March omen? Tar Heels’ confidence rising fast

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North Carolina avoided a bout of Duke déjà vu Saturday. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The No. 20 Heels watched their halftime lead evaporate vs. Clemson, which raised all sorts of red flags for the players. Would they miss a chance to beat another ACC foe in a brutal road environment?

Apparently not. The 64-62 win wasn’t as impressive as some of the Heels’ other recent wins, but it might be the most important yet. A loss might’ve wrecked the young team’s psyche.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I was thinking about the game on Wednesday” sophomore forward John Henson said afterward. “But we fought back this time. We kept our composure. I think that’s just a lesson we learned from the Duke game.”

Freshmen Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall combined for 38 points. Henson logged another double-double. On the road against one of the league’s top teams? That’s a solid day, and even surprised the players a bit.

“This shows we’re able to grind out wins,” Barnes told the Raleigh News & Observer.

Never discount the road win in college hoops. Home teams have myriad of advantages, and Clemson’s no different. The Tigers are tame on the road, but ferocious at Littlejohn, where they’ve lost just once this season entering Saturday. Winning there is no small thing, even for a talented team like UNC.

Four of the Heels’ six losses this season have come on the road. If Duke provided Roy Williams’ team with a small bit of confidence and a few learning moments to apply to the rest of their season, Saturday was much bigger than a two-point win. It could signal even bigger things come March.

A talented, young team with confidence in the NCAA tournament is a dangerous thing.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.

 

VIDEO: Zion Williamson’s coach is holding a sleeping baby

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LaMelo Ball vs. Zion Williamson was insane, but it wasn’t quite crazy enough to wake up the sleeping toddler that Williamson’s coach is holding in his arms:

This is peak AAU basketball.

It will never be more AAU than that.

PHOTOS: Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball showdown was, of course, insane

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In a showcase game in the adidas Uprising event in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, LaMelo Ball — the youngest member of the Big Baller Brand — faced off with Zion Williamson, who is a force on youtube and a highlight machine.

The crowd was insane for the game:

According to a report from ESPN, there were even concerns about whether or not the game would actually be allowed to be played; the police and fire marshall considered shutting the event down.

Williamson, of course, put on a show in warmups:

At the time of this posting, there were more than 60,000 people watching a livestream of the game on BallIsLife’s facebook page:

(UPDATE: It’s now over 70,000)

Puerto Rico Tip Off bracket revealed

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The bracket of the 2017 Puerto Rico Tip off was revealed Wednesday, setting up a showdown between a 2016 Final Four participant and the 2016 Big 12 tournament champion.

South Carolina and Iowa State headline the event, which will be played Nov. 16-19, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

The Gamecocks are on the top half of the bracket, opening against Illinois State while the Cyclones are on the bottom half, squaring off against Appalachian State.

Boise State vs. UTEP is the other top-half quarterfinal while Tulsa vs. Western Michigan is the other.

The championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip Off on Sunday, Nov. 19.