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NC State running out of time to turn around ACC slide

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The season is getting away from North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack entered Atlantic Coast Conference play with the potential to mature into a scary March matchup. Instead, North Carolina State is near the bottom of the league, losing by lopsided margins and creating uncertainty about the future of sixth-year coach Mark Gottfried entering Wednesday’s rivalry game against No. 10 North Carolina.

“I don’t know that I’d ever use the word desperate,” Gottfried said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t think there’s any question your backs are pinned up against the wall. We’ve been there before, since I’ve been here. But in the past our teams have always played its best basketball at the end. We’ve always done that.

“Now, we’re running out of time and we’ve got to do it and it’s got to happen for us.”

No one expected this from the Wolfpack (14-12, 3-10 ACC). N.C. State had an overhauled roster that included the addition of potential one-and-done point guard Dennis Smith Jr., but the team picked to finish sixth in the 15-team ACC is ahead of only one team in the standings – a Boston College squad that beat the Wolfpack last month.

More alarming is the way N.C. State has gotten there.

There was a 107-56 loss against the league-leading Tar Heels (21-5, 9-3) in Chapel Hill, the second-worst margin of defeat in program history. A 25-point loss at Louisville. A 24-point loss at Florida State.

And last weekend, there was an 88-58 loss at bubble team Wake Forest, an ugly afternoon that included senior center BeeJay Anya jawing multiple times with heckling Demon Deacons fans behind a nearby baseline.

Afterward, Wake Forest’s Keyshawn Woods added a stinging critique that the Demon Deacons “knew if we got up early on them, they was going to quit.”

On Tuesday afternoon, UNC point guard Joel Berry II echoed that even as he tried to say Wednesday would be a tougher matchup.

“We can’t go out there and think they’re going to lay down like they laid down the first time,” Berry said.

N.C. State has lost four games by at least 24 points for the first time since the 1993-94 season after having just three such losses in Gottfried’s first five seasons combined.

“We’re there to compete and we’re going to compete tomorrow, too – no matter what anybody says and anybody on the outside,” sophomore Torin Dorn said. “We’re worried about in-house and fixing the things we need to fix and being focused for the game.”

Offense generally hasn’t been a problem, and Smith has been a brilliant individual talent who has become the first player in league history to have two triple-doubles in conference play in the same season. He was dominant with 32 points in the Wolfpack’s 84-82 win at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 23, the program’s first win in the famously hostile building since 1995.

But N.C. State hasn’t won since, losing five in a row.

The biggest culprit for N.C. State’s troubles has been defense. It ranks 216th nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings (106.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), the worst in the ACC and better than just five teams from power-5 conferences.

Gottfried inherited a program that had missed the NCAA Tournament in the 15 of 21 years since the Jim Valvano era, then got the Wolfpack to four straight NCAA bids – including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. But last year’s team stumbled with a shorthanded roster, and this year’s descent seems to be picking up speed with only five ACC games left.

“That’s been a tough thing for us at times, where we allow adversity to kind of steamroll us and it gets worse,” Gottfried said. “And that’s happened too many times. And in those games where we’ve had lopsided losses, at the end of the day that’s my responsibility.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get our team more consistently to handle adversity.”

 

Kansas lands second commitment in the Class of 2018

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Kansas landed their second big man in the Class of 2018 on Sunday, as David McCormack, a top 50 prospect, announced that he will be a Jayhawk when he plays his college ball.

The 6-foot-10 center picked Kansas over Xavier, NC State, Oklahoma State and Duke.

A product of the famed Oak Hill Academy, McCormack averaged 15 points and 10 boards on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit this spring. He joins fellow four-star big man Silvio de Sousa in the 2018 class for Bill Self, although the Jayhawks will get three players eligible after they sit out the 2017-18 season as transfers: Dedric and K.J. Lawson, who transferred in from Memphis, as well as Charlie Moore, a point guard from California.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.