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_

Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant out 3-4 months

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Florida Gulf Coast redshirt junior forward Demetris Morant is expected to miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right shin, the school announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 4.5 points, 4.4 blocks and 1.3 blocks per game in 33 appearances (18 starts) for the Eagles during the 2014-15 season.

“This is obviously an unfortunate setback for Demetris, but it was a procedure that needed to be done,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dooley said in a statement. “We decided it would be best to have it completed now to hopefully get him back for A-Sun play. It’s an opportunity now for other guys to step up in his absence, and I have confidence they’ll get the job done.”

The Eagles have the top frontline in the Atlantic Sun, one that returns Marc-Eddy Norelia and Filip Cvjeticanin, a 3-point shooter who missed all of last season recovering from back surgery. VCU transfer Antravious Simmons becomes eligible in the second semester.

Florida Gulf Coast begins the 2015-16 season on Nov. 14 against Ohio.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.