NCAA Basketball Tournament - Ohio v North Carolina

Bullock ready to fill it up at UNC


Sure, North Carolina lost last season’s big four of Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Ty Zeller and John Henson to the NBA. On the flipside, Roy Williams will have plenty of young, dynamic talent coming into the program as he always does. In the meantime, where’s the veteran leadership going to come in?

Much of that onus will fall upon Reggie Bullock, the junior shooting guard who didn’t find much room to, well, shoot as the fifth wheel on the Tar Heel spaceship last year. His sophomore season average of 8.8 points didn’t set the world on fire, but close observation shows the kernel possibility in Bullock that may be ready to explode. He shot 38 percent from downtown, and used his bullish 6’7″, 205-lb. body to snag an impressive 5.1 rebounds per game in his second season in Chapel Hill.

But the question remains: can he score? I mean really, really score?

That question may have been answered last week, as the star-laden N.C. Pro-Am summer league wrapped up on Thursday. The championship game featured former UNC breakout star Jerry Stackhouse, as well as current Duke players Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson. According to Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer, amongst all that talent, it was Bullock who stole the show.

Bullock led his Banks Law Firm team (Bullock and Stackhouse played together) to a 91-84 championship game victory against Dream Works (which had all the Duke guys). The official scorers credited Bullock with 28 points but I think they missed one of six 3-pointers. I had him finishing with 31 – 19 of which came in the first half.

And this comes after he scored 30 points during his team’s semifinal victory on Wednesday.

Yes, it’s only the summer league, where defense is at times optional and offensive is at times – most of the time, even – improvisational. But Bullock looked good, shooting with confidence and playing with more speed than he did last season with the Tar Heels.

If nothing else, UNC should prove to have a reliable and versatile backfield, which is crucial in high-level college hoops. Stillman White performed admirably in his Big Dance trial-by-fire filling in for the injured Marshall at the end of last season, Dexter Strickland should be back from injury, and Bullock will be able to use his size and shooting touch to great effect both inside and out.

Earning the Pro-Am MVP award while playing against many of the guys he’ll battle next season could be a strong sign that Bullock is ready for his close-up.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Leave a comment

Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.