Rob Dauster

North Carolina's Brice Johnson, left, and Kennedy Meeks react during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Peak Carolina finally arrives as No. 1 UNC advances past No. 5 Indiana to the Elite 8


PHILADELPHIA — All year long, we’ve been waiting to get a glimpse of Peak Carolina.

If it wasn’t their three-point shooting that was an issue, it was their defensive rebounding. When that problem was solved, it was their ability to defend, period.  When they spent the ACC tournament proving to every doubter that made their way into the team’s group text that they’re tough when they decide they want to, it was Marcus Paige’s half-season slump that kept the bandwagoners at bay.

On Friday, we finally saw it. We finally got a glimpse of what North Carolina can be when everything comes together, as the Tar Heels whipped up on a much-improved Indiana team, 101-84, to advance to the East Region finals.

No. 1 North Carolina will advance to face ACC rival No. 6 Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon. The Tar Heels beat the Irish by 31 points two weeks ago in the ACC tournament, getting revenge on a loss UNC suffered in South Bend back in January.

It was that loss that really got us questioning these Heels. They blew a 15 point lead largely due to the fact that it was the Fighting Irish that were the tougher, more physical team. UNC gave up 13 second half offensive rebounds, a number that is truly unacceptable when you’re front line is as big and as deep as Carolina’s is. Their mental toughness — could we really trust UNC to win a big game? — was already a major concern, and thanks to Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson, we started questioning their physical toughness.

That’s not an ideal combination.

And that’s probably why that 78-47 win two weeks ago felt so good.

But that performance had nothing on the show that the Tar Heels put on on Friday night and into early Saturday morning.

It took less than five minutes for us to know that something special was about to happen, because that’s how long it took Paige to hit his first four threes. When you include the two assists that he had, UNC’s struggling superstar was responsible for UNC’s first 16 points of the night. He finished with 21 points and six assists, but he more than set the tone as the Tar Heels would go on to bury 10 of their first 12 triples.

Indiana, frankly, didn’t stand a chance.

The Hoosiers, who had been a totally different team on the defensive end of the floor from the one that was lit up by Duke back in December, gave up 1.444 points-per-possession in the first half, and I don’t even think they played that poorly on that end of the floor. What can you do when a team hits 7-for-8 from three? What can you do when two of those threes were missed shots that took wicked bounces and went in?

Because that was the way to beat the Heels, particularly for a team like Indiana, who plays small-ball. They had to pack in their defense because Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks were going to eat their big men alive. They had to dare the Tar Heels to beat them from beyond the arc because UNC has not proven to be able to consistently shoot the ball from three.

When Carolina shoots like this, there is not a team in college basketball that will beat them.

And that is why this is Peak Carolina.

Altman backs Brooks after late-game drama with Coach K

Oregon head coach Dana Altman attends a news conference before an upcoming regional finals basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 25, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. Oregon faces Oklahoma in an Elite Eight matchup March 26. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Oregon head coach Dana Altman says that if anyone has a problem with Dillon Brooks’ late-game shooting choices or celebrations, they should come to him.

Altman spoke up for his leading scorer Friday after Brooks’ celebration of his last-minute 3-pointer and a postgame conversation with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski drew almost more attention than the top-seeded Ducks advancing to the Elite Eight.

With Oregon up 79-68 in the final eight seconds of the NCAA West Region semifinal on Thursday, Brooks took a long 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring. He made it and apparently celebrated a little too hard for the Blue Devils’ liking, even attempting to goad Duke guard Grayson Allen into a celebration with him.

It became a controversy overnight, and the Ducks are failing to understand why.

“At the end of the game, there was a difference in the shot clock and the game clock,” Altman said. “I told Dillon to shoot it. So if anybody’s got a problem with it, it should be directed at me. He was acting on my orders. I told him to shoot it. I didn’t think he’d make it. It was a 30-footer, but there was a five-, six-second difference there.”

The cameras caught a postgame exchange between Krzyzewski, who appeared to say something to Brooks about the celebration.

“He just told me that I’m too good of a player to be showing out at the end,” Brooks said in the locker room following the game. “And he’s right. I’ve got to respect Duke.”

But Krzyzewski disputed Brooks’ account of the postgame message, appearing angry when it was brought up in the postgame press conference.

“I didn’t say that,” Krzyzewski said. “You can say whatever you want. Dillon Brooks is a hell of a player. I said, `You’re a terrific player.’ And you can take whatever he said and go with it, all right?”

Brooks expressed remorse Friday when he realized how much attention had been given to the inconsequential basket.

“Me and Coach K, that conversation should have stayed with us,” Brooks said. “But overall, me and Coach K are both professionals and I have to move on from this situation and focus on Oklahoma.”

Brooks doesn’t make any attempt to hide his fiery persona on the court. He acknowledges that his brash play occasionally is detrimental, but has learned to harness it into productive play for the most part.

Yet Brooks doesn’t plan to tone himself down in the West final against Oklahoma. He said he’ll bring the same energy that he’s brought all year.

“It’s been a hassle all of my life to figure out how to channel it and find ways to put it to great use,” Brooks said. “I feel like I’ve found a way and I have to bring it every day. I can’t pull it back because I’ve tried that already and it hasn’t worked to any good extent. I’ve just got to keep playing with emotion and live or die by it.”

No. 6 Notre Dame lands another unlikely comeback in win over No. 7 Wisconsin

Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

PHILADELPHIA — Survive and advance.

No team in the 2016 NCAA tournament has embodied that mantra more than No. 6 seed Notre Dame this season, as the Fighting Irish staged a wild second half rally for the third consecutive game, beating No. 7 Wisconsin 61-56 to advance to the program’s second consecutive Elite 8.

The Irish trailed 49-44 with 3:36 left in a game where points were at an absolute premium, but they closed the evening on a 17-7 run. The man that made the difference was star point guard Demetrius Jackson, who was having a disaster of a game until the final few minutes. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots, but made the biggest plays when it mattered the most.

He got a lucky bounce on a jumper to start the comeback, finding V.J. Beachem for yet another clutch three from Notre Dame’s best shooter in this tournament on the ensuing possession. A minute later, after a Vitto Brown three put Wisconsin ahead 56-53, he scored a driving layup to cut the lead to one with just 19 seconds left. On the next possession, he picked Nigel Hayes’ pocket, scoring the layup that ultimately won the game. After another empty Indiana possession and two Beachem free throws, Jackson again stole the ball, this time taking Bronson Koenig’s cookies.

His two free throws would give the Irish their final margin.

This win comes after Notre Dame erased a five-point Stephen F. Austin led in the final minute and a full week after they erased a 41-29 halftime deficit against Michigan. The Irish will advance to face the winner of No. 1 North Carolina and No. 5 Indiana for the right to advance to the Final Four.

“I guess that kind of sums up madness,” Jackson said.

With the way that they’ve advanced in this tournament, and considering that every other team currently in the Elite 8 is either a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed, I think we can say that the Irish are this year’s Cinderella story.

And if that’s the case, then head coach Mike Brey is this year’s Ron Hunter. Hunter, if you remember, is the head coach at Georgia State who popped his achilles celebrating his team’s in the Sun Belt tournament before famously falling off of a stool when his son, R.J., buried a three to beat No. 3 seed Baylor in the first round of the tournament. Brey injured himself early in the second half on Friday night, and while he initially thought the injury was a torn achilles, it turns out that Brey just pulled his right calf.

“Thank God it wasn’t achilles,” he told reporters after the game while hobbling around the underbelly of the Wells Fargo Center, the grin he wore far more noticeable than the bag of ice strapped to his leg. “The whole second half I was limping around. I played hurt.”

The good news for Brey? He’s listed as day-to-day and expects to be healthy for the Elite 8 on Sunday. Not only does that mean he’ll be able to coach for the right to play in the Final Four, but he won’t have to do it from a stool.

And given the way that Notre Dame has been winning games of late, that’s probably a good thing for Brey. This new look — scruffy beard , open collar, hair slicked back — already has him looking like the last guy to leave the blackjack table.

He doesn’t need to be falling stools as well. That’s the kind of March it’s been for Brey.

I’m not going to be the guy that says Notre Dame has had the Luck of the Irish.

I just won’t do it.

I’ll let Brey handle the quips instead.

“The Irish don’t lose on Good Friday or Easter Sunday.”

VIDEO: Wisconsin’s Zak Showlalter with a tip-dunk in traffic

Wisconsin's Zak Showalter, left, heads to the basket past Xavier's Myles Davis during the second half in a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 20, 2016, in St. Louis. Wisconsin won 66-63. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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This is Zak Showalter throwing down a nasty tip-dunk on Notre Dame.

Zak Showalter is Wisconsin’s 6-foot-1 point guard who entered the program as a walk-on.

He did this.


Jerod Haase will be the next head coach at Stanford

UAB head coach Jerod Haase celebrates a basket along with his bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against UTEP, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80. (AP Photo/John Amis)
(AP Photo/John Amis)

Jerod Haase is expected to be named the next head coach at Stanford. A formal announcement from the school is expected soon.

Haase is a California native that has spent the last four seasons as the head coach at UAB. He got the Blazers into the NCAA tournament — and landed a win over No. 3 seed Iowa State — in 2015 before posting a 26-7 record this past season. UAB went 16-2 and won the Conference USA regular season title, but the Blazers lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals and were relegated to the NIT.

Before UAB, Haase played and Kansas and spent the better part of two decades on staff with Roy Williams at Kansas and North Carolina.

Haase will replace Johnny Dawkins, who was fired after eight seasons and just a single NCAA tournament. was the first to report Haase’s involvement with the program.

Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen and the stupidity of the latest controversy


The incident involving Grayson Allen and Dillon Brooks at the end of No. 1 Oregon’s 82-68 win over No. 4 Duke has become a ‘thing’, a talking point for the people that hate Duke and Allen and Coach K to jump all over.

Which is ridiculous.

Because calling this ‘an incident’ is making too much out of something that really was nothing.

Here’s how it started: Brooks, after Duke had clearly thrown in the towel, drilled a 27-foot three with about six seconds left on the clock after head coach Dana Altman told him to shoot. He celebrated the shot with a fist pump and a yell:

There’s really nothing wrong with that. It’s not a great look for Brooks — running up the score, sportsmanship, all of that — but whatever. It’s more or less harmless, even if it does ruffle the feathers of the Blue Devils.

Where people seem to have taken umbridge here is with Allen’s reaction, and that’s mostly because the announcer said on the broadcast that Allen shoved Brooks away from him.

That’s not exactly accurate. Watch the video below and tell me what you think Allen did wrong:

Is he supposed to celebrate with Brooks? Hug him back after the dude just ended Allen’s season and, quite possibly, his Duke career? In fact, given how competitive and intense Allen is — and considering his track record in situations like this — I’d argue that this showed a bit more maturity than we’ve seen out of him this season. But since it’s Grayson Allen, and since the announcer made a much bigger deal out of this run-in than he should have, it became a ‘thing’.

If there is anyone that deserves to be criticized here, it’s probably Coach K.

After the game, he was caught on camera saying something to Brooks where it appears Brooks responds with, “my bad”. You can see the interaction here:

Brooks told that Coach K told him he’s “too good of a player to be showing off at the end.” He agreed, adding “I have to learn from those things.” In the postgame press conference, Coach K initially said that he congratulated Brooks and told him he’s a terrific player. After he was asked about Brooks’ interpretation of the conversation, he said, “I didn’t say that. You can say whatever you want. Dillon Brooks is a hell of a player. I said, ‘You’re a terrific player.’ And you can take whatever he said and then go with it, all right?”

Now, I’ve always subscribed to the theory that you should coach your own team. Even if there is some truth in what Coach K apparently said to Brooks, it probably should be Altman — and not the opposing head coach, regardless of his standing in the basketball community — that says something.

But on the other hand, would we have even noticed this if it wasn’t Coach K involved? If it was Allen that the announcer said shoved Brooks? If this was anyone other than Duke?

You know the answer to that question.

And since when do we require our athletes to be best friends? We complain about how AAU basketball and the summer camp tours have made all of these elite prospects friends from an early age, but then rip then when they show a little bit of competitiveness?

Of course Brooks is going to be fired up that he went for 22 points, six assists and five boards as the Ducks beat one of the nation’s premier programs en route to an Elite 8 that no one thought they’d get to.

And of course the Duke players and coaching staff are going to be pissed they lost and peeved that Brooks ended the game the way he ended the game.

If — and let me stress the if — anyone did anything wrong here, it was the announcer for making the interaction out to be something that it wasn’t and Coach K reprimanding an opposing player in a spot where a national television audience could witness the exchange.

Beyond that, all this kerfuffle did was take way from the fact that Oregon looked damned good on Thursday night, good enough to get to a Final Four, maybe good enough to win a national title. But instead of talking about how the Ducks are putting on for their league, we’re stuck arguing about something that is so insignificant that it shouldn’t even have been mentioned in the first place.