North Carolina Tar Heels

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

2018 NCAA Tournament: Big men that will break your bracket

Leave a comment

There’s a line of thinking that the NCAA tournament is a guard’s game, and there’s ample evidence of its veracity when we look back at runs by Kemba Walker’s UConn, Kris Jenkins and and Josh Hart’s Villanova and Russ Smith’s Louisville in recent years. Don’t, though, forget the big guys. Here’s a list of post presences that could help determine a national champion – and your bracket pool winner.

Marvin Bagley III, Duke: The Blue Devils freshman was the toast of the sport early in the season before being overshadowed by Trae Young, but he’s been consistently great. He’s great around the bucket, good enough from distance to keep defenses honest and rebounds at a high level. He may not be June’s No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, but he ain’t slipping past five, either.

Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic, Arizona: This is about as close to a throwback frontcourt as you’ll see – despite the fact that Ayton fits well enough in the modern game to be a potential No. 1 pick in June. It’s rare that a team can put two seven-footers on the floor and make it work, but Arizona’s pair can make it work. Still, it’s Ayton that fuels this pairing as he’s established himself as a dominant force inside and capable of keeping the Wildcats moving through the bracket.

Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri: Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon held down the fort inside all season long for the Tigers, but they’re now adding Michael Porter, Jr. to the mix – which could either make them fearsome up front or create a rocky fit. It’s one of the big bets of the NCAA tournament that coach Cuonzo Martin is making here. The upside is massive given Porter, Jr.’s talent.

Isaac Haas, Purdue: It’s pretty astounding that the Boilermakers lost Caleb Swanigan, one of the best big men the sport has seen in recent years, and somehow had a better season. Isaac Haas is a big reason why. The 7-foot-2 senior is on the floor more this year without Swanigan now that coach Matt Painer doesn’t have to juggle the two big men, and Haas has upped his production as a result. His size and skill bends the defense like few other players in the country.

Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward, Michigan State: Jackson is the darling of NBA scouts with his modern game while Ward is a more traditional big man – together they make up an incredibly dynamic and productive frontcourt for the Spartans. Ward is the country’s most prolific offensive rebounder and Jackson is one of the top shotblockers in the nation. And both shoot better than 60 percent from the floor.

(Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Luke Maye, North Carolina: Maye went from a nice story on last year’s national champion Tar Heels to one of the most productive players in the country this year. He’s averaging a double-double of 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds as his role has exploded from bit player to star for coach Roy Williams.

Killian Tillie, Gonzaga: With all the turnover off last year’s national runners-up, Tillie has seen his role and his production trend way up. He’s one of the most efficient scorers in the country with a true-shooting percentage of 68.2, which is top-10 nationally. He’s not as proficient as a shotblocker and rebounder, but he’s a major problem for defenses.

Udoka Azubuike, Kansas: The Jayhawks’ roster is incredibly dependent on Azubuike given the dearth of other options inside, making his health status one of the more important subplots of the NCAA tournament. The sophomore missed the Big 12 tournament due to a knee injury, but is expected to return to the court this week. His presence inside really facilitates Kansas’ guard-oriented and 3-point heavy approach.

Mike Daum, South Dakota State: The 6-foot-9 Jackrabbit may be the best mid-major player in the tournament. He’s a high-usage player with a 59.5 true shooting percentage and rebounds on the defensive end at a high rate. His athleticism isn’t going to wow anyone, but his ability to score at every level and in unique ways makes him an incredibly tough cover. If South Dakota State turns into this year’s Cinderella, it’ll be Daum who fit them with the glass slipper.

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: The 6-foot-10 senior is a double-double machine, averaging 13.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. His prowess on the glass is what separates him from the rest of the big man pack as he’s elite on both the offensive and defensive ends on the floor in that area. He’s not a prolific scorer, but he creates extra shots for the Pirates and limits those extra opportunities for their opponents.

Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, Texas A&M: Another super-sized frontcourt that harkens back to a different era of basketball. Both of these guys are great around the rim, but not threats from the 3-point arc. Williams is a fantastic shotblocker while Davis is a great offensive rebounder.

Mohamed Bamba, Texas: Bamba appears to have healed up from a sprained toe and will try to help the Longhorns escape the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. The 6-foot-11 freshman with an expansive wingspan is one of the most impactful defenders in the country as an elite shotblocker. His offensive game lags behind his defense, but he is capable of causing headaches for opponents on that end as well.

Report: Ted Valentine not working NCAA tournament after Berry incident

Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

One of college basketball’s most well-known and recognizable officials will be absent from the NCAA tournament.

Ted Valentine will not work the tournament this month, just a year after officiating the Final Four, for what he believes to be fallout from the incident in which he turned his back on North Carolina’s Joel Berry during a game, he told ESPN on Monday.

“This is not right, it’s just not fair,” Valentine told ESPN. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m being punished unjustly.”

Valentine said he was told of the decision Saturday by NCAA coordinator of officials J.D. Collins.

“We talked about the Joel Berry situation and how he had a discussion with the Big Ten. But I told him, ‘I fixed the situation,’” Valentine said.

During a game in January, Valentine turned his back while Berry lobbied him after a call.

“I screwed up,” Valentine said. “But I went back a week later and apologized, and he and I were joking and kidding. It was no big deal. I even pulled him out of a situation where he could have gotten a technical foul.”

Valentine certainly has a reputation – and the nickname TV Teddy – but a big constituency of coaches would be glad to have him on the whistle for a big game. His conduct with Berry was unbecoming, but shelving him during the NCAA tournament seems like a huge reaction.

Rival fans fired up over placement of UNC national title signs

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

When sports teams win championships, one of the benefits received is usually the placement of signs along major highways that honors said achievement. This is what the North Carolina Department of Transportation did in honor of North Carolina winning the national title. But according to the News & Observer some rival fans are none too pleased with the placement of two of these signs.

The two signs in question were placed on Interstate 40 in Raleigh, with one (which is visible to those driving east) being just three miles away from NC State’s home arena. For those driving westbound on I-40, there’s a visible sign at the Wake-Durham county line.

According to the News & Observer, the signs were placed at those spots in order to grab the attention of passengers deplaning at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport. But even with that being the case, someone had to know that the placement of the signs would not go over well with the fan base that calls Raleigh home.

In November, North Carolina’s request for eight signs to be erected across the state in acknowledgement of the men’s basketball team’s achievement was approved by the North Carolina Board of Transportation. A sign placed along I-85 also drew criticism, as some believed it to be too close to the UNC Charlotte (its sports teams are referred to simply as Charlotte) campus. That sign would ultimately be moved to a spot close to the South Carolina state line.

And given the reactions to the signs along I-40, one has to wonder if the locations of those two signs will change as well.

Monday’s Three Things To Know: Baylor keeps winning, Tar Heels stay surging and Bucknell caps a thriller

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Leave a comment


It wasn’t even two weeks ago when Baylor was sitting in last place in the Big 12 with a 2-7 league record, the owners of a four-game losing streak and losers of six of their last seven. The Bears didn’t begin the season as Big 12 frontrunners or anything, but as January came to an end, they were undoubtedly the biggest disappointment in the conference.

That was then, though, and this is now, which happens to be a time when the Bears are squarely back in the NCAA tournament conversation after defeating Texas, 74-73 in double overtime, in Austin on Monday night to claim their-fourth straight win heading into a weekend matchup with No. 7 Texas Tech in Lubbock.

It’s been a stark turnaround for Scott Drew’s team, which look destined to languish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings and miss out on the Big Dance for the first time since 2013. Before February started, Baylor had zero road wins and only two top-50 KenPom victories to their name. Now? The Bears have wins at Texas and at Oklahoma State while doubling their KP top-50 wins. It’s a turnaround that borders on stunning given how quickly Baylor has played its way into tournament consideration. And West Virginia and Oklahoma still have to come to Waco, so the Bears will have ample opportunity to really build that resume without even leaving the Ferrell Center.

As big as the win was for Baylor, it’s equally distressing for Shaka Smart and the Longhorns, who have now lost three in a row and four of their last five. Now they’ve got back-to-back road games against Oklahoma and Kansas State on the docket, which threatens to turn this skid into a prolonged slide.

The Big 12 is a jumbled mess of parity right now. Rob Dauster does his best to parse the league in Monday night’s Bubble Banter.


North Carolina has recovered nicely from the three-game losing streak it suffered to end January, and that resume rehabilitation continued Monday as the knocked off shorthanded Notre Dame, 83-66, with a late push that turned a tight game into a snooze.

The Tar Heels ended last month with losses at Virginia Tech and Clemson and a loss in Chapel Hill (in overtime) to NC State, but have since reeled off wins Pitt, Duke, the Wolfpack and now the Fighting Irish. No one is likely to catch Virginia in the ACC race, but North Carolina is doing its best to buoy its seed line in the regular season’s final month.

As for the close to the season for UNC, it’s, well, a bit of a killer. The Heels go to Louisville and Syracuse before hosting Miami and then hitting the road again to visit the Blue Devils in Durham to finish the regular season. It’s an absolute meat grinder.


A 10-point deficit with under 60 seconds ought to be an insurmountable obstacle. Don’t try telling that to Bucknell, though.

The Bison completed an amazing comeback in the game’s final seconds when Kimbal Mackenzie drilled a corner 3 as time expired to give Bucknell a one-point victory after staring defeat straight in the face just seconds earlier.

Click here for the blow-by-blow – and video of Mackenzie’s winner – of how the Bison mounted their comeback.

UNC women’s hoops coach Sylvia Hatchell nets 1,000th win

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame)
Leave a comment

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell has become the third women’s Division I coach to net her 1,000th career victory.

Hatchell’s Tar Heels beat Grambling State 79-63 on Tuesday. Hatchell, who battled leukemia and was declared cancer-free in 2014, is 1,000-376 during a 43-year career that started with 11 seasons at Francis Marion.

This is her 32nd season at North Carolina, and she has led the Tar Heels to eight ACC titles, three Final Fours and the 1994 national championship.

Jamie Cherry scored 22 points and Janelle Bailey added 15 for the Tar Heels (10-2), who shot 47 percent and outscored the Tigers 60-40 over the final three quarters after falling behind early.

Hatchell is 728-286 with the Tar Heels, and another milestone could come later this season. She’s 11 wins shy of former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan’s record for most victories at an Atlantic Coast Conference women’s program.

Hatchell joined Tennessee coach Pat Summitt (1,098) and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (1,018) among women’s coaches in the 1,000-win club. On the men’s side, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has 1,082 victories.

Hatchell is the only coach to win national titles at the AIAW, NAIA and NCAA levels, capturing the first two of those at Francis Marion in 1982 and 1986.

Nike “never helped me get any player,” North Carolina’s Roy Williams says

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

North Carolina basketball is one of the biggest brands in college sports. They’ve won six NCAA national championships, been to 20 Final Fours and put dozens of players in the NBA. One of those players, Michael Jordan, just happens to be regarded as the best to have play the game, not to mention be the most important athlete ever in marketing.

That makes them a very important program to Nike, which outfits the school. In light of the scandal rocking college basketball at the moment, in which an adidas employee is accused of funneling money to a prospect’s family, all relationships between athletic departments and apparel companies are under scrutiny.

“They’ve never helped me get any player, never insinuated, never done anything,” Williams told ESPN.

“I’ve dealt with Nike and Jordan Brand since I came back here, but we never even discuss things like that. So I know it’s foreign to me.”

Certainly, to expect a coach at any school to say anything other than that regarding an apparel company would be pretty silly and naive. This is a chance, however, to explore the word “help” in terms of shoe company influence.

The FBI investigation and subsequent charges documents allege to expose a pretty blatant and, according to the justice department, illegal way apparel companies can “help” schools get players. Paying a player is as direct a way as it gets. But it’s not the only way.

What if Nike (or any shoe company) decides to expand the budget of a grassroots program it sponsors with a wink and a nod that the program pushing its kids to high-profile Nike (or any shoe company) college program would be a nice way to keep everybody happy (and paid).

Maybe the least nefarious way an apparel company can help is simply doing what they pay schools to do. Hook them up with cool gear.

I’d have to imagine that being one of just a handful of teams that rep Jordan Brand has to have some appeal to prospects. I know getting a pair of national championship Jordan shoes, of which only 25 were made, is pretty dang cool. That might “help” a prospect come to the conclusion North Carolina is the place for him.

So maybe Nike has never “helped” UNC get a player like Williams said and in the context in which he said it. But the Swoosh has certainly helped North Carolina get players.