In order to be successful No. 16 North Carolina needs more from its big men

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When his former player and longtime assistant Jerod Haase was hired as the head coach at UAB, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams threw his protege a bone by agreeing to play a game at UAB. And on Sunday night the Blazers took full advantage of the opportunity, knocking off the 16th-ranked Tar Heels 63-59 behind a 25-point effort from junior Chad Frazier.

The problem for North Carolina: they were outclassed on the glass. UAB out-rebounded North Carolina 52-37 (Fahro Alihodzic grabbed 13 of those 52 boards) with 21 of those boards coming on the offensive end, which works out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 44.7%. The Blazers may have been outscored 13-12 in second chance points, but those rebounding numbers made a major difference as UAB built a lead that reached 15 points late in the first half.

Just one week ago there was optimism regarding North Carolina’s play in a win over Louisville, with sophomore guard Marcus Paige being the biggest reason why. UAB was able to limit Paige to 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting, with 11 of those points scored in the second half. J.P. Tokoto was the biggest reason why UNC was able to remain within striking distance at the half, as he scored nine of his team-high 17 points.

If anything was learned on Sunday night it’s that regardless of who the Tar Heels have on the perimeter and how much Paige scores, the big men have to show up on a nightly basis. That includes James Michael McAdoo, who accounted for just six points (3-for-13 FG) and four rebounds against UAB. Simply put that kind of effort won’t get the job done, especially when considering the fact that he entered the game averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Joel James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks combined to contribute 19 points and 19 rebounds against UAB, and while each has shown flashes at various points in the season are any really in position to be “the man” inside right now? Most would answer “no” to that question, and with that being the case North Carolina needs a collective effort inside if they’re to be successful.

Would it be nice to know the statuses of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald? Yes, and their return would give North Carolina two more perimeter shooters to help Paige carry the offensive load. But the absence of Hairston and McDonald shouldn’t have that much of an impact on how the big men rebound, and if North Carolina is to play at or close to the level they displayed last weekend they have to receive better play from the front court.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

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Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

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A Wichita State spokesman told NBCSports.com that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.