Nate Britt, Cameron Wright, Talib Zanna

ACC Tournament: Pitt locks up tourney bid by beating struggling No. 16 North Carolina

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Pitt got the win it needed on Friday afternoon, holding of to beat No. 16 North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.

The Panthers entered the day with good computer numbers and a dearth of bad losses — something that is unique on the bubble this season — but until their 80-75 victory over the Tar Heels, Jamie Dixon’s club had really lacked a marquee win.

They finally got it, and that should mean that Selection Sunday is just that much less stressful in Pittsburgh.

But the more pressing issue is North Carolina.

Have they been figured out? The Tar Heels won 12 straight games after starting out ACC play 1-4, but they struggled to hang on in the last two wins before getting smacked around by Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. And while Friday’s final score made things seem respectable, quite frankly, it wasn’t. Pitt was up by 20 points late in the second half, and if it wasn’t for an embarrassing display of ugly turnovers and missed free throws, North Carolina never would have gotten back into the game.

What happened?

For starters, they were absolutely massacred in the paint by Talib Zanna, who finished with 19 points and 21 boards, 10 of which came on the offensive end of the floor. That’s especially concerning when you consider the fact that the front court had been a strength of UNC’s during their winning streak.

The other issue came on the offensive end. Marcus Paige has developed a reputation of late for putting on second half shows, but the Tar Heels need him to become more assertive offensively in the first half. The Heels dug themselves a 27-8 hole in the first half and at one point were shooting just 3-for-19 from the floor.

This isn’t like the typical North Carolina teams that we are used to. They aren’t an offensive juggernaut. Paige is really their only consistent deep threat, and they can go through scoring droughts on the nights that James Michael McAdoo and Paige are off.

The Tar Heels are making a habit out of being a team that digs out of a hole late in the second half.

That’s not an ideal way to play.

SMU won’t appeal tournament ban, Brown suspension

Associated Press
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Last month the NCAA announced that due to rules violations found in their investigation of the SMU men’s basketball program, the team would be banned from postseason play in 2015-16 and head coach Larry Brown would be suspended for the first nine games of the 2015-16 season. With a team led by seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy and just one player (Keith Frazier) being the subject of the investigation, it was assumed that SMU would at the very least appeal the postseason ban.

Friday, the school announced that while it will appeal some of the penalties handed down by the NCAA to the men’s basketball and men’s golf programs they will not appeal the postseason ban or Brown’s suspension.

“After careful consideration, however, we will not appeal the NCAA post-season ban on men’s basketball or partial season suspension of Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown,” SMU president R. Gerald Turner stated in the release. “Although we regret the severe impact on our student-athletes, the simple fact is that the NCAA penalty structure mandates at minimum a one-year post-season ban for the level of misconduct that occurred, in our case, when a former staff member completed an online high school course for a prospective student-athlete, committing academic misconduct.

“In addition, should we appeal this matter, the lengthy process and uncertainty during this period could harm many aspects of the program. Coach Brown and his staff also agree that it is in the best interests of the program to accept these sanctions and move forward.”

Among the penalties the school will appeal (with regards to the basketball program) are the “duration of scholarship losses” and how long the recruiting restrictions placed on the program will last, and the vacating of games Frazier played in during the 2013-14 season.

This a tough turn of events for players who had nothing to do with the violations, as they see their opportunity to return to the NCAA tournament taken away. As a result of the school’s decision, SMU’s season will end March 9 following their regular season finale against Cincinnati.

Kevin Marfo commits to George Washington

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Kevin Marfo committed to George Washington on Friday evening, announcing his decision on Twitter.

“I am grateful and appreciative to all the schools that recruited me. But I will be spending the next four years at George Washington University,” he tweeted.

This caps a successful week for Mike Lonergan on the recruiting trail. On Tuesday, GW landed a commitment from Darnell Rogers, a 5-foot-3 point guard. He is the son of former GW guard Shawnta Rogers, the 1999 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. GW ends the week by adding a tenacious rebounder to a front court that graduates top rebounder Kevin Larsen after this season. Rogers and Marfo join power forward Collin Smith in the Class of 2016. Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina will also be eligible in 2016-17.

He cut his list to 10 in August with Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Boston College, UMass, Saint Joseph’s, DePaul, Rhode Island and Providence all making the cut along wit the Colonials. He later trimmed the list to five finalists: BC, Providence, DePaul, GW and Rhode Island.

The Worcester Academy (Mass.) forward played for BABC this summer in the Nike EYBL, averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.  The 6-foot-8 Marfo is listed as the No. 148 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.