Saturday, March 17, 2012

Down Goes Duke

McCOLLUM #3 (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Lehigh 75, DUKE 70 Duke – Earlier in the week, we predicted Duke wouldn’t dance long, but we certainly thought they get out of town. 

C.J. McCollum scored 30 points and Lehigh upset Duke to become the second No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 during a wild Friday in the NCAA tournament.  Prior to last night, the Blue Devils had never lost a first round game in Greensboro.

In fact, Duke dropped its first tournament game for only the second time in the past 16 years.  The Blue Devils also dropped their opener against 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in 2007.

Cause of death:  Poor shooting, the Blue Devils hit just 6 of 26 shots from 3-point range.

Lehigh (27-7) led most of the game, drawing support from North Carolina fans who borrowed brown signs from Mountain Hawks supporters that read “Go Lehigh” to root against their rivals.

Tar Heels Too Much For Catamounts

ZELLER (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA 77,  Vermont 58 – Tyler Zeller had 17 points and 15 rebounds as UNC advanced out of an ugly game in Greensboro.

The top-seeded Tar Heels didn’t turn in a rousing performance, but they had a danger-free afternoon and advanced to play Creighton on Sunday in the third round of the Midwest Regional. They also bought Henson another two days to recover.

 “We know he’s either going to be with us or (we’re) without him,” point guard Kendall Marshall said. “If he’s in there, he can help us and that’s great for our team. If he’s not, we have other players who can step up.”

Against the 16th-seeded Catamounts (24-12), that meant another strong performance from freshman James Michael McAdoo starting in Henson’s place. McAdoo shook off a poor shooting start and finished with a season-high 17 points to give Zeller some help in the paint, including a one-handed tip slam off a missed 3-pointer from Reggie Bullock that sent the home-state crowd wearing plenty of light blue into a roar.

McAdoo also had consecutive three-point plays during the run that broke the game open after halftime.

“I kind of got down on myself a little because my shot wasn’t falling (early), but I was getting great shots,” McAdoo said. “That was what the coaches kept saying. I really just tried to play myself into the game on the defensive end and then just be aggressive.”

While McAdoo’s surge helped the Tar Heels improve to 30-1 in NCAA tournament games played in their home state, they know that the question of Henson’s return is becoming more urgent with each game. The 6-foot-10 junior is clearly the difference between Tar Heel “good” and Tar Heel “great.”

Williams said Henson looked better during a morning shootaround, including being able to palm the ball with his left hand, catch passes with both hands and make a couple of strong moves off the dribble.

Williams said the chances of Henson playing Sunday are “a little better than 50-50” considering his recent progress.

Harrison Barnes also finished with 14 points, while Marshall had 11 points and 10 assists for UNC.
The Tar Heels shot just 42 percent, but scored 24 points off 20 turnovers.

Vermont needed to shoot well to keep it close and they didn’t…

Florida State Hangs On

JAMES (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FLORIDA STATE 66, St. Bonaventure 63 – Florida State gave themselves and the ACC a scare, but the Noles sorted it out just enough to get past the 14th seeded Bonnies.

Bernard James scored 19 points and the Seminoles (25-9) shook off a slow start and won their sixth straight game, including their run to the ACC championship last week. They will play sixth-seeded Cincinnati on Sunday in the third round of the East Regional.

Apparently James did more than just play.

“We just kept saying over and over again we don’t want to go home,” Seminole Luke Loucks said. “We don’t want to watch the rest of this tournament from our couches. In the midst of that, B.J. kept screaming at me, `Get me the ball. I’m going to finish.’ When a 6-foot-10 … Air Force vet is screaming at you, you listen.”

James scored 11 in the second half, perhaps none bigger than his dunk off a missed fast-break layup by Loucks that tied it at 52.

NBA prospect Andrew Nicholson scored 20 points and Demetrius Conger had 14 for St. Bonaventure (20-12), which was trying to win an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1970.

Nicholson, the senior physics major, hit his first six shots and four of five from beyond the arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds while trying to put the final piece into the rebuilding of this program that hadn’t won a postseason game since the 1995 NIT.

Michael Snaer, Florida State’s top scorer, picked up his second foul within the first 3 minutes and didn’t score a point for the first time this season. He played only 5 minutes in the first half and missed all seven of his shots, including five beyond the arc.

Wolpack Howells Loud and Long At SDSU

HOWELL (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
N.C. STATE 79,  San Diego State 65 -- Solid, but rarely spectacular, Richard Howell doubled his average, scoring 22 points leading the Wolfpack to victory over SDSU.

“None of us had ever played in a game like this,” Howell said. “This gave us a big confidence boost.”
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Howell got the Wolfpack (23-12) off on the right foot with 15 first-half points, carrying them into a showdown with No. 3 seed Georgetown on Sunday at Nationwide Arena.

“In today’s game, we felt we could have success around the basket,” first-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “We made the decision to go toward Richard, and he lit up like a Christmas tree.”

It was easy to see that the Wolfpack had a size advantage on the surprising Aztecs (26-8), who were back in the tournament despite losing four starters from last year’s squad that lost to eventual champion Connecticut.in the regional semifinals.

Lorenzo Brown added 17 points, C.J. Leslie 15 and Scott Wood 10 for the Wolfpack, who are now 12-5 in their first NCAA games. North Carolina State has won at least a game in seven of its last eight trips.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the Wolfpack under Gottfried. They’ve improved by eight wins over last season, which ended with the firing of coach Sidney Lowe, and they made it to the NCAA tournament despite losing four in a row in February.

Jamaal Franklin had 23 points and Chase Tapley 19 for the Aztecs (26-8), regular-season champs of the Mountain West.

Shorthanded Wahoos No Match For Gators

PRATHER (Doug Persinger/Getty Images)
Florida 71, VIRGINIA 45 – Casey Prather scored a career-high 14 points on a rare day Florida’s three-point shooters went cold, and still the Gators had no trouble beating the Cas Friday in the NCAA West Regional.

Virginia played the game with a six man rotation and got just three points from their bench.
Prather made 6 of 7 shots in a season-high 22 minutes, using a cool spin move to get to the basket for a baseline layup in the middle of the second half. But his best shot came late when he dunked off Erving Walker’s alley-oop pass.

Bradley Beal also had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Patric Young had 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting with three dunks.

No. 7 seed Florida (24-10) pierced Virginia’s vaunted defense—the Cavaliers were giving up just 53.7 points a game—to get to the boards for second-chance baskets. Their press also generated some easy buckets for the Gators, helping them go 24 of 30 from inside the arc.

Mike Scott had 15 points for Virginia (22-10), which was in the tournament for the first time since 2007.

SCOTT (Orlin Wagner/AP Photo)
“We came out with a lot of energy and executed on defense, got what we wanted on offense,” Scott said. “But they made their run, and they just came out in the second half very strong.”

The teams’ second all-time meeting, and first since the 1992 NIT semifinals, was billed as a clash between Virginia’s pack-line defense and Florida’s up-tempo offense.

This time, offense won.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY


Quote Of The Day

KELLY (R) (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
"That shouldn't be an excuse. We had a couple of games to play without him. [...] They played better than we did and deserved to win."

-- Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski refused to blame the absence of injured All-ACC forward Ryan Kelly for the loss to Lehigh. 

Pictures Of The Day

Ted Ligety of the USA competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on March 17, 2012 in Schladming, Austria. (Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
Pedro de la Rosa of Spain and Hispania Racing Team drives during qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit on March 17, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Gilham/Getty Images)
Runners and riders begin the first race, The William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle during day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham. (Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe)
While U.S. eyes are glued to March Madness over across the farm the biggest steeplechase race in Endland was run on Friday.  Here, Tony McCoy and Synchronised after winning The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at Cheltenham racecourse on March16, 2012 in Cheltenham, England. (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
The Norfolk State Spartans bust a move at center court after upsetting Missouri, coached by former Miami Hurricane head coach Frank Heath, in the Big Dance.  (Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated)
Duke Blue and Lehigh “bigs” battle under the boards last night in Greensboro, NC.  (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)
Take that! N.C. State defenders Richard Howell (L) and C.J. Williams put the squeeze on Tim Shelton during the Wolfpack’s win.  (David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated)
Evidently, ACC player of the year Tyler Zeller can make a basket with his eyes closed.  (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)
FSU’s Luke Loukcs chases down a loose ball in the Noles win over St. Bonaventure in Nashville, TN.  (John Biever/Sports Illustrated)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bracket Busters

Kyle O'Quinn #10 and Brandon Wheeless #24 of the Norfolk State Spartans celebrate after they won 86-84 against the Missouri Tigers during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 16, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts as he stands between Gabe Knutson #42 and B.J. Bailey #32 of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the second half during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina. #15 Lehigh pulled off the second 15/2 upset of the day defeating #2 Duke 75-70. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Second Round ACC Scoreboard

FSU'S MICHAEL SNAER (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
N.C. STATE 79, San Diego State (Aztecs, 26,371 students, San Diego, CA) 65

Florida (Gators, 50,116 students, Gainesville, FL) 71, VIRGINIA 45

FLORIDA STATE 66, St. Bonaventure (Bonnies, 2,500 students, Allegheny, NY) 63

NORTH CAROLINA 77, Vermont (Catamounts, 10,459 students, Burlington, VT) 58

Lehigh (Mountain Hawks, 4,781 students, Bethlehem, PA) 75, DUKE 70

Video Of The Day

We just got wind of this a little while ago.  We thought it torturous of CBS to announce N.C. State last on the selection show, and here is the Wolfpack’s reaction…

Doesn’t matter who you pull for, if this doesn’t make you smile, check your pulse. 

These kids are happy, REALLY happy.

Nice, Wolfpack, NICE!

ACC Teams Start Dancing Today

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
N.C. STATE 79, San Diego State (Aztecs, 26,371 students, San Diego, CA) 65

Florida (Gators, 50,116 students, Gainesville, FL) 71, VIRGINIA 45

FLORIDA STATE 66, St. Bonaventure (Bonnies, 2,500 students, Allegheny, NY) 63

NORTH CAROLINA 77, Vermont (Catamounts, 10,459 students, Burlington, VT) 58

Lehigh (Mountain Hawks, 4,781 students, Bethlehem, PA) 75, DUKE 70


Happy March Madness

Southern Miss Band Members Inappropriate And Geographically Incorrect

RODRIGUEZ #13 (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Not too much exciting happened in yesterday's games...There was horrible officiating in the Syracuse v. UNC Asheville game, the defending National Champions lost, VCU won and there was on one "last possession" game.  A bit of a yawn.

That said, leave it to some college kids to make the wrong kind of news on a otherwise slow news day.

Perhaps taking inspiration from the Cameron Crazies, members of the University of Southern Mississippi band thought they would come up with some clever chants for their school’s NCAA tournament game on Thursday against Kansas State.

So,  after point guard Angel Rodriguez was fouled late in the first half of the second-round game, a few band members showered the freshman with cries of "where's your green card?"

Oops.

Not a mistake the diverse and clever Blue Devil fans would have made...

Needless to say it was seen as racist and Southern Miss president Martha Saunders quickly apologized for the incident after the game.  Although, she mispelled Rodriguez name with an extra “q,” she said all the right things.  MSU later corrected the spelling.

Now, here is the really embarrassing part for those Southern Miss band kids.  Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico and thus a U.S. citizen.  He grew up and played high school ball in Miami.

Duh.

K-State got the last laugh, winning the game 70-64.

Pictures Of The Day (Via Sports Illustrated Snapshot)

Mike Bruesewitz of Wisconsin battles Art Steward #1 and Jared Berggren for a rebound during their NCAA tournament game. Wisconsin won. (John W. McDonough/SI)
Murray State Racers forward Ivan Aska snatches up a loose ball against Colorado State. (Photo by Damian Strohmeyer/SI)
BYU forward Brandon Davies goes for a rebound against Jae Crowder and Vander Blue of Marquette. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)
A large video screen at one end of The Pit in Albuquerque captures Baylor Bear Pierre Jackson soaring to the basket against South Dakota. (John W. McDonough/SI)
New Mexico Lobo Drew Gordon controls a tip against Long Beat State in Portland. (Robert Beck/SI)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SMU Fires Former Tar Heel

(Gerald Martinez/Getty Images)
A major factor in the Roy Williams-era at North Carolina will always be the impudence that got Ol’ Roy out of Kansas and back to Chapel Hill.  Of course, that would be the unsuccessful run by Matt Doherty who went 53-43 in three seasons at UNC.

That said, Doherty did recruit the team that won the 2005 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship under Williams tutelage.

Now, Southern Methodist University has fired Doherty after six seasons in which he failed to take the Mustangs to the NCAA tournament.

Doherty went 13-19 this year and 80-109 in six years with SMU. Athletic director Steve Orsini said he thought the school — which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1993 — had the potential to reach the national rankings and compete for championships. SMU will move from Conference USA to the much tougher Big East in 2013.

Doherty, a former Tar Heels player, was the national coach of the year in 2000, his first season at North Carolina. But after two subpar seasons and complaints from alumni and players, Doherty was pressured to resign in April 2003 to make way for Williams.

Doherty became the coach at Florida Atlantic in 2005. One year later, SMU offered him a five-year contract that reportedly paid $600,000 a season. A school spokesman said Doherty has one year left on his current contract, but declined to say whether he would receive a buyout.

SMU, best know for its football program’s “death penalty,”  built a new basketball practice facility — allowing Doherty to move practices out of a church gym — and has announced a $40 million renovation of Moody Coliseum.

But Doherty won more than four conference games only twice in six years. SMU ended this season Wednesday with a 74-56 loss to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament. SMU has not won an NCAA tournament game since 1988.

SMU will move to the Big (L)East in 2013.

Miami Advances In NIT, Scott To Sit Four More Games

BROWN (Carl Juste/Miami Herald)
MIAMI 66, Valparaiso (Crusaders, 4,061 students, Valparaiso, IN) 50 -- Rion Brown scored 18 points to lead Miami over Valpo last night in the opening round of the NIT without leading scorer Durant Scott.  It was announced that Scott will be suspended six games including last night’s and the Canes one ACC tournament game.

Miami shot 49% from the field and made 10 of 22 three-pointers.

Game over. 

The Hurricanes stretched a four-point lead and finished the game with a 16-0 run over the final 3:41. Malcolm Grant and Shane Larkin keyed the run with consecutive three-pointers.

Larkin scored 12 points and Trey McKinney Jones finished with 10 for Miami (20-12), which advances to a second-round matchup Sunday against Minnesota.
  
Brown shot 6 of 11 from the field, including 4 for 7 from beyond the arc.

Ryan Broekhoff and Will Bogan each hit 3-pointers to lead a 9-0 run for Valparaiso (22-12). Richie Edwards' jumper with 6:50 remaining ended the surge and got the Crusaders within 48-45.

Broekhoff scored 18 points and Richie Edwards finished with 16 for the under-manned Crusaders, who used only six players.

"The score was not an indication of how close the game was," Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. "I thought twice today Miami gave us a standing eight count and our guys immediately came right back."

Miami was without leading scorer Scott, who began serving a six-game suspension after being declared ineligible last week for receiving impermissible benefits. 

"We talked to Durand to let him know what the circumstances were," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "He handled it with great class."

The Crusaders were without guards Jay Harris and Matt Kenney, who missed the game because of flu symptoms.

"We only have seven scholarship players available and we really didn't have many choices as a coaching staff," Drew said. "But I was extremely proud of the six guys. They gave themselves a chance to win."

North Carolina To Face Vermont In Opening Round

McGLYNN (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Vermont (Catamounts, 10,459 students, Burlington, VT) 71, Lamar (Cardinals, 14,522 students, Beaumont, TX) 59 -- It wasn’t a question of where or when but who?  Now, the Tar Heels know that they will face the Vermont Catamounts in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Friday in Greensboro.

Freshman Four McGlynn came off the bench to score 18 points and Vermont grabbed an early lead and hung on to beat Pat Knight’s Lamar in the First Four last night.

Matt Glass added 11 points, Sandro Carissimo had 10 and Brian Voelkel had 12 rebounds.

Their only previous NCAA tournament win was a stunning 60-57 upset of fourth-seeded Syracuse by the 13th-seeded Catamounts in the first round of the 2005 tournament.

"The Syracuse game was a huge win for Vermont and the community," Voelkel said. "Obviously, we're going to come into North Carolina with a lot of confidence and hopefully we can pull off another upset and give the people of Burlington something to cheer about."

The Catamounts (24-11) shot 50 percent from the field, blending an inside presence with McGlynn's touch from the perimeter.

But the America East tournament champions will be severely tested down where the skies are Carolina Blue.

"Obviously, North Carolina is one of the best teams in the country," first-year Catamounts coach John Becker said. "They've got a roster of future NBA stars. We're just going to do what we do -- continue to play our brand of basketball."

McGlynn, the only player in all of Division I to lead his team in scoring (12.0) without starting a game and yet playing in every contest, provided punch to Vermont's offense.

South Florida Wins First Tournament Game in First Four

RUDD (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
South Florida (Bulls, 47,122 students, Tampa, FL) 65, California (Golden Bears, 25,530 students, Berkeley, CA) 50 -- There were those that said the Bulls belonged in the Big Dance and those that said the Golden Bears didn’t.  They were all right.

South Florida displayed their tenacious defense a staple of the plodding Big (L)East and Cal couldn’t do a thing with it scoring a whopping 13 points in the first half. 


Game over. 

"We get mad when people score, no matter what kind of bucket it is," said Victor Rudd, who had 15 points. "And that's what makes us have people scoring in the 50s, 40s. We don't like it when people score at all, not even on a free throw.

"So we get mad at each other, and that's how we play great defense."

South Florida (21-13) will play No. 5 seed Temple in Nashville on Friday, a matchup of teams known for gritty defense. Few have been better than this one for the first 20 minutes on the NCAA stage.

The Bulls swarmed 'em, bumped 'em and swatted their shots away -- those that weren't air balls, that is.
California (24-10) didn't score over the last 8:55 of the first half, missing 10 shots and turning it over twice while South Florida pulled ahead 36-13.

Guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 player of the year, was held to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting. California managed only five field goals in the first half, when three of their points came off free throws.

President Obama Picks UNC (Again)

As he did in 2009, President Barack Obama is picking North Carolina to win the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina and Duke Injury Updates

KELLY (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Mike Krzyzewski said yesterday that he hopes Ryan Kelly will return to the practice court Thursday.

Kelly suffered a sprained right foot last Tuesday in practice and sat out the ACC tournament.

“He’s doing running in water and trying to get his movements and conditioning going. We’re hoping by Thursday to get him on the court. But we’ll see – it’s a day-to-day thing,” Coach K said.

The second-seeded Blue Devils (27-6) will face No. 15 seed Lehigh (26-7) at the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday evening at 7:15 p.m.

Meanwhile over in Chapel Hill, Roy Williams said Tuesday, “If I had to guess - and this is merely a guess - if the game were today he probably still would not play, but we’re hopeful that he will be Friday.”

Evidently, the swelling in the ACC defensive player of the year’s wrist has gone down since the weekend. 

UNC plays Vermont in Greensboro at 4:15 p.m. on Friday.

Both teams should be able to survive the first round without their injured starters.

Pictures Of The Day

Head coach John Becker of the Vermont Catamounts reacts as he coaches against Lamar. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Luke Apfeld #2 of the Vermont Catamounts fights for control of the opening tip-off against Stan Brown #35 of the Lamar Cardinals in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2012 in Dayton, Ohio. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ron Anderson Jr. #1 of the South Florida Bulls celebrates their 65-54 against the California Golden Bears in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ron Anderson of the South Florida Bulls reacts from the bench. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Head coach Pat Knight of the Lamar Cardinals, the son of Bobby Knight, threw his kids under the bus (his words) in a postgame tirade with two weeks left in the regular season. His criticized seniors righted the ship and made it to the Big Dance.  Here, he  reacts during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Mike James #5 of the Lamar Cardinals walks towards the bench in the second half after he fouled out against Vermont. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ron Anderson Jr. #1 of the South Florida Bulls passes the ball in the first half against Cal.  (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Justin Cobbs #1 of the California Golden Bears drives in the first half against Augustus Gilchrist #24 and Shaun Noriega #22 of the South Florida Bulls in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2012 in Dayton, Ohio. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Sandro Carissimo #12 of the Vermont Catamounts attempts to control the ball in the second half. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Roy Williams System: North Carolina Teams Built For NCAA Championships

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
While every Division 1 sports program is trying to build a program  that achieves the ultimate basketball end-goal -- winning the NCAA National Championship, Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels have developed an amazingly productive model.

Every coach has a “system,” but Ol’ Roy’s system produced championships in 2005 and 2009 and looks poised to add another Wooden trophy to the basketball shelf come April.

Williams’ system utilizes a high-octane, high-scoring offense, proficient rebounding, four NBA draft picks and a great point guard peeking at just the right time.

Sound familiar?

The 2005 Big Dance champs featured Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams -- all first round NBA draft picks.  The team scored 88 points and snagged 40 rebounds per game.  Point guard Raymond Felton averaged 12.9 points per game and six assists playing better each time a calendar page was turned.

The 2009 NCAA Champions included national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Ty Lawson.  Again, all NBA draft picks.  They averaged a scorching 89.8 and 42 rebounds per game.  Lawson, one of the fastest point guards to every play in the ACC, averaged 16.6 points per game and 6.5 assists. 

MARSHALL (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The 2012 Tar Heels start ACC player of the year Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall – all projected as future NBA-draft picks.  Some, sooner than others and perhaps all four will depart following this season.  The pattern has been “win the championship, go pro as a group.”

This season UNC also has a world class point-guard whose offensive production and confidence are clearly on the upswing just like his predecessors Felton and Lawson.  Marshall set the ACC single season record amassing 330 – one hundred more than last season.

The sophomore point guard averages 9.7 assists per game (1st in the ACC, 2nd in the nation) and his assists to turnover ratio is 3.5 (1st in the ACC, 2nd in the nation).

The key to UNC’s late season surge and a long run to New Orleans is more offensive production from Marshall especially behind the three-point line.  The same was said of Felton and Lawson, and both stepped up in the Big Dance.

Last weekend, Marshall shot open three-pointers and drove to the basket looking to create offense.  He even nailed a clutch late three-pointer and had the confidence to take UNC’s final shot. Avoiding foul trouble and injuries remains a critical component of Marshall’s success.

HENSON (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Speaking of injuries, John Henson, the ACC defensive player of the year, was injured against Maryland and sat out the remainder of the ACC tournament.  In 2009, Ty Lawson was hindered by a nagging toe injury which limited his effectiveness in the ACC tourney, and he skipped the Tar Heels opening dance, a blowout against over matched Radford.  He subsequently averaged 20.8 points and 6.8 assists in his five remaining NCAA tournament games where UNC won by an average margin of 19.8 points.

The 2005, 2009 and 2012 teams all were among the national leaders in scoring, rebounding, and assists while all three failed to win the ACC tournament.  Unlike their predecessors, the 2012 Tar Heels have struggled from the free throw line, but they seemed to have figured it out during the ACC tournament where they shot 72% against N.C. and 87% in the final against FSU.

The 2005 team lost in the semi-finals to Georgia Tech and the 2009 team lost in the ACC finals to Florida State mirroring the 2012 Tar Heels’ ACC tournament downfall. 

All three teams were highly ranked in the pre-season and throughout the year.

The 2005 team was in the top five of both polls most of the year while Illinois, ultimately North Craolina’s victim in the NCAA championship game, raced through a one-loss season.  Those very same 2005 Tar Heels suffered a shocking loss in their opener, falling to Santa Clara prior to losing to Wake Forest and to Duke.

LAWSON (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
In 2009, the Tar Heels were the unanimous pre-season No.1 and predicted by many to run the table. That said, North Carolina lost their ACC opener to Boston College, to Wake Forest a week later, and to Maryland in overtime late in the regular season. After getting routed by Kansas in the Final Four the year prior, Hansbrough, Lawson, Green and Ellington all returned to UNC in search of a national title.

At season’s opening, Ol’ Roy’s 2012 squad was the preseason No.1 in everybody’s poll with a roster of four returning NBA draft picks and a Final Four performance the year prior.  In their first game, the Tar Heels handily defeated Michigan State, a team that rose to as high as No. 4 in the polls later in the season, and wound up a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance after winning the Big 10 tournament.

But an early loss to UNLV, a narrow loss to No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington and an ugly blow-out loss at Florida State sent the pundits and predictors running for the North Carolina hills and beyond.

A close end-game loss to Duke in an instant classic rivalry game didn’t move the needle one direction or the other, but the subsequent winning streak and demolition of the Blue Devils on Coach K court last weekend, combined with a strong showing in the ACC tournament without John Henson, has the 2012 Tar Heels looking remarkably similar to the teams that won the National Championship in 2005 and 2009.

FELTON (Doug Bencz/Getty Images)
The only real obstacle that may prevent the Tar Heels’ from cutting down the nets once again in New Orleans where they won National Championships in 1982 and 1993 is a team with a similar style and statistics – Kentucky.

But if history repeats itself, this team from Chapel Hill will find a way to defeat the No.1 team in the country as they did in 2005 when they defeated top-seeded Illinois 75-70 in Indianapolis.
While a portion of the North Carolina fan base continues to grouse and gripe about Williams’ game strategies and reluctance to call time outs, it’s very clear that the Roy Williams’ “system” works.

Obviously, recruiting is a big part of the system’s success. Not only is it difficult to recruit four NBA future draft picks, it’s even trickier to get them to play well together.  Clearly, Williams has figured this out as good as any coach in the game.

Adding a third NCAA championship in the past eight tournaments should prove the point that Ol' Roy's system works. 

Overheard At Last Night’s First Four Games



PUSA (President of the United States of America): There, right there.
PMGB (Prime Minister Great Britian): Where? There?
PMGB: Wow, they are big.
HCMVS (Head Coach Mississippi Valley State): I didn’t see that, but I’ve got some good weed.
PMGB: Why are we hungry?

*Items in italics may not be true.

(Photos by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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