anthony Travel handled hospitality for UNC fans.
Walking down the long hallway to the Imperial
Things start to get crowded in between games, as one group of fans leaves the arena and another group shuffles in. In this picture you can see a young Wisconsin fan bottom left and a Tar Heel fan there in the center. For those of you keeping score, there were three roughly equal groups of fans at Atlantis: UNC fans, Wisconsin fans, and every other fan base combined.
Waiting just outside the hallway into the arena.
Fans walked down a long hallway into a circular central area, made a right, walked down another long hallway into THIS circular central area, then made a left up there where it says “IMPERIAL ARENA” and entered from there. The arena itself is just on the other side of the wall with the UNC and UCLA banners.
And here’s the entrance to the arena itself. Doors are on the left…
…where the Tar Heels are warming up. Again, what you’re looking at is actually a 50,000-square foot ballroom, so the entire floor is carpeted; the court has been placed on top of the carpet and those bleachers are temporary. (It’s all extremely intimate – imagine Cameron Indoor Stadium with the upper deck removed. They had t-shirt guns for time-outs, but I saw one of the t-shirt gun guys casually underhand a shirt up into the stands – and it made it halfway back.)
This photo’s dark, but this is your view entering the arena – you actually walk behind the back of the bleachers first.
And then you round the corner and see this.
If you happened to catch the games on TV, you probably noticed the unusual lighting. Here’s a shot of the blue lights, as the Heels and Gators continue warming up.
They were handing these out to fans on Thursday. I’m not sure how many people used them; the games were exciting enough as it was.
This guy is Bounce, the official mascot of the Battle 4 Atlantis. I liked him.
On Thanksgiving, Bounce was paired with a second mascot, a man-sized turkey dressed as a Pilgrim. (Not making that up.) It was the most Thanksgiving-y thing I saw all day: Paradise Island really does not feel like a foreign country in any manner – they even accept US currency – but Thanksgiving is not exactly a big holiday there. (Though to be fair, Paradise Island exists to be a tourist destination, so I’m not sure any holiday would feel all that big. Maybe Christmas, I guess, but otherwise it’s just one eternal Saturday.)
Obviously I’m no professional photographer, but here are the pros, seated next to the basket in the middle of the game. See the guy with the dark hair and the mustache right in the middle, holding the big camera? That’s Nick Vitali; he took all the in-game shots for Chapelboro…
…and that was his vantage point when he took this nice shot of Marcus Paige shooting over a Gator defender.
The Tar Heels beat the Gators, 75-64. Afterwards, Coach Williams and the players got a loud ovation from the UNC fans in the hallway outside the arena as they waded their way into the press conference room. “We’re very appreciative,” said Williams after the UCLA game on Thursday, noting just how strong the UNC fan base was in Nassau this week.
I took this picture around 11:00, about an hour after the game was over; numerous Tar Heel players were still out there, signing autographs, shaking hands, and taking pictures with dozens of fans. The Battle 4 Atlantis in a nutshell: players, coaches, and fans all intermingling in the same resort. Total strangers shouting “Go Heels!” and “Go Badgers!” at each other as they passed. Very cool atmosphere.
…and not a bad location either.
The Tar Heel basketball team jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Friday and never looked back, rolling over the No. 16 Florida Gators 75-64 in the final game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
It was UNC’s second win in as many days over a ranked opponent: they also beat UCLA on Thursday after an opening-game loss to Butler.
“We feel better than we did after the first night,” said head coach Roy Williams after the game.
Carolina hounded Florida on defense from the beginning; the Gators didn’t score until almost seven minutes had gone by. Florida’s outside shooting came up short as well: the Gators shot only 6-27 from 3-point range. (The Heels, by contrast, shot 6-12 from beyond the arc.)
By halftime, UNC led 39-23. Florida got as close as 7 in the second half, but never really threatened. The Tar Heels never trailed during the game.
It was a team effort all the way for UNC. Kennedy Meeks led the way with another double-double, 18 points and 13 rebounds (tying his career high for rebounds). Justin Jackson scored the first five points of the game and ended with 12. JP Tokoto and Brice Johnson each added 10, and Marcus Paige chipped in 16.
But UNC struggled against Florida’s full-court press, and the Tar Heels shot only 32 percent in the second half after shooting 58 percent in the first half – points that Williams says give the team something to work on.
Tonight Billy’s press really bothered us,” he said, referring to Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “We turned it over 19 times, and that’s too many to say the least.”
Still, UNC came away with a double-digit win against a ranked opponent. Both Williams and his players gave part of the credit for that to the team’s depth – which allowed the players to stay fresh, even while playing three games in three days.
“Yesterday (against UCLA) I think we (only) had two guys play over 22 minutes,” Williams said. “The depth helped us win the game last night, and I think it helped us get off to a better start tonight.”
JP Tokoto agreed. “In the UCLA game, the guys were really fired up from the Butler loss…(and) for this game it was the same thing as yesterday,” he said. “We knew we had to come out with energy – (and) everyone played three games, so we knew we couldn’t use that as an excuse. Our depth really helped us.”
With the win, UNC moves to 5-1 on the season (2-1 this week in the Bahamas) and takes home fifth place in the Battle 4 Atlantis – a high-level tournament that included four ranked teams plus at least three high-quality unranked teams in Butler, Georgetown and Oklahoma.
“We were exposed to many different things,” Williams said – citing Butler’s physical play, UCLA’s speed, and Florida’s screen on the ball. “Used to be, a tournament would be four good teams and four not-so-good teams. But this is a big time tournament…great tournament, great field, and I do believe it really helped us.”
Wisconsin took home the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis title by beating Oklahoma in the championship game on Friday.
UNC has very little time to relax: they host Iowa on Wednesday back in Chapel Hill, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-rolls-florida-75-64-battle-4-atlantis/
One day after a disappointing loss to Butler, the Tar Heel basketball team changed up its lineup, came out fresh, and rolled to a 78-56 victory over the no. 22 UCLA Bruins on Thanksgiving night in the Bahamas.
Roy Williams started Isaiah Hicks, Joel James, and Nate Britt in place of Brice Johnson, JP Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks. James was a non-factor, but Hicks finished with 10 points on 5-7 shooting – tying the career high he set the day before.
“They pay me a lot of money to make decisions,” said head coach Roy Williams on the lineup switch. “I was ticked off (after the Butler game), I made decisions – and it worked out fine.”
Meeks, Johnson and Tokoto prepare to enter the game after sitting the first couple minutes. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)
UCLA jumped out to an early 7-point lead, but Carolina came back quickly, took the lead, and went into halftime up 43-29. UCLA cut the lead to 9 early in the second half, but the Tar Heels rolled from there, dominating in the paint and hitting outside shots over the Bruins’ zone. Marcus Paige gave Carolina a 17-point lead with back-to-back three-pointers, and UCLA never threatened again.
“We shot the ball better, and we caught UCLA on a night when their shots didn’t go in,” said Williams.
Paige led the way for the Heels with 21 points. Justin Jackson added 12 and JP Tokoto chipped in 10 off the bench.
Marcus Paige battles UCLA’s Bryce Alford for the ball. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)
“We did get a little motivation from our coaching staff” after the Butler game, said Paige. (An understatement, presumably – as a laughing Williams sat beside him.) “I like the way we responded; hopefully we won’t have to have a lot of those teaching points again.”
A night after being out-muscled by Butler, the Tar Heels led the Bruins 34-28 in points in the paint.
The key stat, though, was turnovers. Hounded by Carolina’s defense, UCLA turned the ball over 23 times to UNC’s 11, and UNC capitalized, leading the Bruins 31-6 in points off turnovers.
“For us it’s easy now to see the difference in how we played tonight versus how we played yesterday,” said Paige. “Being unselfish, flying around on defense – that’s a more fun style to play, and when you see the results…why wouldn’t you want to play that way?”
Tokoto electrified the crowd with a big breakaway dunk. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)
In all, ten Tar Heels scored in the game – including Sasha Seymore, who came in late with the Heels up big.
“We play more guys than they do…and so it was important for us to have fresh troops out there most of the time,” said Williams. UNC’s deeper bench meant their players would be better rested in the second half, a big advantage in case the Heels needed a comeback.
On this night, though, they didn’t even come close to needing it.
Meeks and crew celebrate the Tar Heels’ victory. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)
The Heels next face Florida in the fifth-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Friday night at 8 pm. (The Gators narrowly escaped an upset bid by UAB in the late game. Florida and UNC last met in the 2000 Final Four.) Wisconsin and Oklahoma will meet in the final at 4:30.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-bounce-back-beat-ucla-78-56/
Through two games, the UNC men’s basketball team has been coasting. More challenging hurdles await, but for now, the Tar Heels are enjoying a squad equipped with experience and deep in talent.
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“In 1990, I think we averaged 92 per game and shot over 50 percent from the floor. People just couldn’t guard us because we had all guys who could pass and shoot. That was a lot of fun. I just sort of sat over there and clapped. This could be the best offensive rebounding team I’ve ever coached. Now we have to do it,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.
One of the freshmen with boundless potential is Justin Jackson. Jackson has been impressive so far, running the floor with ease and seemingly always putting himself in the right position to make plays.
Jackson recorded 13 points in the Robert Morris romp and says he’s having fun and staying relaxed in the spotlight.
“I just try to have fun with it, play my game and do whatever I need to do to help the team win. I try not to pay attention to all the other stuff out there. I just try to play my game,” Jackson says.
UNC has faced primarily zone defenses to date this season, but Coach Williams is hoping his team’s dominance in the rebounding department can overcome any shooting slumps and in effect, beat all future zones.
“If you aren’t a good shooting team, you better go get your misses. We’ve had some teams that didn’t mind playing against the zone, and people didn’t play zone against us because we moved the ball so well and did a great job on the offensive backboards. That’s what we have to do if we’re not shooting the ball as well as I’d like us to,” Coach Williams says.
Junior forward J.P. Tokoto had 10 assists Sunday thanks to laser-like precision and sharp court awareness.
But Coach Williams says he needs more than just exceptional passing. He needs him to take over the offensive boards.
“He’s really a good passer, period. He’s got size and looks over the defense. He’s really a good passer, but I told him I don’t want him to think he’s the assist man only, because he’s one of the best offensive rebounders I’ve ever coached. We’ve got to get him going to the boards,” Coach Williams says.
Sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks scored 21 points last time out in the Smith Center.
But despite the encouraging performance, Meeks says Coach Williams is pushing the Tar Heels for more – he wants greater intensity on a consistent basis from all of his players.
“Rebounding, effort – he really didn’t use ‘sense of urgency’, but that’s what he meant. I know he talked about it last year a lot. It’s something that’s important to our team,” Meeks says.
Yes, the fourth ingredient to the magic formula for success may yet again be ‘sense of urgency’.
And if the Tar Heels can add a dash of passion to their experience, talent and depth, the sky may very well be the limit for this year’s Carolina squad.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/experience-talent-depth-trifecta-tantamount-tar-heels/