North Carolina recruit says that Coach K ‘looks like a rat’ [video]

UNC recruits Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock were interviewed by DraftExpress as part of the McDonald’s All-American events, and while Barnes and Marshall were diplomatic when discussing their arch-rival, Bullock was not. (Thanks to the SPORTZ ASSASSIN for finding the video.)

Barnes is from Iowa and Marshall is from Virginia, while Bullock is from North Carolina — maybe that has something to do with it.

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Lack of continuity is killing the Tar Heels

North Carolina put up a fight, but lost at home to #7 Duke, 64-54. The score was tied, 45-45 with eight minutes to play, but a pair of Jon Scheyer bombs — one with 5:35 to play to give Duke a four-point lead and another with 2:35 to play to push the lead to nine — effectively broke Carolina’s back.

The Tar Heels are a mess, especially offensively. It’s no surprise that they’re suffering from a lack of leadership, considering that just two of the team’s top seven players (in terms of minutes), Deon Thompson and Ed Davis, returned from last year’s championship team. And it’s tough for big men to be leaders because they don’t handle the ball as much as guards do and aren’t able to set a standard for taking care of the ball and making that extra pass for an open shot. Upperclassmen are so important in terms of leading the youngsters by example, and Roy Williams simply isn’t getting that kind of leadership from seniors Thompson and Marcus Ginyard, or junior Will Graves.

The Tar Heels also got killed on the defensive glass. Duke had 19 offensive rebounds, which allowed the Blue Devils to shoot 11 more shots than UNC.

North Carolina is now 2-7 and isn’t likely to get a bid to the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Duke is 8-2 and in sole possession of first place in the ACC.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

TSR’s running diary of March Madness, Part III

One thing that I failed to mention in yesterday’s recap was #13-seed Cleveland State’s upset of #4 Wake Forest. Now the headline at Fox News reads “Cleveland State Shocks Wake Forest” but the win isn’t really shocking at all. The Demon Deacons’ uneven play has led to several so-called “upsets” this season; they lost to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina State in ACC action. They were a combined 7-1 against the top five teams in the conference — Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State and Boston College — so clearly Wake is a team that has a tendency to play to the level of its opponent.

But give Cleveland State credit, they came out like gangbusters, hitting three three-pointers in the first two minutes to give the Vikings a 9-0 lead. This is a team that only averages 4.9 made threes per game, and the Vikings had five in the first 10 minutes of action. (Oddly enough, they only made one more over the last 30 minutes.) The two teams played evenly for most of the game, and Wake Forest managed to cut the lead to six with 11:09 to play, but Cleveland State went on an 11-1 run over the next four minutes to push the lead back to 16.

This win is considered the first big upset of the season, but I was more surprised by how Dayton upended West Virginia, a team that numbers-wise — and I’m talking Sagarin and Pomeroy numbers — looked like it had the tools to make a run. Bracket-wise, I’m not doing all that well. Florida State, Ohio State, Utah State and Butler lost by a total of nine points and each had a few chances to move on but failed to capitalize. My picks aren’t dead yet by any means, 14 of my Sweet Sixteen and seven of my Elite Eight are still alive, so like anyone, I just need to hit two or three of my final four and have my overall winner (Pitt) come in. (And given how Pitt played against East Tennessee State, I’m not feeling all that hot about that pick!) Another key is that potential Gonzaga/North Carolina matchup next week. It would really help if Ty Lawson stayed hobbled, allowing the Bulldogs to pull the upset. It will be interesting to see if he plays today against LSU.

On the whole, my picks are suffering because teams with a 2+ point Sagarin advantage are just 21-8 (72%) so far this year. Usually, this system is right about 85% of the time. I was also just 1-3 when I picked games another way. I trumped a 2+ point Sagarin advantage in the Marquette/Utah State game, thinking that the Aggies would pull the upset (which they almost did) because the Golden Eagles were without Dominic James. I picked FSU because of the 3+ seed advantage (which is right 75% of the time) and picked Butler because of the team’s stellar road/neutral record (and a lack of confidence in LSU and the entire SEC). My picks lost those three games by a total of eight points. The game I nailed was the Oklahoma State win over Tennessee, and I picked the Cowboys because of better guard play. Byron Eaton came through big time.

I’ll be back later on (on this post) to blog some of the day’s action…

5:41 PM: I haven’t posted today because there wasn’t anything really to post about. Villanova spanked UCLA. UConn destroyed Texas A&M. The Wildcats were basically playing a home game, and ‘Nova jumped all over the Bruins. UCLA just couldn’t match Villanova’s athleticism and energy, and if Duke is fortunate enough to get past Texas, ‘Nova will give them all (or more) that they can handle. UConn just looked great. If 7’3″ Hasheem Thabeet can stay on the court, he’s a serious game-changer in the middle.

But the game of the day so far was the Washington/Purdue matchup in Portland. It’s frustrating when you’re rooting for a team and they trail the entire game but get it close at the end. It’s almost like they get off to a crappy start and have to expend so much energy just to cut into the lead that they don’t have the energy (or the poise, in this case) to tie the game up or take the lead. The Huskies squandered so many chances to regain the lead, and they essentially wasted their virtual home court. We have to give a ton of credit to Purdue for having the mental focus to come out so strong and be able to play the tough defense necessary to close the deal. There were no easy shots for Washington, and that’s a big part of what made the second half so frustrating for Husky fans.

Ty Lawson ended up starting (and North Carolina pulled away in the second half), but the story will be how that big toe responds over the next few days. He was not himself out there — he didn’t have the same burst and he was clearly bothered by the injury. It was funny to see the Duke fans going nuts when LSU was keeping the game close. I’m sure the North Carolina fans would do the exact same thing if the roles were reversed. It’s what makes that Duke/UNC rivalry one of the best in all of sport.

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UNC beats Duke to clinch ACC regular season title

It was nip and tuck most of the way, but the Tar Heels got it together late in the second half to pull away over arch rival Duke, 79-71. North Carolina has almost a two-point lead over the next-best team in Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings (which is the main way that I fill out my bracket), but I just don’t like this team to win it all. They’re sloppy with the ball, have poor spacing on offense and they missed a ton of free throws. But they have so much talent that when the game is tight in the second half, they always seem to be able to put together a run to put the game away. Really, they could win it all or they could lose in the second round to an eight- or nine-seed that plays a good, clean game.

Five Tar Heels scored in double figures, led by Tyler Hansbrough’s 17 points. Conversely, Duke was very content to walk the ball up and run its half court offense, which put the ball into the hands of Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler, and allowed them to go to work. Coach K really shortened his bench for this game — just three reserves played a total of 19 minutes (and they failed to score a single point).

The win should seal a #1 seed for North Carolina, and barring Duke winning the ACC tournament (coupled with an early round exit by Oklahoma or UConn), the Blue Devils are probably looking at a #2 or #3 seed. Check back tomorrow for a preview of all the major conference tournaments.

Upsets in the Big 12; UNC & Pitt take care of business

#5 Oklahoma visited #12 Missouri last night, and the Tigers pulled the upset, 73-64. Blake Griffin had 16 points and 21 rebounds, but turned the ball over six times in the loss. The Tigers were obviously motivated after the 25-point drubbing they took from the Kansas Jayhawks. This looks like it would have been a fun game to watch — too bad it was only on ESPN360. The network really should have a way to bring great matchups like this to a wider audience.

#9 Kansas lost to unranked Texas Tech, 84-65. Senior Alan Voskuil had 35 points on 9 of 14 shooting from long range. I’m not sure what to make of these Big 12 teams right now. Kansas and Oklahoma looked like the cream of the crop, and they turn around a lose to Texas Tech and Missouri, respectively. (In the Sooners’ defense, Missouri was the #12 team in the nation and the game was on the road.) Oklahoma was in line for a #1 seed, but it looks like they still have some work to do.

Meanwhile, #2 North Carolina fended off a feisty Virginia Tech squad, 86-78, while #4 Pitt beat #15 Marquette, 90-75. The Tar Heels earned at least a share of the ACC regular season title, though they’ll have to beat archrival Duke on Sunday to avoid sharing the honors with the Blue Devils.

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