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Dexter Strickland’s loss won’t sink Heels if offense kicks in

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source: APNorth Carolina’s had better weeks.

Five days after the Heels’ 33-point loss to Florida State, they handled Virginia Tech but lost starting guard Dexter Strickland for the season when he tore the ACL in his right knee.

Yes, it’s a biggie. Ask any Tar Heel fan.

The 6-3 junior is UNC’s best perimeter defender, one of its primary ball-handlers and the security blanket in case anything happened to point guard Kendall Marshall. (Doubly so given that guard Leslie McDonald tore his ACL during the summer.)

Strickland isn’t a stat-stuffer, but he’s one of Roy Williams’ ideal players – he allows the offensive-minded players in the offense to thrive. When Williams has a guy who can disrupt an opponent’s best player (David Noel in 2005), his team really thrive.

(deep breath)

But this isn’t the end of UNC’s title hopes. In fact, it may just be a hiccup.

Strickland’s role is easy to describe, but harder to pinpoint exactly how much he impacts UNC’s play. Yes, he plays great defense. Ask any Tar Heel onlooker. But his defense isn’t good enough to where UNC will collapse without him. When the 2009 team won a title, it did so without a lockdown defender (Marcus Ginyard was supposed to be that guy but was hurt). If this team reaches the Final Four or even win it all, it can do so without Strickland.

Consider: Strickland used just 14.2 percent of the team’s possessions and took 13.1 percent of its shots while playing 60.7 percent of available minutes. He didn’t impact the offense at all. (Marshall has similar usage and shot percentages, but his assist numbers dwarf Strickland’s, meaning his offensive role is clear.)

If Strickland’s not in, it gives guys like Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston more playing time, both of whom score more efficiently and are larger parts of the offense, even with coming off the bench. This post from Tar Heel Fan lists each player’s season impact rating (go with it; he’s done the work) and shows Strickland to be less consistent and have less impact than Bullock this far. And with guys like John Henson and Tyler Zeller in the frontcourt, the Heels’ post defense remains its strength.

This isn’t to suggest losing Strickland is a good thing.

Anyone that focuses on defense and ensuring the other guys play well is hardly worthless. His absence means the Heels’ perimeter defense could fall off and Marshall no longer has someone who can automatically take the quickest guard.

But if Strickland was hindering the offense, it’ll be interesting to see how UNC responds. Remember, he’s a non-factor who only attempted one 3-pointer all season and basically only scored in transition. Bullock and Hairston are guys who can stretch a defense and score in transition. Despite the talent, this isn’t one of Williams’ best offensive teams. In fact, it still needs plenty of work.

If UNC wants to make that run at a title, I’d suggest kicking the offense into high gear and seeing if everyone else can keep up (this does not mean Harrison Barnes should just start chucking shot after shot, though). At this point, what else can you do?

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC

VIDEO: University of New Orleans aids area flood victims

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After over 20 inches of rain fell over three days and over 60,000 homes were damaged in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger called his acquaintance, John Derenbecker, in the area to check in. Derenbecker and his family were fine, Slessinger learned, but many in the area were not.

I told (Derenbecker) to figure out who needed the help the most,” Slessinger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “that I had my whole crew who could come help out on Saturday and Sunday.”

That led Slessinger and his team to the home of an elderly couple, Elbert and Ione Norred, whose house was ravaged by over four feet of flood water. The Privateers helped slog out debris, cut away wet insulation and whatever else needed removing from the soaked home.

“I appreciate everything you have done,” Ione Elbert told the Privateers. “Nobody knows how long it would have taken us to have done this.”

The Red Cross estimates that the relief effort for the flooding could cost upwards of $30 million in the region. To make a donation to the organization call 1-800-RED CROSS.

UNO’s baseball team also got in on the aid effort, heading to Baton Rouge over the weekend.

“We are proud to see our student-athletes, coaches and staff serve our fellow Louisianians in their time of need,” UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel said in a statement. “The men and women of our program understand the importance of serving others and using our resources to help those in less-fortunate situations. We will continue to play for neighbors.”

Rutgers land 7-foot grad transfer from UNC Wilmington

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket as he is defended by C.J. Gettys #23 of the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks in the second half of their game during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Rutgers landed a commitment from seven-footer C.J. Gettys on Monday night.

Gettys is a graduate transfer from UNC-Wilmington, where he averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 boards and 1.4 blocks for a team that reached the NCAA tournament. Gettys is a slow-footed back-to-the-basket player, however, and that didn’t exactly fit with the way that UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts likes to play; think Shaka Smart’s VCU teams.

So Gettys opted for Rutgers, picking the Scarlet Knights over Dayton, Purdue and Chattanooga.

He is the fifth member of new head coach Steve Pikiell’s first recruiting class.

VIDEO: Seventh Woods dunks on UNC student

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Some poor UNC student decided that he was going to try and block Seventh Woods, a freshman point guard for the Tar Heels, on a dunk attempt.

What ended up happening was that he got windmilled on.

To quote Samuel L. Jackson, as portrayed the great philosopher Dave Chappelle, “You ain’t never seen my movies?” Woods was doing this as a freshman … in HIGH SCHOOL.

Former National Player of the Year Michael Brooks dies at 58

Brooks for All-American Brochure
Courtesy La Salle Athletics
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A Philadelphia basketball legend and a former National Player of the Year passed away on Monday night.

Michael Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward who was named the NABC National Player of the Year in 1980, died in Switzerland on Monday night due to a massive stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was just 58 years old.

Brooks finished his career with 2,628 points and 1,372 rebounds. He never averaged less than 20 points in his four seasons in college. (Think about that for a second.) He was the No. 9 pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and averaged double-figures for four years before season-ending knee injuries sent him to Europe to play. Brooks was also named the captain of the 1980 Olympic team that missed out on the Moscow games due to the USA’s boycott.

Brooks, according to the Inquirer, had aplastic anemia, which required him to receive a bone marrow transplant last week. His body rejected the marrow, which resulted in the strokes that ended his life.

UCLA cruises in opener on Australian tour

UCLA head coach Steve Alford, second from right, watches action against Cal Poly with his assistant coaches in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Baker)
AP Photo/Michael Baker
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UCLA, who will be the most interesting team in all of college basketball this season, played their first game of an Australian tour on Tuesday morning, and they won in pretty impressive fashion.

The Bruins had triple digits on the board early in the fourth quarter, eventually beating a club in Sydney by the score of 123-76. For comparison’s sake, Washington and potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz beat the same team 101-80 a couple of weeks ago, so the win and the margin of victory is somewhat impressive.

Also worth noting: None of UCLA’s freshmen started. Steve Alford rolled with Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton on the perimeter — Holiday and Hamilton combined for 27 points, 18 assists and 11 boards while Alford had 17 points on just 10 shots — with G.G. Golomon and Thomas Welsh up front.

But the noteworthy performances here were from the McDonald’s All-Americans that Steve Alford brought into the program. In his first game in the blue and gold, Lonzo Ball, a potential top ten pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was just OK. He finished with nine points and four assists while shooting 3-for-9 from the floor. Leaf, however, was terrific, as he led the team with 21 points to go along with nine boards and three assists.

The first exhibition game is hardly a great way to predict how a season is going to play out, but given the pressure and expectations currently surrounding the program, everything the Bruins do this season is going to be scrutinized.

This isn’t a bad way to start.