Bo Ryan

The Ryan-Uthoff fiasco proves that we can make a difference

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Maybe Mike DeCourcy was right.

Maybe Bo Ryan’s plan all along was to try and scare Jarrod Uthoff into talking with him, into telling face-to-face why he decided to transfer before ever allowing Ryan to try and find a way to fit him into the Wisconsin system. Uthoff has a chance to be a very good player, and Ryan dedicated quite a bit of time — and, potentially, cost himself a chance at recruiting a different player — convincing the 6-foot-8 forward to become a Badger.

Maybe this was simply a scare tactic to he was using to get answers before eventually giving Uthoff the freedom to transfer anywhere outside of the Big Ten.

But it’s just as likely that Ryan, in the face of a tidal wave of criticism hitting him from every angle over the course of the week, simply relented. He realized he was fighting a losing battle. He realized that by restricting Uthoff from transferring to 26 schools he was doing irreparable harm to his program’s public image. Maybe he even realized that what he was doing may have been acceptable by the rulebook but was a completely unfair abuse of power that looked like nothing more than a bitter, petty temper tantrum.

And, frankly, everything you read in that last paragraph is a good thing.

It means that we won. Twitter won. The internet won.

The one thing that is inarguable in the DeCourcy column linked above is that Bo Ryan is not a tyrant. He runs a very respectable program that wins with kids that a) generally do just as well in the classroom, b) aren’t typically elite recruits, and c) spend at least four years in a Wisconsin uniform. According to DeCourcy, Uthoff is only the second player to transfer out of Wisconsin in Ryan’s tenure, and that player wasn’t forced out.

In a moment of anger and frustration at losing a player he was going to be dependent on in the future, Ryan — a guy without much experience dealing with transfers — threw seemingly every school that Wisconsin could potentially play in the next few years on a restricted list.

The reaction had such venom and such power behind it that Ryan was forced to reverse course.

This proves that we have a voice, the same way that the outcry against expanding to a 96 team NCAA tournament proved that we have a voice. The push back against not playing players resulted in a proposal to give athletes an extra $2,000. The proposal was shot down, but it was a step in the right direction, the same way that the condemnation of the BCS slowly pushing college football closer to a playoff is a step in the right direction.

If anything, what these last three days proves is that our voice — writers, bloggers, columnists, fans, the twitterati — matters.

If we air our grievances, changes get made.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.