D-ficiencies hurt Wolfpack players in the NBA draft

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Eye-popping athletic talent and an ability to show up on the highlight reel will get you a long look in the NBA draft. Many times, offensive skills will get you into the lottery. In the case of UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, a surprise No. 1 pick was the result.

But ability to “score the ball” isn’t everything, not by a long shot. Victor Oladipo (No. 2), Alex Len (No. 5) and Nerlens Noel (No. 6) have the potential to score plenty after they get used to the NBA game, but you can bet their reputations as defensive stoppers preceded them, and moved them up draft boards from day one.

We write about college hoops, so what does this have to do with us? We have to get in the (a little) wayback machine and think about where we started in November of last year. Specifically, our general feelings about who would rule the roost in the ACC. Local media who covered the conference chose N.C. State as the league’s best team, and few disagreed. I know I was blinded by the light – believing that the Wolfpack would build on their surprising performance in the 2012 tournament and take the next step. I mean, they had such dominant athletes, right?

Read ACC, Pac-12 lead the way with seven draft picks apiece

Cut to my midseason Conference Catchup, and cracks began to appear. Duke took over the head parade float and N.C. State became merely “contenders”. By late January, our lead writer Rob Dauster put his finger on the problem that was keeping the Wolfpack from achieving to their potential: poor individual and team defense.

Eggs were broken, omelettes were rethought as scrambled eggs, and NC State ended up as a disappointing 8 seed, bombing out of the NCAA tournament against Temple in the first round. And what about all of those superior athletes Mark Gottfried had at his disposal?

Lorenzo Brown, the N.C. State point guard, went to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 52nd overall pick. Both Brown and C.J. Leslie, the forward, departed N.C. State after their junior seasons. Both were projected as early- to mid-second round selections but Brown slid toward the bottom of the first round and Leslie wasn’t picked.

Bilas during the ESPN broadcast described Brown as a “first-round talent” but criticized his defense. “He did not defend with passion, but really nobody on (N.C. State’s) team did,” Bilas said.

When we look at recruiting and talent, and player development, this is kind of a cautionary tale. John Calipari takes mega-talented players and keeps them on track to the lottery. So far, N.C. State has taken lottery-ready players and watched them spiral into professional irrelevance. As Robarino pointed out recently – you have to develop talented players by teaching them. In this case, teaching them to play D. For N.C. State, that teaching would count as development.

Read At the collegiate level, teaching takes precedence to development

I say, if Richard Howell doesn’t catch on with Denver, Gottfried should put him on staff as soon as possible. If there’s one guy on last year’s Wolfpack team who knew how to bust his butt, it was Howell. Maybe his attitude will catch on with the next wave of talented N.C. State recruits.

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

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: