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No. 21 North Carolina defeats No. 9 Duke in Chapel Hill

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Joel Berry II is going to get the headlines. He finished with 21 points, six assists and four boards.

Kenny Williams might, too. He busted out of a shooting slump with 20 points and six threes, four of which came in the first six minutes. Hell, even Luke Maye managed to find a way not to get outscored by any of Duke far more talented front court pieces.

But the real reason that No. 21 North Carolina handed No. 9 Duke their second straight loss, 82-78, on Thursday night, the real reason that the Tar Heels can ahead into Saturday’s date in Raleigh against the team that isn’t an actual rival, is Cameron Johnson.

The talk heading into the first matchup between the Tobacco Road rivals is something that I’ve been mentioning since November: The roles had reversed for these two programs. More than just about any other coach in the country, Roy Williams has stayed as far away from the small-ball revolution as possible. He wants two bigs on the floor. He wants to pound the offensive glass. He wants to play high-low basketball and throw the ball into the post. He wants Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks to carry him to a national title. He wants Brice Johnson to be his all-american.

This year?

He just doesn’t have the roster to do that. Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Huffman. They all have a chance to be somewhere between good and really good in the ACC, but they’re all three- and four-star freshmen. Asking them to step in from day one and dominate just isn’t going to happen. The result is that UNC has been playing Theo Pinson and Johnson, natural threes, at their forward spot with Luke Maye, who is probably at his best as a stretch-four, as their starting center.

That is the epitome of small-ball, which has been the bread-and-butter for the Blue Devils since Coach K fully-embraced the one-and-done roster construct. This season, however, with a front line that consists of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, Duke has pounded the ball into the paint more than anyone. They’re leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. They physically overpower anyone that gets in their way.

And that’s what they were planning on doing to UNC, but it didn’t work.

Johnson was the foil. The 6-foot-8 junior, a transfer from Pitt, finished with 18 points and 13 boards. He not only hit four of North Carolina’s 11 threes, effectively taking advantage of the reluctance of Duke’s bigs to step away from the rim, but he also grabbed six of their 20 offensive rebounds. Frankly, UNC won the battle in the paint. They grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and held Duke to a 31.4 offensive rebounding percentage; on the season, Duke collected more than 41 percent of their misses. They held Bagley in check — keeping him to 15 points and 16 boards is a win — and kept Carter from really having much impact on the game; he finished with just 10 points and five boards.

More importantly, they made Duke a jump-shooting team. In my mind, this is the stat that defines the game, that epitomizes North Carolina’s win and, frankly, paints a nice picture for some of the issues going on with this Duke team right now: In the final 11:35 of the game, Duke attempted just two two-point field goals and 12 three-pointers. One of those two-pointers was a jumper from Bagley. The other was a dunk from Bagley with 34 seconds left after he grabbed an offensive rebound on a possession where Duke had already missed two three-pointers.

Duke, who has now lost three of their last four games to fall four games out of first place in the ACC, is far more talented than UNC.

But North Carolina is the team that knows themselves, and even if just for a night, played in a way that proved they understand their roles and how they fit within the roster.

And that, often times, trumps raw talent.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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A trip to Maui, a home date against Baylor and trips to UConn and Alabama highlight Arizona’s non-conference schedule, which the school released Thursday, this season.

Despite losing nearly the entirety of last year’s talented-but-troubled group, Sean Miller still scheduled aggressively. The first test will come the week of Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational. It’s an extremely competitive field with Duke, Auburn, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Illinois, San Diego State and Xavier. The bracket for the event has yet to be released.

The Wildcats travel to Storrs to face UConn in Dan Hurley’s first season on Dec. 2, and then a week later visit Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The marquee home game will be Saturday, Dec. 16, when Scott Drew and Baylor come to Tucson.

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

Monday Nov. 19 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.