Roy Williams

North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) reacts following a basket against UNC Greensboro during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. North Carolina won 96-63. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

North Carolina’s Jackson to return for junior season

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With the NBA Draft Combine wrapping up Friday evening, players with college eligibility remaining who declared without hiring an agent had until May 25 to make a final decision. One of those players was North Carolina wing Justin Jackson, whose decision was expected to have a significant impact on the Tar Heels’ national title chances in 2016-17.

Monday evening the school announced that Jackson has decided to withdraw from the draft, and he’ll return for his junior season at North Carolina.

“I’m glad I had the chance to enter the Draft and attend the Combine where I was able to meet with a number of NBA executives and test my game against some of the top players in the country, but after discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season,” Jackson said in the release.

Jackson joins power forward Kennedy Meeks as North Carolina players who decided to return to school, giving Roy Williams two experienced players to call upon next season. North Carolina did lose three seniors, guard Marcus Paige and forwards Brice Johnson and Joel James, but they have enough coming back to make a run at another ACC title (with Duke being viewed by many as the early favorite) and deep NCAA tournament run.

Jackson, Meeks and Joel Berry II are all returning starters, and reserves such and Nate Britt, Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks return as well. North Carolina also adds a three-member recruiting class in guards Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and power forward Tony Bradley.

College names surface in reports regarding Lakers coaching vacancy

Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie has a word with guard Rodney Purvis (44) during an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Paradise Island, Bahamas. (Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP)
Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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With some NBA head coaching jobs opening up, it’s that time of year when the names of prominent college basketball head coaches get mentioned for such opportunities. Of course we’ve all become used to the annual rumors involving Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who has yet to move away from one of the top jobs in the sport.

His name is one that has come up in recent reports surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers’ opening, with Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie and Villanova’s Jay Wright among those being mentioned by various outlets as well.

Ollie, who led his alma mater to a national title in his second season at the helm, was mentioned in reports by both Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.

Ollie told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Monday that he has had no contact with the Lakers. He said he will always listen if called but it would take “something very special” to pull him away from UConn.

Ollie’s contract, which was signed after he led the Huskies to the national title in 2014, has a clause that would allow him to terminate his contract without penalty “on or after the one-year anniversary” of the departure of either athletic director Warde Manuel or UConn president Susan Herbst. Manuel left UConn in January to take over as athletic director at Michigan (his first official day was March 14), so a departure now would not meet the one-year requirement.

The buyout to leave for an NBA job would be $4 million until May 31, with the buyout amount dropping to $1 million after that date.

The latter report also named Wright, Calipari, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams as names the Lakers could consider for their opening. Wright led Villanova to its second national title earlier this month, and his Wildcats have won the last three Big East regular season titles.

NBA franchises have been more willing to look at successful college coaches in recent years, with Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan making the jump to the pros last season. Hoiberg took over in Chicago, but things didn’t go as planned for the Bulls as they missed out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. As for Donovan, he’s running the show in Oklahoma City where the Thunder are up three games to one on the Mavericks.

Both coaches took jobs with (at first glance) the talent needed to be successful, which is a far cry from the jobs Calipari and Rick Pitino took with the Nets and Celtics respectively during the mid-1990’s. Does the Lakers job fit that mold? Having won a total of 38 games in their last two seasons, not to mention needing to fill the hole left by the retirement of Kobe Bryant, one can argue that this would not be an optimal job for a college coach to take.

But with the Lakers being a franchise that’s won 16 titles, the appeal of leading such a storied franchise can’t be denied even with the recent struggles.

North Carolina men’s basketball not included in amended Notice of Allegations

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams reacts after cutting the net after a regional final men's college basketball game against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. North Carolina won 88-74 to advance to the Final Four. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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Eight months ago the NCAA investigation into allegations of academic fraud within the North Carolina athletic department was pushed back, leaving many to wonder when there would be any kind of decision regarding the fate of the men’s basketball program. Finally on Monday the school released an amended Notice of Allegations from the NCAA that replaces the original Notice, and Roy Williams’ program was not mentioned at all in the new report with the same being the case for the football program.

The program mentioned prominently in the new Notice is women’s basketball, which in all likelihood means that Williams doesn’t have much to worry about moving forward.

The Notice cites former women’s basketball academic support counselor Jan Boxill for her knowingly providing those athletes with extra benefits “in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball student-athletes.” The use of fraudulent courses within the African and Afro-American Studies department, which at the time of the violations was led by Julius Nyang’oro and included former employee Debbie Crowder (who were both named in the reports), also appeared in the amended Notice but as noted above the men’s basketball program was not cited.

One big change in the report was the NCAA using a more specific “failure to monitor” charge in relation to the academic fraud that occurred within the African and Afro-American Studies department. Another is the start date of the offenses, with those being changed from the fall of 2002 in the original report to the fall of 2005. The end date (summer 2011) remains the same.

North Carolina will also have to deal with the “lack of institutional control” charge, that’s in regards to specific programs as opposed to the athletic department as a whole. But the “impermissible benefits” charge that appeared in the original Notice in relation to the men’s basketball program (among others) is gone.

Obviously this all good news for Williams and his staff, as on the recruiting trail they’ll now have some concrete answers for prospects, their coaches and their families. With recruiting being what it is, other programs could use the lack of concrete information on the investigation to recruit negatively against North Carolina. But with the amended report that’s no longer the case.

North Carolina now has 90 days to respond to the charges in the NCAA’s amended Notice of Infractions.

UNC reserve Kenny Williams III recovering from knee surgery

North Carolina's Kenny Williams (24) dribbles as Davidson's Jack Gibbs falls during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina reserve Kenny Williams III is recovering from knee surgery.

The school said in a news release that the freshman had surgery Thursday at UNC Hospitals to repair torn meniscus in his right knee.

Williams played in 30 games in largely spot duty. The Midlothian, Virginia native is expected to miss 6-8 weeks of basketball activity, but should be fully recovered ahead of preseason practice.

The Tar Heels (33-7) lost to Villanova in Monday’s NCAA championship game.

VIDEOS: Villanova wins second national title on wild sequence

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After two duds in Saturday’s national semifinals, No. 2 Villanova and No. 1 North Carolina produced a national title game we won’t soon forget.

The Wildcats won 77-74 on a Kris Jenkins three as time expired, but his heroics came 4.7 seconds after North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit a double-clutch three to tie the game.

And here’s the game-winner from Jenkins, who’s earned the nickname “Big Smooth” from his teammates, with Villanova winning its second national title in program history. The first came in 1985, when the Wildcats knocked off Big East rival Georgetown.

Final Four Previews: Ranking the head coaches

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With the Final Four just two days away we’ll be taking a look at different aspects of the match-ups, one of which being a ranking for the four head coaches. With two Hall of Famers who have won national titles in one game, and two coaches who have never reached the title game in the other, that makes for interesting subplots in Saturday’s games. Without further ado, here’s the ranking of the four Final Four head coaches.

1. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Overall Record: 782-208
NCAA tournament record: 66-23; seven Final Four appearances, two national titles (2005, 2009)

Williams is one of two members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame who will coach in this weekend’s Final Four, with the other being his semifinal opponent in Jim Boeheim. Williams has led two of the sport’s most storied programs and enjoyed a great deal of success at both, winning 80.5 percent of his games and making three Final Four appearances at Kansas before returning to his alma mater in 2003.

At North Carolina, Williams’ teams have won 77.3 percent of their games, and he led the Tar Heels to national titles in 2005 and 2009. Williams has now led North Carolina to four Final Four appearances, with this year’s trip being the first for the program since 2009. In both 2005 and 2009 the Tar Heels were the favorites at the Final Four, and that will be the case this weekend as well. Can this group win it all? That remains to be seen.

2. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Overall record: 989-346 (not accounting for games vacated by the NCAA)
NCAA tournament record: 53-30; five Final Four appearances, one national title (2003)

Boeheim and Williams, his opponent in the semifinals, have met in a Final Four before. That came back in 2003, when a Hakim Warrick blocked shot preserved the win for Syracuse over Kansas and gave the Orange their first (and only) national title. Boeheim’s led his alma mater to five Final Four appearances, and he’s reached the title game in three of the previous four trips.

Syracuse dropped a heartbreaker to Indiana in the 1987 title game, and nine years later they fell to a Kentucky team that would reach the title game in three straight years (winning in 1996 and 1998). Of the four prior teams Boeheim’s led to the Final Four none had been seeded lower than a four, so this group is a definite outlier given their status as a No. 10 seed.

3. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Overall record: 590-360
NCAA tournament record: 20-16; two Final Four appearances

It’s been 22 years since Kruger last led a team to the Final Four, doing so at Florida with a team that included Andrew DeClerq and Dametri Hill. Kruger’s the lone head coach to lead five different teams to the NCAA tournament, with Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV being the other four. After losing in the round of 64 in each of his first two appearances at Oklahoma, Kruger’s Sooners reached the Sweet 16 last season where the lost to Michigan State.

In addition to taking the five aforementioned schools to the NCAA tournament, Kruger’s managed to take each one to at least the Sweet 16. With guards Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard leading the way, Kruger will look to make his first-ever appearance in the national title game.

4. Jay Wright, Villanova
Overall record: 474-242
NCAA tournament record: 18-12; two Final Four appearances

After missing the NCAA tournament in each of his first three seasons at the helm at Villanova, Wright’s led the Wildcats to the Big Dance in 11 of the last 12 seasons. Add in two NCAA tournament appearances while the head coach at Hofstra (2000 and 2001), and Wright has a total of 13 trips to the tournament to his credit. From 2005-2009 Villanova reached at least the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in four of the five seasons, which included a trip to the Final Four in 2009.

After that run Villanova hit a bit of a cold stretch, not getting out of the first weekend in any of their five appearances from 2010 to 2015 and missing the tournament completely in 2012. Wright and the Wildcats got over the hump this year, and Las Vegas odds have them second in line behind North Carolina when it comes to their chances of winning the national title.