Earth to Art Chansky: It Wasn’t About the Women

Editor’s note: Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook on July 14th was about UNC Coach Sylvia Hatchell. Chansky followed with a longer Art’s Angle on the subject of Coach Hatchell on July 15th. The commentary below is from Mary Willingham and Jay Smith of, and was published to their blog on July 16th, but only in response to the July 14th Sports Notebook. On July 20th, Art Chansky shared his answer to their blog post in a Sports Notebook. Mary Willingham’s commentary can be heard on WCHL in an abbreviated version on July 21st. Below is the full version.

In a recent commentary on WCHL, ardent UNC sports fan Art Chansky revealed his strategy for combating the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations [NOA] against the university’s athletic program: Blame it on the women! Complaining of women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell’s (alleged) behind-the-scenes efforts to lobby for a contract extension comparable to the one recently offered men’s coach Roy Williams, Chansky griped that “an exit strategy should be [Hatchell’s’] play.” After all, Chansky claimed, “Hatchell’s program is in the most serious trouble from the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations,” given the high profile of women’s academic counselor Jan Boxill in the email documentation provided in the NCAA report. The whole NCAA investigation is a “witch hunt” with many victims, Chansky suggested, but the uncomfortable reality for women’s basketball is that “[Roy] Williams’ program was not cited in the NOA and Hatchell’s was.” Hatchell should therefore prepare herself to leave UNC “with grace.”

The propaganda purposes of this particular commentary are obvious even by Chansky’s standards. No team is “cited” in the NOA if by cited one means singled out for likely punishment. As a team and as a program, women’s basketball is cited in the NCAA document no more and no less than any other team or program. (The NCAA’s NOA did note, however, that the “special arrangements” used for eligibility purposes at UNC had particularly benefited “the sports of football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball.”) Chansky, in other words, is only continuing and amplifying the PR drumbeat that Roy Williams, Larry Fedora and others began some weeks ago, presumably at the urging of university lawyers. They have repeatedly announced that the big-time men’s revenue sports would seem to be in the clear and should expect no further punishment from the NCAA. They would have us believe that the NCAA is prepared to give football and men’s basketball a free pass even after the exposure of decades’ worth of fraud that clearly benefited the football and men’s basketball teams. And they are evidently all too happy to point the finger of blame in the direction of a women’s team in order to lower expectations about the sanctions likely to be imposed on the men’s teams.

Leaving aside the gender politics of this shameless PR strategy–will advocates for women’s sports stand by while male coaches, boosters, and UNC insiders labor to persuade the NCAA that the Crowder-Nyang’oro scheme was merely a big plot to help women?–Chansky and company face one very high hurdle in pursuit of their propaganda campaign. A mountain of direct and circumstantial evidence makes clear that UNC’s distinctive pattern of academic fraud was developed specifically to meet the needs of the men’s basketball team, and that the corruption reached its highest levels on Roy Williams’s watch. The first suspect independent study courses offered by Julius Nyang’oro in the late 1980s were offered to men’s basketball players, some of whom had abysmal SAT scores and perilously low GPA’s before they met professor Nyang’oro. Faculty friends in geography, French, and the school of education had been very helpful to the team throughout the 1980s. But when leadership of the AFRI/AFAM department fell into the laps of two allies of men’s basketball around 1990–Nyang’oro and his assistant Debby Crowder, whose close friend Burgess McSwain served as academic counselor for the men in her remote Smith center office–that department quickly became the go-to academic center for struggling (or academically uninterested) men’s basketball players. The fraud would morph into a multi-team and three thousand-student debacle before all was said and done, but men’s basketball was always first in line for favors and fake classes. The needs of men’s basketball always came first in the eyes of Debby Crowder. And the 2005 men’s team, whose roster was stocked with players for whom both McSwain and Crowder felt great sympathy, benefited from unprecedented levels of favoritism. The team as a whole took well over one hundred paper classes; as one would expect, the starters on that team benefited disproportionately from the scam. Star forward Rashad McCants has had the guts to admit this publicly and to show the evidence of the fraud in his own student transcript. His teammates, though quick to denounce him, have kept their transcripts hidden. It is unlikely that anyone else from that team–Sean May, Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Marvin Williams, Reyshawn Terry, Jesse Holley, etc.–will ever step forward with transcripts in hand to have a frank conversation about their classroom experiences. But the truth is in those transcripts.

Chansky, Williams, and the friends of men’s basketball would have the world believe that twenty years of bogus class scheduling was done without the knowledge of anyone actually connected to the men’s basketball program. Coaches (who are paid millions to know everything) supposedly knew nothing. The only academic counselor who was knowingly, inexcusably corrupt, they say, was philosophy instructor Jan Boxill, counselor for the women’s basketball team. This “powerful” figure, they say, corrupted women’s basketball of her own volition. Thankfully, all other counselors were innocent–even if it is unfortunate that they failed to detect the shenanigans of Crowder and Boxill.

The layers of absurdity in this line of argument become hard to distinguish. One might start, however, with the simple fact that Jan Boxill, whatever her flaws, was far more vulnerable than powerful. She was an untenured instructor whose employment at UNC was always partially contingent on her services to the athletic program. She was a highly valuable cog in the machine because of her go-between status and her ability to negotiate academic protocols for counselors who were physically segregated from the main arteries of the campus. But her great value also increased her vulnerability. She was pressured constantly by other personnel in the Academic Support Program to call in favors, to make phone calls, to ask for benefits that were “needed” by athletes with low GPA’s, travel commitments, or other handicaps.

Among the people who leaned heavily on Jan Boxill were the counselors for men’s basketball–first McSwain and then Wayne Walden, Roy Williams’s handpicked deputy who followed him to Chapel Hill from Kansas in 2003. When Roy Williams touts Walden’s ethics, he is not just blowing smoke. Walden was a decent guy who worked within a system that had been built long before he arrived. (Where is he now? Why won’t he and the other counselors step forward to tell their stories?) Walden had a conscience, and he was not happy to have to resort to “paper classes” and wink-wink independent studies courses to help keep certain players afloat. But he also knew what had to be done when push came to shove. Mary Willingham and Wayne Walden spent countless hours together in the old east end zone building talking about how difficult it was to keep challenged players eligible, and how much harder it was to navigate the UNC curriculum in comparison to the Kansas curriculum. (Thank the heavens for Debby Crowder and the few friendly faculty out there…) The course selection process they managed was never about offering players a world-class education; Willingham and Walden worked together–quite often with Boxill’s help, even more often with Crowder’s help–to keep basketball players eligible and in school. They were quite good at it, though Walden was constantly worried about getting Jan or Debby in trouble by asking for favors that would raise red flags. (One reason Boxill had so many emails to be plundered by Kenneth Wainstein and the NCAA: she worked in an office in Caldwell Hall, distant from the ASPSA. Deals, trouble-shooting, and schedule-engineering that were done face-to-face in the ASPSA had to be done through email whenever Boxill was involved. Conveniently for certain other key players in the drama, Boxill’s email was on the main UNC server rather than on the athletic server; her emails could not be expunged.)

Roy Williams has tried to take credit for steering players away from AFAM in 2006-7 (even as he disavows any knowledge of funny business in that department.) But the fact is, the transcripts of the 2009 national championship men’s team look different–with some but far fewer paper classes–only because a new fear of getting caught had set in around 2006. Remember the Auburn scandal and the panic it seems to have caused among ASPSA officials, the Faculty Athletics Committee, and Dean Bobbi Owen (who decreed that the numbers of AFAM independent studies had to be sharply reduced)? The upshot of the Auburn scandal, in the UNC men’s basketball program, was a new caution about cheating. The large-scale, team-wide stuff had to end. Paper classes, Walden decided, should be used only for the athletes who desperately needed them – such as the one guy who “couldn’t read very well.” That particular player, whose needs forged a particularly close relationship between Walden and Willingham (a reading specialist), took between ten and twelve paper classes. That figure–compiled in the years after Roy Williams claims that he cleaned up the basketball program–is significantly higher than the number of paper classes ever taken by ANY women’s basketball player. The number of AFAM majors on the men’s basketball team may have dropped off after 2005, but the need for paper classes remained (for both current and former players), and men’s basketball stayed at the front of the line at least through 2008.

Art Chansky and company are desperately trying to persuade the NCAA and the public at large that UNC’s course fraud scam was all about helping the women’s basketball team. Chansky urges Sylvia Hatchell to play sacrificial lamb for a UNC athletic department that benefited broadly and egregiously from academic fraud that unfolded over twenty years. The NCAA has all the emails, with all the unredacted names, and so one can assume that the Committee on Infractions will be able to hold up against the propaganda winds. But regardless of what the NCAA does or does not do, people of good conscience in and around UNC must not allow the dreams of Chansky, Williams, and Fedora to come true. Collective amnesia is not an option in Chapel Hill. Owning the reality of the scandal is important because only after accepting the true dynamic of the academic-athletic scandal–only after Tar Heels have come to terms with the fact that our love of men’s basketball and our passionate commitment to winning fostered an uncontrollably corrupt academic environment here–will the institution be able to move on with open eyes, a clean conscience, and a healthy plan for the future.

Chansky asks Hatchell to leave with “grace.” But grace has never been about willful blindness, nor should it be about taking one for the team. “Was blind but now I see,” goes the beloved lyric. Those touched by grace are not asked to go into exile; they are reconciled to a higher power and beckoned to a welcoming place (“grace will lead me home.”). Asking Sylvia Hatchell to go away is not the answer to UNC’s disgrace. The institution should instead be asking for its own gift of grace—the gift of clear-sighted reconciliation with the sins of its past.

One Last ‘Crack’ For Roy Williams, Tar Heels

A Sweet 16 exit wasn’t all that sweet for the Tar Heels in 2015, but with nearly everybody returning for another go next season, expectations will be extraordinarily high, even for Carolina’s lofty standards.

***Listen to the story***

It was certainly an up-and-down season for UNC on the hardwood.

Nagging injuries and a lack of consistent, reliable outside shooting didn’t help the Tar Heels out any either.

Kennedy Meeks battling inside (Daily Tar Heel)

Kennedy Meeks battling inside (Daily Tar Heel)

But off the court, it was especially difficult for Roy Williams, who lost his longtime mentor and Carolina basketball patriarch, Dean Smith.

However, Coach Williams says his players helped him overcome the adversity.

“I’d still coach my kids. They’ve been something else for me this year. It’s been a hard year, but man, they’ve been some great kids,” Coach Williams says.

Rising senior Marcus Paige says the team’s camaraderie is better than ever.

“It was a tough year for us as a program with everything that happened. But we have a great group of kids that enjoy being around each other – more so than my freshman year, more so than last year,” Paige says.

That ‘special’ bond between teammates bodes well for Carolina going forward, especially in a year that anything short of a Final Four would be considered a disappointment.

In fact, has UNC ranked No. 1 nationally in its early preseason projections.

Roy Williams will be ready to give it his all next season (UNC Athletics)

Roy Williams will be ready to give it his all next season (UNC Athletics)

Despite not landing long sought-after recruit, Brandon Ingram, Coach Williams did manage to lure four-star player Kenny Williams away from Virginia over the weekend.

Williams is known as a sharpshooter from behind the arc. That’s an area the Tar Heels desperately could use some help. Taking some of the long-range scoring burden away from Paige and ever-improving rising sophomore Justin Jackson could pay off big-time.

Nobody knows that more than Roy Williams, who’s fired up and even ready to lay down his golf clubs, sensing the team is close to championship quality.

“I love golf. I love it, but right now I could care less. I want them to use this as fuel. The little lapses we mentioned – a failed box-out here, a missed free throw there. If we can take care of those little lapses, we’ve got a chance to be one of those teams that has a chance to talk about winning the whole thing,” Coach Williams says.

Back for his fourth and final year in a Carolina uniform, Paige says the Tar Heels will put the summer months to good use – to polish up their games and grow even closer together.

“College goes so fast. You only get four cracks at it. For the guys that do get to come back next year, we’re going to try to come together even more as a team, execute better and try to make something special happen,” Paige says.

In this ‘one-and-done’ era of college basketball, the Tar Heels will attempt to buck that trend next season, relying on a roster ripe with experience, talent and maybe most notably, hunger.

Tar Heels To Headline Veterans Classic At The Naval Academy

The North Carolina men’s basketball team will tip off next season by paying respect to the troops. The Tar Heels will join Temple, Florida and Navy at the Veterans Classic, held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

UNC will face off against Temple on Nov. 13 in a game that will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.

But it won’t all be about basketball for the Tar Heels. The team will have the chance to tour the Naval Academy and immerse themselves in the culture and tradition of the midshipmen.

“It’s a tremendous honor for Carolina Basketball to visit the Naval Academy and play in an event that pays tribute to the brave men and women who safeguard our country,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says. “Four years ago we were privileged to play on an active aircraft carrier; we are again blessed with the opportunity to learn more about life at the Academy. Our players, coaches and staff certainly will have an unforgettable experience.”

Carolina will be facing Temple for the first time since the NCAA Tournament East Regional final in 1991. UNC won that contest 75-72 to advance to the Final Four.

Brandon Ingram ‘Creating Own Path’, Chooses Duke

Brandon Ingram, the No. 3 player in the basketball Class of 2015, chose Duke as his college destination Monday evening inside the Kinston High School gymnasium.

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For the Tar Heels, the decision hurts. UNC had recruited the five-star recruit heavily since his freshman year in high school.

ingram 4

Brandon Ingram sporting a Duke hat Monday (WITN)

But alas, Ingram will be playing for the national champions this fall, wearing a darker shade of blue.

Ingram says he’s ‘creating his own path’ in his basketball journey.

He made that statement loud and clear to the college hoops world when he slapped on a dark blue Blue Devil hat inside a packed gym lined with throngs of fans and media members.

UNC appeared to have the leg up on the competition in the Ingram Stakes. Roy Williams and the UNC coaching staff had him targeted for years. The Tar Heels also had the built-in advantage of former UNC players Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock hailing from Kinston – Ingram’s rural hometown.

Ingram had been talking to both and appeared destined to make his way to Chapel Hill. But instead, with the weight of the ominous NCAA cloud still hanging over Carolina, its most hated rival, Duke, swept in and grabbed the 6’ 8” talent at the eleventh hour.

Ingram with the slam dunk (Smith Hardy)

Ingram with the slam dunk (Smith Hardy)

But former Tar Heel great Phil Ford says deciding on a school to play ball is always a difficult decision, and it’s one each player must make for himself.

“It’s not a science in picking the right school. It’s just one of those things that you have to go with your heart. Follow your heart,” Ford says.

Yes, Ingram may be following his heart down the road to Durham, but that doesn’t make it sting any less for the Tar Heels.

Following his son’s announcement, Donald Ingram told the media the ongoing NCAA investigation ultimately killed UNC’s chances.

And his son doesn’t disagree. Brandon Ingram confirmed what had been a long-held belief by many – sans the NCAA cloud; he would have been wearing Carolina blue.

UNC has given out 13 offers to the class of 2015. Eleven of those players have opted for other schools – only Kenny Williams and Jaylen Brown remain.

The Rammys: Top Tar Heels Honored, Spiffy Uniforms Unveiled

The best and brightest in Carolina athletics were recognized Monday night inside Carmichael Arena. Once again, the blue carpet was rolled out for The Rammys and this time, new uniforms came with it.

It was a star-studded evening full of memories, highlights and laughs.

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The new-look Rammy trophy designed by former UNC gymnast Zoya Johnson (UNC Athletics)

The new-look Rammy trophy designed by former UNC gymnast Zoya Johnson (UNC Athletics)

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham took to the Alexander Julian argyle-themed stage to highlight the community, athletic and academic achievements of the last year.

Kennedy Meeks in action (Nick Vitali)

Kennedy Meeks in action (Nick Vitali)

Jones Angell, the Voice of the Tar Heels, quipped a few jokes in his emcee duties and sophomore men’s basketball forward Kennedy Meeks brought the house down with his rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

The famous Chapel Hill IP3 pizza was delivered to the hungry audience and the UNC coaches got their groove on to the popular song ‘Shake It Off.’

But through it all, the glittering gold Rammy trophies were the most coveted prize for the hundreds of Tar Heel student-athletes in attendance.

Male Breakthrough Athlete went to UNC football walk-on Mack Hollins, who came out of nowhere to electrify the Kenan Stadium crowd last fall.

Mack Hollins burst on the scene in 2014 (

Mack Hollins burst on the scene in 2014 (

His female counterpart was star volleyballer Ece Taner, who grabbed the gold for her outstanding contributions to Joe Sagula’s ACC championship-winning team.

The awards for ACC Scholar Athletes went to field hockey’s Loren Shealy and senior baseball pitcher Benton Moss.

Benton Moss (UNC Athletics)

Benton Moss (UNC Athletics)

Freshman hoopster Justin Jackson took home the Rammy for Outstanding Newcomer, while teammate Marcus Paige earned Best Play honors for his thrilling buzzer beater against Louisville.

Best Upset went to the men’s lacrosse squad. Coach Joe Breschi’s bunch is currently ranked in the top five in the nation.

The night’s biggest winners, however, were tennis phenoms Jamie Loeb and Brayden Schnur. Each took down the top prize as Most Outstanding Athletes.

2015 UNC Football uniforms (UNC Athletics)

2015 UNC Football uniforms (UNC Athletics)

But the biggest news of the night may have been the unveiling of the new #OurBlue Nike uniforms. In an effort to rebrand and add consistency to the uniforms of all 28 sports, UNC teamed with Nike to release the new gear.

“We are excited to once again partner with Nike, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, to help us refresh and refine our marks and logos,” AD Bubba Cunningham says. “The changes are subtle, but they celebrate our history and create consistency as we further seek to distinguish our brand.  This is our blue and we’re proud of it.”

UNC Junior Forward J.P. Tokoto Heads For NBA

Roy Williams was hoping for no surprise departures heading into next season. So much for that.

In a shocking announcement, UNC junior forward J.P. Tokoto told Yahoo! Sports Wednesday that he has elected to forgo his senior year at Carolina and instead, declare for the NBA Draft.

Tokoto, an All-ACC first-team defender for the Tar Heels, says he won’t initially sign with an agent, giving him the opportunity to withdraw from the June draft prior to the April 26 early entry deadline. But regardless, Tokoto’s intentions are clear – to play in the NBA next season.

With a first round pick looking highly unlikely, the decision becomes all the more surprising.

“Going in, I know I’m not a first-round pick,” Tokoto says. “I know my jumper needs work, and I’m putting in that work now – and will keep doing it. My jumper is something that has me as a second-round pick right now, but I have a mindset of work to improve the form and range of my shot.”

Widely regarded as one of the best athletes in the ACC, Tokoto struggled at times, with his turnovers and jump shots.

“I know that my athleticism, my ability to finish in the open floor and especially my defense, getting deflections, making it hard on offensive players, those are things that [teams] will see right away from me,” Tokoto says.

Carolina was projected to be a preseason top-five team going into next season with every starter returning to action, but Tokoto says leaving Chapel Hill will give him the best chance to develop his game.

“I feel like there can be a lot more to me as a player, more than just the defensive player who can occasionally dunk the ball,” Tokoto says. “I know I can be so much more, but I’m not sure that I’m pushed to be that much more [in college].

“I want to focus on my game, working with trainers and pro coaches over the summer and next year. I think that’ll give me the best chance to grow than staying in school and being that player that fit into the mold of my first three years [at Carolina].”

Roy Williams Adding “Fuel” To 2016 Final Four Push

The North Carolina men’s basketball team couldn’t progress past the Sweet Sixteen in an up-and-down season that ultimately ended short of its hopeful final destination – Indianapolis for the Final Four. But with nearly every key player likely to return for next season, optimism reigns here in Chapel Hill.

***Listen to the story***

It’s both the tragedy and the thrill of March Madness. The single elimination format leaves no room for error. The realization that accompanies the finality of the end of a journey and with it, the pursuit of a national championship, can be hard to come to grips with – even for Roy Williams.

Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige should be returning for another shot in 2016

Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige should be returning for another shot in 2016

“The most difficult time as a coach is what to say to the kids after the last game when you lose. I feel so inadequate because there’s nothing I can say that will erase what just happened. There’s nothing I can say to make it go away. It’s not like golf – you don’t get a mulligan or anything like that,” Coach Williams says.

There’s an ultra-fine line between winning and losing – the Tar Heels know that all too well.

For the majority of their postseason contest with Notre Dame in the ACC championship game and their Sweet Sixteen showdown with Wisconsin, the Tar Heels seemingly were in control. But the rug was pulled out from under them with ruthless intention in the waning moments.

“The last three weeks, we played pretty good basketball. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to play by any means, but we played pretty good basketball. In the Notre Dame game, you take away three minutes, we win the ACC Tournament. In the Wisconsin game, you take away three minutes, we win that game,” Coach Williams says.

The sting of defeat can motivate. Coach Williams says he hopes Carolina can parlay the disappointment into a determined effort in summer workouts.

“I hope it hurts our guys as much as it does me. If it does that, we’ll work our butts off this summer, I can tell you that,” Coach Williams says.

The 2014-2015 Tar Heels finished their campaign with a 26-12 record that included an 8-3 mark on neutral courts.

But for UNC’s lofty standards, that’s nothing special. But that hasn’t dulled Coach Williams’ close-knit relationship with his players.

“I did enjoy this team. We didn’t have any knuckleheads. There was always one being a knucklehead, but it wasn’t a team full of knuckleheads. I enjoyed being with them. They’re really good kids. I have two grandsons. Everybody on my team I could say, ‘Watch these two little boys; I’ll be back in two hours.’ I would feel really comfortable,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams will begin his end-of-year one-on-one meetings with his players Wednesday. He’s crossing his fingers for no surprises.

Carolina will hope to celebrate more often next year (UNC Athletics)

Carolina will hope to be celebrating more often next year (UNC Athletics)

For the first time ever under Coach Williams, the coaching staff reviewed the game film with the entire team, of an NCAA Tournament loss.

That film session had a distinct purpose.

“I’m going to try to use that as fuel and make them hungrier to work even harder this summer – to show them one play here or a second play here, and we could be going to Indianapolis,” Coach Williams says.

With that extra “fuel” and yes, barring any unforeseen departures a la James Michael McAdoo in 2014, the Tar Heels should be locked and loaded for a legitimate run at the ACC title and a trip to Houston for the Final Four in 2016.


End-of-season notes from Steve Kirschner, UNC Athletics

• CAROLINA’s season ends at 26-12 overall and 8-3 on neutral courts.
• CAROLINA is 112-44 in 156 NCAA Tournament games. The 112 wins are second most all-time behind Kentucky.
• CAROLINA lost for the first time in the Sweet 16 since 1992. UNC had won its previous 11 Sweet 16 games since losing to Ohio State. Traevon Jackson scored four points tonight for the Badgers; in 1992, his father, Jim, had 18 points for the Buckeyes in Ohio State’s Sweet 16 win over UNC in Lexington, Ky.
• CAROLINA played 22 of its 37 games this season against NCAA Tournament teams and went 11-11 in those 22 games.
• CAROLINA is 25-7 in regional semifinal games.
• CAROLINA is 4-2 in NCAA Tournament history as a #4 seed.
• CAROLINA is 11-6 in West Regional games. The Tar Heels have reached the Final Four once in six appearances in the West Regional (1981).
• CAROLINA is 13-8 in California, including 2-3 in NCAA Tournament games and 5-6 in Los Angeles.
• CAROLINA is 7-5 in the NCAA Tournament against #1 seeds.
• CAROLINA is 2-1 against Wisconsin, including 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament (beat the Badgers in the 2005 East final in Syracuse).
• CAROLINA is 13-6 against Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament. The loss to Wisconsin snapped a five-game win streak for UNC against Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament.
• ROY WILLIAMS is 750-202 in 27 seasons as a head coach and 332-101 in 12 seasons at North Carolina. His winning percentage of .788 is the sixth highest in college basketball history and first among active coaches with at least 20 years experience.
• ROY WILLIAMS is 31-9 (.775) in 25 NCAA Tournament appearances. He is tied for sixth in appearances, third in games (88) and tied with Dean Smith for second in wins (65).
• ROY WILLIAMS is 11-5 in Sweet 16 games, including 6-1 at UNC.
• CAROLINA lost for the fifth time this year when leading at the half. The Tar Heels led the Badgers, 33-31, at halftime, and Wisconsin overcame a seven-point deficit in the second half to win. UNC went 22-5 this year when leading at intermission. The losses came to Butler, at Louisville, Virginia, at home to Duke and Wisconsin.
• CAROLINA shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, but only 42.9 percent in the second half. That was the first time in the last 10 games UNC failed to shoot 50 percent in the second half.
• CAROLINA shot 50 percent or better in eight of its last 11 halves dating back to the second half of the ACC quarterfinal win over Louisville.
• CAROLINA lost for just the second time this year in a game in which it made more three-point field goals than the opponents. UNC was 8 for 13 from three-point range, while Wisconsin was 7 for 21. The only other loss when UNC made more threes was against Iowa (UNC made four and the Hawkeyes made three on 12/3/14).
• WISCONSIN out-rebounded the Tar Heels by seven (35-28). That was the largest rebounding deficit since Iowa out-rebounded UNC, 42-26, on 12/3. Carolina was 23-7 this year when it had more rebounds and 2-4 when the opponents had more rebounds.
• CAROLINA committed only four turnovers and the Badgers committed five. By comparison, the Tar Heels and Arkansas combined for 37 in UNC’s previous game.
• The nine turnovers matched the fewest in a UNC game this season. UNC and Pitt also combined for nine on 2/14.
• CAROLINA’s four turnovers matched the fewest by UNC in Roy Williams’ 12 seasons as head coach (at Pitt, 2/14/15).
• CAROLINA’s four turnovers were the second-fewest in UNC’s 156 NCAA Tournament games. The only game UNC committed fewer was in the 1997 first round against Fairfield when the Tar Heels made a school-record two turnovers.
• CAROLINA’s four turnovers were the fewest in UNC’s 44 losses in NCAA Tournament history. The previous low for turnovers in a loss was seven against San Francisco in 1978.
• WISCONSIN’s five turnovers equal the fewest by an opponent in UNC’s 156-game NCAA Tournament history. Michigan State (1998 regional semifinal) and Auburn (1985 regional semifinal) also committed five.
• CAROLINA shot 61.5 percent from three-point range (making 8 of 13). That is the highest three-point percentage by UNC in an NCAA Tournament loss in school history. The previous best in a loss was .438 vs. Michigan (5 of 11) in the 1989 regional semifinal.
• MARCUS PAIGE made three three-point field goals. He finished the season with 94 3FGs, second-most in UNC single-season history, one behind Shammond Williams’s 95 in 1996-97.
• PAIGE has made 225 career three-pointers and is third in UNC history behind Shammond Williams (233) and Wayne Ellington (229). Only Ellington made more in three seasons.
• PAIGE has attempted 590 three-pointers in his career. That is more than any other Tar Heel. Shammond Williams was the previous record-holder with 578.
• PAIGE is 275 for 318 from the free throw line in his career. His percentage of .865 is the highest in Carolina history and the sixth-best in ACC history. Shammond Williams is second in UNC history at .849.
• PAIGE went 96 for 111 from the free throw line this season, a percentage of .865 that is the seventh-best single-season mark in UNC history for players with at least 75 makes (he shot the third-best percentage, .877, last year). He is the only Tar Heel in history to post two of the top 10 best seasons in free throw percentages.
• PAIGE scored 12 points against Wisconsin, the 30th time this season he scored in double figures. He made three 3FGs, the 41st time in 107 games he has done that.
• JUSTIN JACKSON shared team-scoring honors vs. the Badgers with 15 points. It was the 22nd time this year he scored in double figures, including 11 of the last 12 games.
• JACKSON led UNC in scoring for the sixth time this season – three of those six games came in the postseason (22 vs. Virginia in the ACC semifinals, 14 vs. Harvard in the NCAA Tournament and 15 vs. Wisconsin). He averaged 15.0 points in UNC’s three NCAA Tournament games and shot 17 for 32 from the floor (.531).
• JACKSON went three for three vs. Wisconsin from three-point range. That was the second time this season  – and second time in the last five games – that he made at least three from beyond the arc. He made a season-high four vs. Virginia on 3/13.
• JACKSON made two three-pointers three times in UNC’s first 27 games and at least two 3FGs in six of the last 11 contests.
• BRICE JOHNSON also shared UNC scoring honors with 15 points on 7 of 9 field goal attempts. It was his 26th game this year scoring in double figures. He scored more points vs. Wisconsin (15) than he did in the previous two NCAA games combined (seven vs. both Harvard and Arkansas).
• NATE BRITT went 2 for 2 from the free throw line. He finished the season 60 for 68 from the line (.882).  That is the second-highest single-season free throw percentage in UNC history for players with at least 60 made free throws. (Shammond Williams shot .911 in 1997-98, 133 for 146).
• BRITT is 114 for 136 in his career, a percentage of .838 that is sixth best in UNC history for players with at least 100 made free throws.
• J.P. TOKOTO was one of four Tar Heels with a team-high three assists. It was the 20th time this year Tokoto led outright or shared team honors in assists.
• ISAIAH HICKS led UNC with six rebounds. It was the first time in his career Hicks led the Tar Heels in rebounds.
• JOEL BERRY II had nine points, three assists and no turnovers in 19 minutes. It was his second-highest scoring game of the season (15 at Georgia Tech).
• WISCONSIN went 20 for 23 from the free throw line, while the Tar Heels made 12 of 18 from the line. That was the 10th time in the last 13 games the opponents attempted more free throws than UNC. The opponents attempted 68 more free throws than UNC over those 13 games and made 49 more from the line.
• WISCONSIN shot 87.0 percent from the free throw line. The Badgers were the fifth consecutive opponents in the postseason to shoot 80 percent or better from the free throw line (.800 by Virginia, .875 by Notre Dame, .900 by Harvard, .815 by Arkansas and .870 by Arkansas). Those five opponents combined to make 104 of 122 from the line for 85.2 percent.
• CAROLINA finished the season attempting 814 free throws; the opponents attempted 843. This is just the third time UNC has attempted fewer free throws than the opponents (also in 1953-54 and 2001-02). The 843 free throw attempts are the most by the opponents since 1972 (853).

No. 4 Carolina Meets No. 1 Wisconsin In West Coast Battle

The fourth-seeded North Carolina men’s basketball team, 26-11 overall, takes on top-seeded and 33-3 Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament West Regional Semifinal Thursday night at 7:47 p.m. in the Los Angeles STAPLES Center.

***Listen to the story***

For the veteran Badgers, the Sweet Sixteen has become customary. They’ve made it to this stage of the Big Dance in four of the past five years.

Frank Kaminsky is a special player for the Badgers (Badger Athletics)

Frank Kaminsky is a special player for the Badgers (Badger Athletics)

But this year, Wisconsin is the heavy favorite to progress even further. Armed with the first No.1 seeding designation in the school’s history, head coach Bo Ryan says he’s honored to represent the Big Ten in a big way.

“We’re just very pleased to represent the Big Ten and our University in the Sweet Sixteen. These guys definitely have had the kind of season that they’ve earned every inch of this. Hopefully we can go out to L.A. and get something done,” Coach Ryan says.

Less is more for Wisconsin. The fewer the number of possessions, the more of a premium will be placed on ball control, and frankly, up to this point, the Badgers have been far less turnover-prone than the Tar Heels.

UNC junior guard Marcus Paige says having played Virginia a couple times this season has helped Carolina prepare for the Wisconsin challenge.

An in-form Marcus Paige is vital for UNC's postseason success (Todd Melet)

An in-form Marcus Paige is vital for UNC’s postseason success (Todd Melet)

“Even if they’re not a team that traditionally plays slow, they’ll slow it down against us. They think that’s an advantage. We’ve played against that a lot this year. I think that will help us moving forward into this game. Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country at doing that,” Paige says.

Although the Tar Heels would rather play an up-tempo style, UNC head coach Roy Williams says he’s not convinced his club will be able to establish a pace to their liking against the Badgers.

“Wisconsin is a one-seed for a reason. They’re able to get you to play their tempo more than you can get them to play the tempo you want. You guys have heard me say I’d much rather win in the 90’s, but if you want to be a really good team you’ve got to win in the 60’s or 50’s or whatever it is,” Coach Williams says.

The Tar Heels dive to the floor in their pregame ritual (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels dive to the floor in their pregame ritual (Todd Melet)

In practice this week, UNC has attempted to simulate the methodical tenor of the Wisconsin offense, but Coach Williams is under no illusions. The Hall of Famer says at this level, it’s hard to replicate what the best players in the nation can do.

“You can’t really simulate what the dickens Wisconsin is going to do. We talk to them about it, show them the tape and the whole bit, but you can’t do it. If they’re really good, you can’t really speed it up, you just better be able to play at a different pace,” Coach Williams says.

One of the stars in L.A. this weekend will be Wisconsin’s National Player of the Year candidate, Frank Kaminsky. The consensus Big Ten Player of the Year can do it all and is averaging 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

But Wisconsin is by no means a one-man show. Kaminsky says having all the pieces to the puzzle in place feeds into his confidence.

Roy Williams will no doubt be animated in the STAPLES Center (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams will no doubt be animated in the STAPLES Center (Todd Melet)

“We’re going into games expecting to compete, play hard and come out on top. When you get to stage like this, we were able to do it last year. We know what it takes. We know what we need to do on and off on the court. When you have that recipe for success with people in front of you, you know what it takes and know what to do,” Kaminsky says.

So what’s the game plan for Carolina? Coach Williams says the Tar Heels will need to lock in defensively, limit turnovers and make high-percentage shots.

“All the time I’m saying, ‘Let’s give them one bad shot.’ Our first goal is always to steal the ball, but you don’t do that much any more. I’m going to think about cutting down their field goal percentage, us making a high percentage and not turning the dadgum basketball over,” Coach Williams says.

UNC leads the all-time series with Wisconsin, 2-0, and won the most recent encounter in 2011, 60-57.

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Tar Heels Touch Ground In LA Reaching For Stars

The Tar Heels have touched down in L.A. and will be reaching for the stars in a town full of them when they suit it up against the top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers Thursday night at the Staples Center.

***Listen to the story***

For the first time since 2012, Carolina finds itself still dancing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

But despite the hiatus, UNC head coach Roy Williams says his team hasn’t lost sight of its big dreams and aspirations.

Roy Williams will be looking to impart all his experience to his players (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams will be looking to impart all his experience to his players (Todd Melet)

“I think at this round, we’re happy where we are, but hopefully we’re not satisfied. I always tell them that each round you go, the excitement, the fun and everything gets so much greater,” Coach Williams says.

With that said, unlike in years past, Coach Williams says he’ll need to show this year’s squad the ropes. There aren’t many players on the roster who have experience in the latter rounds of March Madness.

But the good thing for Coach Williams is the Tar Heels should be all ears to his coaching.

“To me, it’s sort of like, ‘okay guys, you’ve never been here so you better listen to what we got to say,’” Coach Williams says.

Junior point guard Marcus Paige says he’s going to soak up every minute of the California sunshine and would prefer it be more than a few days’ stay.

“It will be a lot of fun. You never want the season to end. It’s winding down. Now I want to make it out of the second weekend. We made it out of the first; let’s make it out of the second. We’re looking forward to the challenge that Wisconsin brings,” Paige says.

Marcus Paige will need to continue his fine form Thursday (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige will need to continue his fine form Thursday (Todd Melet)

In contrast to the Tar Heels, Wisconsin has experience in spades. The Badgers have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in four of the past five seasons and most certainly aren’t satisfied with stopping at that stage this year.

The slow, methodical pacing to Wisconsin’s offense will be eerily reminiscent to the ACC’s Virginia. Luckily for the Tar Heels, they’ve experienced recent success against that plodding style. UNC topped UVA in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

But still, Paige says he knows the challenge ahead remains formidable.

“I think it’s so different from the way we want to play. Sometimes, we have issues with that and struggle with turnovers. In a game with fewer possessions, taking care of the ball becomes more important. We’re definitely capable of playing in these games,” Paige says.

Thursday’s challenge may be made even stiffer by the status of Kennedy Meeks’ knee injury. Right now, it remains a mystery. But Coach Williams says he’s doubtful he’ll have the sophomore forward’s services Thursday.

But with or without Meeks, the show must go on, and the Tar Heels will be hoping to avoid taking their final bow against the Badgers.

‘Second-Half Marcus’ Back For Sweet Sixteen Trip

The Tar Heel men’s basketball  team defeated the fifth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday night in Jacksonville to advance to the second week of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.

***Listen to the story***

The latter rounds of March Madness used to be a formality for the Tar Heels, but in recent years, nothing has been a guarantee. But here they are – back where Carolina belongs.

Yes, how sweet it is! Using an up-tempo pace more to Roy Williams’ liking, the Tar Heels fought past the Razorbacks, 87-78, to advance and keep their big dreams of national glory alive.

It was party time for Carolina! (UNC Athletics)

It was party time for Carolina! (UNC Athletics)

With the victory, the Tar Heels improved to 26-11 overall while the Razorbacks finished their season with a 27-9 tally.

Coach Williams certainly had plenty to smile about after the game. The Hall of Famer tied his mentor, the late Dean Smith, with 65 NCAA Tournament wins – second-most all-time.

Things apparently got a little wild in the postgame locker room.

And you can’t blame Roy for celebrating; he says it’s been a tough year.

“Losing Coach Smith, losing Ted Seagroves – my big-time buddy, losing Stuart Scott, the stuff we’ve had going on, it’s been a hard year – it really has. I probably acted sillier in the locker room after this game than I have in quite a while. I’m going to try to enjoy the dickens out of this one for a while,” Coach Williams says.

UNC junior guard Marcus Paige went off in Jacksonville, scoring 20 of his eventual 22 points in the second half to lead the Carolina scoring charge.

Yes, ‘Second-Half’ Marcus is back, folks!

Paige taking it to the basket (Todd Melet)

Paige taking it to the basket (Todd Melet)

“I think it was more the media that pegged that name on me. My teammates went along with it after it got some notoriety. I don’t know what that’s all about. I just try to help my team win. In big moments, I feel like I get put into positions to succeed by my teammates. Sometimes, if you have a poor first half you want to do whatever you can to erase that and make up for it,” Paige says.

Paige’s renewed health was put on full display and with a zero turnover performance turned in by teammate J.P. Tokoto, the Tar Heels proved to be a formidable force.

Can Carolina keep it going? Thursday will be the next chance to watch the Heels strive to achieve ‘elite’ status, or rather, advance to the Elite Eight round of the Big Dance.

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