With Duke looming, North Carolina can show it’s still elite

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source: AP

If Harrison Barnes is feeling alright, North Carolina has to be feeling pretty good, too.

The 6-8 sophomore forward, who told the News & Observer that it felt “like somebody shot me in the ankle” after reinjuring himself in the second half against Maryland, will be ready to go when the No. 5 Tar Heels match up with No. 10 Duke on Wednesday night.

With Barnes in the lineup, despite the questions that may continue to linger, North Carolina is an elite team.

Critics point out the 33-point loss at the hands of Florida State, the fact that the Tar Heels have, since, only played ACC bottom feeders, questions about defensive toughness, and the loss of guard Dexter Strickland.

All valid concerns, but remember, North Carolina scores the most points of any team in the country, is the best rebounding team, and will start four players who will be drafted in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.

This side of Kentucky, no other team can come close to that embarrassment of riches.

North Carolina is 20-3, with two of those losses coming to UNLV and the aforementioned Kentucky. With Tyler Zeller and John Henson, paired with Barnes and all orchestrated by point guard Kendall Marshall, it is difficult not to look at that lineup and trust it down the stretch in March.

Group the Tar Heels together with Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Missouri and it may round out the group of elite teams in the country.

Granted, with Strickland out for the season, Reggie Bullock has had to step in, but he has stopped the bleeding rather effectively. The main problem is twofold: Bullock’s move to the starting lineup stretches out the already-underproductive bench and takes out the Tar Heels’ best perimeter defender.

After a string of games against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Maryland, the North Carolina has its chance to make a statement against Duke.

And everything should run through Harrison Barnes.

Expect him to shine against the Blue Devils because there is no one to check him one-on-one. Tied atop the ACC with Florida State, the Tar Heels should look to Barnes early and often to stay that way.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.


N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.