North Carolina central

NCAA Tournament Primer: North Carolina Central Eagles

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Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: MEAC

Coach: LeVelle Moton

Record: 28-5 (15-1 MEAC)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 78
– RPI: 104
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: Likely 13 seed

Names you need to know: Jeremy Ingram, 6-foot-3 senior guard (2o.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Jordan Parks, 6-foot-7 junior forward (10.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Jay Copeland, 6-foot-7 junior forward (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Emanuel Chapman, 6-foot-1 senior guard (6.8 ppg, 6.5 apg)

Stats you need to know: North Carolina Central has won 20 consecutive games after last losing to Florida A&M on January 11th. Senior guard Jeremy Ingram is 19th in the country at 20.3 points per game. Senior point guard Emanuel Chapman is seventh in the nation in assists at 6.5 assists per contest and 33rd in the nation in steals at 2.06 per game.

Tendencies: North Carolina Central’s offense relies heavily on the shot-happy Ingram, as he nearly doubled any other member of the roster in field goal attempts and free throw attempts. Although the Eagles can rely a bit too much on Ingram, they also move the ball pretty well and take high-percentage looks a fair amount of the time. North Carolina Central is not a particularly good three-point shooting team as well. Defensively, the Eagles love to get out and pressure the ball and average eight team steals a game, good enough for top-20 in the nation. North Carolina Central is also good at taking away interior looks by packing the paint and daring opponents to hit shots after pressuring the ball.

Big wins, bad losses: The Eagles picked up a huge in-state road win at North Carolina State on November 20th. It’s the only top-150 RPI win for North Carolina Central on the season, but they have respectable road losses to Cincinnati, Wichita State and Maryland. The Eagles have two bad losses on the year at IUPUI and at Florida A&M.

How’d they get here?: The Eagles won easily against Howard and Norfolk State before defeating Morgan State, 71-62, in the MEAC Tournament title game.

Outlook: North Carolina Central will have something to prove in the NCAA Tournament as the Eagles were also 15-1 in the MEAC last season before a shocking first-round loss to North Carolina A&T in the MEAC Tournament ended their NCAA Tournament hopes. Now, after another 15-1 MEAC season, this is a dangerous North Carolina Central team that has a big-time scorer in Ingram and a defense that can really get out and pressure the ball. If the Eagles face a higher-seeded team that has difficulty scoring in droves or handling pressure, they could be an upset pick to watch.

How do I know you?: North Carolina Central was a Division II power for many years and won a national title in 1989 and this is the first season they’ve made it to the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level.. Head coach LeVelle Moton is an interesting story because he’s one of the best players in Eagles’ program history and became an assistant coach in 2007 and the head coach in 2009. Moton has seen North Carolina Central transition from Division II as a player, to Division I Independent as a coach and finally as a member of the MEAC.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.