North Carolina’s Great Season Comes to An End

The 2011-2012 edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels was a “National Championship or Bust” edition.  With that much future NBA talent, there was simply no result other than a championship that would have been enough.  Along the way, Dexter Strickland was lost to injury.  Then John Henson went down.  And just as Henson returned, Kendall Marshall suffered an injury and never returned.  Without a key component of the offense, it is not surprising that Kansas defeated North Carolina on Sunday, 80-67.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was that Kansas out-rebounded North Carolina 39-30.  With a frontcourt of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson, the Tar Heels were used to putting up gaudy rebound totals.  The trio combined for only 14 against Kansas.  The Jayhawks had the size up front to hold their own and it helped take away a North Carolina strength.

James Michael McAdoo came off the bench to lead the Tar Heels with 15 points. Barnes added 13, while Zeller scored 12.  Henson only scored 10 points.  Ultimately, the big trip produced a disappointing total of 35 points and 14 rebounds–well off their season average of 48 and 25.

Notwithstanding the preseason hype, North Carolina still finished a respectable 32-6.  While the fans and team hoped for more, it is hard to lose a key player in March.  That North Carolina could not overcome that is not surprising.  Disappointing, but not surprising.

With Syracuse and North Carolina losing, the Final Four of Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, and Kansas will not feature any ACC teams.  For diehard ACC fans, Pittsburgh will play Washington State today in the CBI tournament.

 

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ACC Basketball Recap: February 16, 2012

February 16, 2012, was a great day of college basketball in the ACC.

First, #5 Duke rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat North Carolina State, 78-73.  In fact, the Wolfpack led at the half by 16 points.  But Duke really outplayed North Carolina State down the stretch to prevent a big upset.  Seth Curry was the scoring leader for Duke with 26 points, while Austin Rivers added 16.  Lorenzo Brown led the Wolfpack, who dropped to 18-8 with the loss, with 19 points.  Duke improved to 22-4 with the win.

Second, #20 Florida State won in the final seconds again, defeating Virginia Tech, 48-47.  Once again, it was Michael Snaer providing the heroics with a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left.  Against Duke, Snaer did it as time expired.  Snaer and Ian Miller were the scoring leaders for Florida State with 9 and 11 points, respectively.  Erick Green led Virginia Tech, who dropped to 14-12 with the loss, with 18 points.  Florida State is now 18-7 on the season.

Third, on a less exciting note, Maryland defeated Boston College 81-65.  This one was never really in doubt as Maryland led by 14 at the half.  Ryan Anderson led the 8-18 Eagles with 22 points and 10 rebounds.  Terrell Stoglin led Maryland with 24 points.  With the win, Maryland improves to 15-10 overall and keeps its Big Dance dreams alive.

Finally, Pittsburgh’s woes continued as they suffered a 66-48 home loss to rival West Virginia.  This game was actually close at the half (26-25), but West Virginia pulled away in the second-half.  Pittsburgh drops to 15-12 overall and 4-10 in conference play.

 

Rivalry Week Recap

Yesterday, the Confidential noted that February 8, 2012, featured two of the best rivalries in college basketball–Duke/North Carolina & Syracuse/Georgetown.  The games certainly ended up living up to the hype.

In the premier ACC match up of the day, Duke’s Austin Rivers hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Duke an 85-84 win at North Carolina.  North Carolina led by as many as 13 points in the second-half.  They also led by 10 points with less than 3 minutes remaining. But Duke was able to gradually chip away at the margin down the stretch. For North Carolina, this will certainly be a painful loss.  There was the blown lead.  The errant tip-in.  The missed free throws.   And ANY loss to Duke already hurts.

Rivers was not just the hero at the end, but scored 29 points to lead all scorers.  Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller scored 25 and 23, respectively, for North Carolina.  Josh Henson had an impressive 17 rebounds, while Zeller added 11.  Mason Plumlee led Duke with 14 rebounds.  Both teams are now 7-2 in conference play and 20-4 overall.

Up in Syracuse, it took an overtime period, but the Orange defeated the Georgetown Hoyas, 64-61.  In the process, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim won his 880th career game, moving him out of a tie with North Carolina’s legendary coach Dean Smith for third place all-time.

Much like Rivers, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph was the hero–scoring 29 points and hitting a three-pointer with 29 seconds left that provided the final margin of victory.  This game was incredibly close throughout as neither team led by more than 6 points, while there more than a dozen lead changes and ties.  Both teams also played stifling defense–neither team shot more than 35% from the field.

Georgetown was led by Otto Porter’s 14 points and 13 rebounds.  In addition to Joseph, Fab Melo scored 11 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and blocked 6 shots.  With the win, Syracuse moves to 24-1 overall, including an 11-1 record in conference games.

Hoops Recap: Sunday Improvement for the ACC

Yesterday, the ACC struggled to a 3-3 record among current conference teams.  Sunday got much better as the league went 4-0.

Florida State improved to 7-3 with a 75-60 over North Carolina-Greensboro.  The Seminoles’ defense did the job, allowing only a 35% shooting percentage.  However, the offense struggled to the tune of 26 turnovers.  Overall, Florida State has a balanced attack, with none of the 9 players to get action to exceed 30 minutes.  Michael Snaer led the way with 14 points.

Virginia Tech also improved to 7-3 with its 73-60 win over Norfolk State.  The score was a bit misleading, as CBS noted:

The Spartans (6-4), who have quality victories over Drexel and Texas Christian and lost to Marquette by just two points, kept the game close throughout and cut the lead to 65-59 on Chris McEachin’s 3-pointer with 2:58 left in the game. But Virginia Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson hit a free throw with 2:05 left to make it 66-59. After McEachin missed a 3-pointer for Norfolk State with 1:40 to go, Eddie put the game away, draining his final 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining to push the Hokies’ lead back to 10.

But the Hokies were able to fend off this surprisingly tough foe, led by Jarell Eddie’s 24 points.

In its final tune-up before hosting Syracuse on Saturday, North Carolina State defeated North Carolina Central, 65-60.  The Wolfpack held a 10-point lead at halftime, but were never able to put away the Eagles.  C.J. Williams led the way for North Carolina State with 21 points.  Credit the team board work too; although no individual put up gaudy rebounding totals, North Carolina State held a 41-30 advantage in that category.

Finally, the ACC’s day was so good that even Boston College nabbed a rare win.  The Eagles were able to defeat Stony Brook soundly, 66-51.   Patrick Heckmann came off the bench to lead Boston College with 18 points.  With the win, Boston College improves to 3-7.  A win is a win is a win.

Hoops Recap: Saturday Not Kind to the ACC

Although future ACC member Syracuse was able to win and likely grab onto to #1 in the next polls, the current ACC did not fare as well–splitting its 6 games on Saturday.

Actually, another future ACC member, #15 Pittsburgh, did its job with 74-68 win over 6-3 Oklahoma State.  As is typical, the Panthers were outstanding defensively and on the boards.  The Cowboys were held to 40.9% shooting and were outrebounded 37-23.  Ashton Gibbs led Pitt with 17 points, while Lamar Patterson was a box score stuffer with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.  With the win, Pitt moves to 9-1.

And #7 Duke certainly did its part, defeating a surprisingly tough Washington Huskies squad, 86-80.  Although the Blue Devils opened strong with a 14-point halftime lead, Washington made it interesting late.  This was particularly impressive as the Huskies had been in New York all week, starting with a Jimmy V Classic loss to Marquette.  But credit Duke for starting strong and doing enough at the free throw stripe down the stretch to win.  Duke had 7 players play 20 minutes, and 6 of them contributed at least 8 points.  Austin Rivers led Duke with 18 points, allowing Duke to get to 9-1.

Similarly, #4 North Carolina was able to fend off upstart Long Beach State, 84-78.  This one was the opposite of the Duke game, with Long Beach State controlling the first half before succumbing to the Tar Heels talent advantage in the second half.  While the knee-jerk reaction is to wonder how North Carolina was not able to destroy a 4-5 team from California, recall that Long Beach State upset Pitt on the road and only narrowly lost to Kansas too.  The North Carolina quartet of Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Reggie Bullock, and Tyler Zeller scored 78 of North Carolina’s 84 points.  But credit Kendall Marshall too–he dished out 16 assists, the fourth time this year he has had 14 assists or more.  North Carolina is now 8-2 on the season.

In a test game for Wake Forest, they lost to Seton Hall on the road, 68-54.  The Demon Deacons were unable to stop Herb Pope, who scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the host Pirates.  While nobody was expecting a win over 9-1 Seton Hall, this game  certainly was not one where Wake Forest was going to be overmatched from a talent standpoints.  Overall, Seton Hall figures to little more than a middle-of-the-pack Big East team.  But that was still too much for Wake, which falls to 6-4.  Wake Forest was led by Travis McKie’s 17 points.

In another ACC-Big East matchup, West Virginia handled Miami, 77-66.  Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers were coming off a win over Kansas State on Thursday, but had enough in the tank to defeat the visiting Hurricanes.  Truck Bryant led West Virginia with 27 points, including 5 three-pointers.  Miami was led by Malcolm Grant’s 17 points.  Although the early season started with great promise, the Hurricanes have now lost 4 of 5 in this very tough stretch of non-conference games.  Fortunately for Jim Larranaga, the difficulty eases up a bit before conference games start.

Clemson provided the third loss for the ACC on Saturday, falling to 7-3 Arizona, 63-47 in Tucson.  For the 4-4 Tigers, a trip to 7-3 Arizona was always going to be quite a test.  Unfortunately, only Andre Young was able to score effectively, as he led the Tigers with 17 points.  The team as a whole shot 31.7% from the field–which will never get it done.

Finally, Georgia Tech defeated Savannah State, 65-45.  While the Yellow Jackets deserve credit for being willing to travel to an in-state opponent of this caliber, this was never going to be much of a contest.  Brandon Reed and Daniel Miller combined to go 12 for 13 from the field, as Savannah State was simply overmatched.  With the win, Georgia Tech gets to 6-4.

North Carolina Goes to 2-0

Perhaps you were wondering whether the 2011-2012 North Carolina Tarheels could win an indoor game?   The answer to this silly question is “yes.”  Admittedly, today’s win over North Carolina-Asheville tells the country absolutely nothing.  At least nothing it did not already know.  Frankly, even if they had lost, that would not have caused anyone to move them out of their Final Four projections.

But just look what they overcame.  Less than 48 hours after playing a first-of-its-kind game on an aircraft carrier… outdoors… in the twilight… with no student section… with the President making a pregame speech and watching… against physical Michigan State… they hopped a plane and played a road game against North Carolina-Asheville.  Had the Tarheels lost, there would have been a built excuses.  But they won.

The easy post-game review is to credit Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson for scoring 64 of the 91 points.  But take a look at what Kendall Marshall did.  15 assists!  All too often, talented teams suffocate under the pressure of keeping everyone happy.  If Marshall is willing to keep the big 3 happy by dishing the ball, that will only add to the dangerousness of this team.

If someone wants to nitpick, they can point out that Marshall had all but one of the team assists.  Or that the team had 17 turnovers against an overmatched foe.  But most elite teams don’t even play road games against this type of foe, so The Confidential is more inclined to simply give credit where it is due.

What do you think–is there ANY reason for North Carolina to not be #1 in the country right now?

More ACC Basketball Predictions…

ESPN has now released more predictions for the 2011-2012.  Their 15 experts have predicted the major conference champions, the players of the year, the final four teams, and the final game result.

Here is what is noteworthy for the ACC:

  • All 15 experts prediction North Carolina to win the ACC
  • 6 experts predict Syracuse to win the Big East, while 2 pick Pitt to win.  Go future ACC schools!
  • 3 experts predict Harrison Barnes to be the POY.
  • All 15 experts predict that North Carolina will in the final four.
  • No expert predicts Duke or any other current ACC team in the final four.
  • 3  experts pick Syracuse to be in the final four, while 2 experts (different) predict Pitt.
  • Only two experts envision a Championship game without North Carolina.
  • Three more predict that North Carolina will lose the Championship game.
  • The remaining 10 predict that North Carolina will be cutting down the nets.

The pressure is on UNC this year.  Gotta figure that anything short of a title will be seen as a failure with THIS much love.