Belmont v North Carolina

UNC’s Brice Johnson on final possessions: ‘We really haven’t practiced them’

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There’s a lot to be concerned about if you’re a North Carolina basketball fan right now.

For starters, they just lost at home to Belmont. As good as the Bruins have been in recent seasons, they are still a team that just won their first game against a top 25 opponent in a decade and didn’t even enter this season as the favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

That’s a bad loss, one that becomes all the more concerning when you think about the defensive breakdowns that allowed J.J. Mann to get three open threes in the final minute or the 26 free throws the Tar Heels missed.

Should I remind you that none of North Carolina’s big men are North Carolina quality? Or that, right now, Marcus Paige is being forced to play out of position because the suspensions of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald have left UNC bereft of perimeter? What about the fact that Eric Prisbell, who is as tuned in to this case as anyone, has been quite vocal on twitter about how bad he expects the punishments to be?

This could be a long year for the Heels, so this might feel a bit like I’m piling on, but I’m not. This is quite concerning:

After the game, Williams took the blame for the loss. It was in part due to the fact that he admitted he hadn’t drilled his team enough on end-of-game situations like the one it botched Sunday.

“We really haven’t practiced them,” Brice Johnson said. “With the veteran guys on the court, I think we would know some things. But we just froze up in the moment in the end.”

There may be a reason for it. Williams is dealing with a number of new players and has a group of guys that are trying to figure out new positions. It might have been more important to Williams to make sure that his guys learned their role in his system. I might be able to understand that if it was the first time that his players had been quoted admitting they don’t practice end-of-game situations enough.

Most teams get drilled on this at the end of a practice or a shootaround, spending 15 or 20 minutes playing out different situations — down two with 20 seconds left, tie game with five seconds left, etc. Knowing what play to run without having to call a timeout, knowing who should be getting the final shot, being comfortable enough to have an internal clock knowing how much time is left, learning to operate quickly yet calmly without rushing. These are all things that should be practiced and can be improved on.

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.