North Carolina's Brice Johnson reacts during the second half of a regional final men's college basketball game against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

No. 1 North Carolina advances to Final Four by beating No. 6 Notre Dame

6 Comments

PHILADELPHIA — When Marcus Paige — native Iowan, midwesterner through and through — signed his Letter of Intent to play at North Carolina, the Tar Heels were the No. 1 team in the country. That was the year that Anthony Davis was carrying Kentucky to a national title, when a little itty-bitty broken bone in Kendall Marshall’s wrist was the difference between the Tar Heels getting a shot at cutting down the nets and going as far as Stillman White would carry them.

Paige figured that would be the norm, that he would play a role for two years before starting as a junior and a senior, winning titles and getting to Final Fours and doing everything that you would expect one of the nation’s premier basketball programs to do.

Only, that’s not the way that it played out. The Tar Heels didn’t get out of the first weekend the first two years that Paige was in Chapel Hill. They didn’t get out of the Sweet 16 his junior year. They had never won an ACC title before this year.

And that became a problem when it came time to cut down the net after Carolina’s 88-74 win over No. 6 seed Notre Dame sent the Tar Heels to the Final Four in Houston.

Because Marcus Paige, Leader of Men in Carolina Blue, didn’t know how to put the net around his neck.

“It just looked weird,” junior guard Nate Britt said with a laugh after the game. “I was just like, ‘Flip it! Flip it before the cameras get you!’ He tried to switch it.”

“I don’t think it worked.”

“This is only my second one,”. Paige said. “So I’m getting better.”

“Hopefully by the third time I’ll have it down.”

——————————————-

We knew it was coming. Notre Dame had not only managed to make a miracle comeback to win each of their first three NCAA tournament games, but the win they had landed over then-No. 2 North Carolina back in February had been the result of the Irish erasing a 15-point lead.

That’s what this team does. It ain’t luck when it happens over and over again.

Notre Dame rode the pluck of the Irish to the Elite 8, and you better believe that wasn’t going to change on Easter Sunday.

Which is why no one in the building should have been surprised when Notre Dame, outsized and down 51-40 with star point guard Demetrius Jackson limping around on a freshly rolled ankle, hit the Tar Heels with a 12-0 run to take their first lead of the second half. And if that had been the end of it, if Notre Dame had gone on to upset the No. 1 seed in the East Region, no one would have been surprised.

Because if Notre Dame’s rep was that of the never-say-die scrapper, North Carolina’s M.O. for much of the season — for the majority of the last two years — had been that of a team that couldn’t win a big game. Choke artists may be too strong of a word, but you didn’t have to look hard to find someone criticizing UNC for their inability to win big games. Toughness, the narrative said, was something lacked, both mentally and physically, and a pair of bonehead mistakes — Kennedy Meeks’ turnover when he convinced himself he was a point guard, and Brice Johnson’s decision to get a technical foul — only reinforced what we were all thinking:

The comeback was coming.

And that’s precisely when the Tar Heels answered.

Marcus Paige sparked and Isaiah Hicks, in emphatic fashion, capped a 12-0 run of their own, giving the Heels a 63-52 lead they would never relinquish en route to win that would send the Heels, this senior class, to the Final Four.

“To actually be here, in the moment, is so much better than I imagined,” Paige said after scoring 13 points in the regional final. “This year, when we started losing a couple games, people started questioning us saying basically it’s the same team as last year. We don’t have what it takes. Don’t get too excited. They were overrated to start the season. To fight that, all the toughness remarks, fight all the experts — one out of 31 ESPN experts picking us — it’s been a special ride, man.”

What makes it that much more special for this group is that they’ve been the kids that have had to deal with the torrent of criticism that has come with the NCAA’s investigation into an academic scandal that began before they were born.

The Tar Heels will be at the center of the biggest subplot to this year’s Final Four. Their athletic department had spent 18 years taking full advantage of fraudulent classes that were being offered in the African American studies major, and they’ll square off in the Final Four against a Syracuse program that self-sacrificed last year’s postseason to try and appease their NCAA overlords.

I’m not here to argue about the merits of either investigation or to try and parse through the details regarding the involvement of the two Hall of Fame head coaches that have had their good names tarnished. That’s a different story for a different day. What is inarguable, however, is that the kids on the current rosters have been the ones that have had to deal with it all.

The media scrutiny. The jeers from opposing fans. The pressure, at North Carolina, that comes with potentially being the last Roy Williams’ coached team that will be eligible to make it this far in March.

It’s not something that they signed up for.

Which is what makes this breakthrough so special.

“I didn’t want this for myself,” Roy Williams said, tears in his eyes as he watched workers at the Wells Fargo Center ready a ladder for him to cut down the nets. “I wanted this for Marcus, Brice and Joel. That’s who I wanted it for.”

“They stuck, they trusted me, they believed in me. Not all the BS that’s been around, the sensationalism and everything. I’ve never wanted anything for someone else as much as I wanted this for those guys.”

Donnie Tyndall to appeal 10-year show-cause

DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Head coach Donnie Tyndall of the Morehead State Eagles shouts from the sidelines during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Donnie Tyndall has requested that the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee overturn the penalties that were levied against him by the Committee on Infractions.

Tyndall’s reasoning, according to CBSSports.com, is that the Committee on Infractions “relied near exclusively on the testimony of Adam Howard” when they hit him with a 10-year show-cause penalty earlier this year. According to Tyndall, more than 40 witnesses were interviewed by the committee and Howard, a former Tyndall assistant coach at Morehead State, Southern Miss and Tennessee, was the only one that said Tyndall was involved. Howard also cut a deal with the NCAA.

Tyndall’s punishment stems from a scandal that emerged from his two seasons at Southern Miss. Among the things that Tyndall was accused of: Having staff members do coursework to help get potential student-athletes eligible, paying out of pocket for kids that did not qualify academically to remain in school and lying to the NCAA while covering his tracks. Here’s how deep the scandal allegedly went: Tyndall hired two staffers specifically to help with the academic fraud, going as far as to send those staffers to the towns that the players lived in to make sure IP addresses added up, while using burner phones and an old Morehead State address he had access to in order to hide communications.

And he lied about all of it to the NCAA, which, as we’ve learned, is the quickest way to get the harshest punishment possible.

Tyndall does have a point in his appeal. If the NCAA’s evidence is all coming from a guilty party that’s singing to lessen his own sentence, that’s not exactly the most reliable witness. But the Committee on Infractions isn’t a court of law, meaning I have a hard time seeing the NCAA overturn anything when the point of Tyndall’s punishment was to make an example out of him.

Incoming UCLA freshman withdraws from school

TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 12: Head coach Steve Alford of the UCLA Bruins reacts during the second half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on February 12, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats beat the UCLA Bruins 81-75. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Incoming UCLA freshman Kobe Paras has withdrawn from the university, the school announced.

According to the release sent out by the university, Paras was admitted to UCLA upon condition and withdrew after the “academic conditions of his admission were not met.”

Paras is a 6-foot-6 wing that attended high school in southern California. Rivals rated him as the 126th prospect in the Class of 2016. Kobe was born in the Philippines. His father, Benjie Paras, is a two-time MVP of the PBA.

Four teams to play in event in Hawai’i on 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, HI - DECEMBER 7: US Army Lieutenant General Anthony G. Crutchfield Deputy Commander of the US Pacific Command greets members of the Villanova coaching staff at Bloch Arena on December 7, 2015 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Four college basketball teams will take part in the 75 anniversary commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor with a two-day, four-game event that will take place at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i.

The games will be played in Bloch Arena, which survived the attacks on Dec. 7th, 1941, and which hosted a top ten battle between Oklahoma and Villanova last season.

This season’s iteration of the Pearl Harbor Basketball Invitational will feature Cal, Seton Hall, Princeton and Hawai’i and will be played on Dec. 6th and 7th.

“The 75th Commemoration is about acknowledging all the men and women who have answered our nation’s call to duty including our ‘greatest generation’ World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors,” said Committee Chairman Adm. (ret) Tom Fargo. “We’re excited to have FOX Sports return here to raise awareness about our veterans, as well as our active duty service members and civilians, and their tremendous contributions to our nation and to the world.”

Four conferences form officiating alliance

Steve Wojciechowski, Bryan Kersey
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) The Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference have formed a men’s basketball officiating alliance, which also includes the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association, which have previously collaborated with the ACC.

The alliance, which was announced Tuesday, begins immediately and will enable the four conferences to work together on all officiating matters and will serve to enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for its basketball officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s Supervisor of Officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officiating, both former NCAA referees, will manage officiating operations for the alliance.

In 2015-16, 32 referees associated with the Big East and ACC were selected to work in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Report: New Mexico State adding JuCo transfer

New Mexico State Aggies
Leave a comment

New Mexico State has landed a commitment from the junior college ranks in shooting guard Chance Ellis.

The 6-foot-5 guard from New York pledged to the Aggies on Tuesday night, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

Ellis started 14 games during his freshmen year at the New Mexico Military Institute, averaging 14.9 points per game while shooting 41.8 percent from the floor and 42.8 percent on nearly nine 3-point attempts per game.

The Aggies return much from last year’s 23-11 squad, but lost big man Patrick Sikiam to the NBA Draft. Ellis’ addition should give New Mexico State quite a bit of options on the wing, and certainly a serious 3-point threat there as well.