spt-120323-stilman

Marshall’s absence raises the question: Who is Stilman White?

Leave a comment

OK, so the odds of North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall playing vs. Ohio are roughly the same as you posting a perfect bracket. Without him running the show, the Midwest’s No. 1 seed should be OK against the 13th-seeded Bobcats, even with Stilman White likely getting the start.

Which raises the question: Who the heck is Stilman White?

Here’s how UNC coach Roy Williams described him on Thursday.

“He’s really a nice kid,” Williams said. “I mean, he’s a little wacko now. … I mean, no, he’s a lot wacko. But he’s really a good kid. And we have enjoyed the dickens out of him.

“Stilman is like a little colt running around out there. Kendall thinks three plays ahead. Stilman’s still trying to think [whether] he’s got both shoes tied. … But Stilman’s got a little toughness to him. I mean, he really does. Like I say, he’s wacko and maybe it’s the wacko to the extent that he doesn’t realize it, but I like the toughness. He’s willing to try to make plays. I don’t worry any more about Stilman tomorrow than I would if he was going to play two minutes. Because he’s still wacko. …

“We have thrown him out there a couple of minutes in some big games and he’s done fine. And he comes back over to the bench and just sort of sits down and he’s got this little grin on his face, and somebody will say, ‘Good job.’ And he will say, ‘What did I do?’ ”

Ah. Sounds like the perfect player to throw out there with a trip to the regional finals on the line.

Williams was undoubtedly keeping things light, trying to take some of the spotlight off Marshall, the Heels who plays more minutes than anyone else on the roster and is second in the nation in assists. He’s also trying to ease expectations on White, a 6-foot 160-pound true freshman from Wilmington, N.C., who rarely steps on the court. White’s played 136 minutes in 32 games this season, which is what Marshall totals in four games.

But he’s been preparing for this possibility ever since junior Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in January and became Marshall’s only real backup.

“It’s something in practice you’ve got to prepare for, always prepare as if I’m going to be playing a lot of minutes,” White said. “It definitely helps to go through the ACC season, playing in that competition. … Also, in practice, I’ve gotten to go up against the best point guard in the country.”

White will get the start, but don’t expect him to play a ton of minutes. Senior Justin Watts isn’t a natural point guard, but he’s a much better defender than White, which’ll come in handy against guard-heavy Ohio. If either D.J. Cooper or Walter Offutt heat up, Watts will be the guy guarding them.

Besides, no matter who’s running the offense, the goal remains the same: get it to the big guys. Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes – all future lottery picks – should have huge games.

“Whether I’m playing or not, it’s not going to matter. Carolina basketball is still going to go on,” Marshall said. “They can be successful without me.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Leave a comment

Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Leave a comment

Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.