Danny Green

Top 25 Countdown: No. 20 North Carolina Tar Heels

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 32-6, 15-3 ACC (1st); Lost to Kansas in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Roy Williams

Key Losses: Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson

Newcomers: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Joel James, JP Tokoto, Luke Davis

Projected Lineup:

G: Marcus Paige, Fr.
G: Dexter Strickland, Sr.
G: Reggie Bullock, Jr.
F: Brice Johnson, Fr.
C: James Michael McAdoo, So.
Bench: Leslie McDonald, Jr.; PJ Hairston, So.; JP Tokoto, Fr.; Joel James, Fr.; Desmond Hubert, So.

Outlook: Roy Williams has been here before.

After he won the national title in 2005, Williams watched Ray Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams all make their way to the NBA, leaving him with an unproven and youthful roster to work with the following year. That team, led by freshman All-American Tyler Hansbrough, had some ups-and-downs that first season, but eventually grew into a national champion four years later. That 2009 title team lost quite a bit of talent as well, with Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green joining Hansbrough in the NBA.

Williams didn’t win a national title in 2012, but that wasn’t due to a lack of talent on his roster. Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Kendall Marshall are all making seven figures this season as first round NBA Draft picks, meaning that, once again, the Tar Heels are going to be heading into a season having to reload.

While there is some talent on this roster, including a potential lottery pick in sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, there are a couple of question marks as well, the biggest being the smallest guy on the roster — Marcus Paige.

Paige, a freshman from Iowa, is the heir-apparent to Marshall at the point guard spot. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again quite a few times before the season starts, but I believe that Marshall is one of the two most difficult players to replace this season (the other being Anthony Davis, for obvious reasons). North Carolina’s system thrives on point guard play, and what made Marshall so valuable wasn’t only his unreal playmaking ability (he averaged almost 10 assists per game) but how good he was at hitting ahead in transition. He made the Heels’ fast break just that much more deadly, and there’s certainly no questioning how much better he made his teammates — specifically Barnes — simply by being on the floor. Remember what UNC looked like before he took over for Larry Drew in 2010-2011? Remember what they looked like when he was injured in last season’s tournament?

The bottom-line is this: that role is going to fall into the hands of a freshman — a talented one, but still a freshman — who will be backed up by a transfer from Gardner-Webb, Luke Davis, and a senior combo-guard, Dexter Strickland, coming off of a torn ACL. With so much youth and inexperience on this roster, how Paige handles the pressure at the point could end up making or breaking North Carolina’s season.

The good news is that Paige will have plenty of perimeter talent surrounding him. Strickland, a senior that doubles as UNC’s best perimeter defender, should be back to 100% by the time the season starts. Leslie McDonald should be as well; he tore his ACL before last season even began. One of the more interesting subplots of UNC’s season will be seeing how Williams divvies up minutes on the wings. Strickland and McDonald are the vets that have earned their playing time, but both PJ Hairston — a sophomore — and Reggie Bullock — a junior — are bigger and more talented scorers, and that’s before JP Tokoto, a talented freshman, is factored into the equation.

McAdoo will be UNC’s anchor up front. A top ten recruit coming out of high school, McAdoo spent much of last season watching Zeller and Henson from the bench. He averaged just 6.1 points and 3.9 boards in less than 16 minutes as a freshman, but some impressive play during the postseason — McAdoo averaged 10.6 points and 4.8 boards in the final seven games after Henson hurt his wrist, including a 15 point performance against Kansas and Thomas Robinson in the Elite 8 — combined with his size, strength and athleticism has many predicting McAdoo to become an all-american candidate.

The question is who joins him up front? Will it be athletic-but-slender freshman Brice Johnson? Will it be burly freshman Joel James? Or seldom-used sophomore Desmond Hubert? Will Williams be willing to use a four-guard attack given the size of Bullock, Tokoto and Hairston?

Predictions?: UNC unquestionably has talent on their roster, as always. But there are also question marks. How good is Paige? How good is McAdoo? What happens in the front court? Who makes the leap from role player to secondary scorer? The Heels will still make the tournament and should finish in the top three in the ACC — and they could be even better than that — but given the youth, the inexperience and all the new faces in new roles, this is a tough group to project.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Second round sleepers

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One thing I noticed about this year’s draft is that the second round — especially the early second round — produced a number of guys that I think have a shot to turn into productive NBA players. Maybe I’m biased because I watched these guys too much when they were in college, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of these guys ended up carving out solid careers:

Jeffery Taylor: Taylor has a long way to go offensively if he wants to become a good NBA player, but this year’s 31st pick in the draft does have an NBA ready skill: his defense. Taylor is a physical specimen, a 6-foot-7 wing that will be able to lock down three or four positions at the next level. If his jump shot continues to develop, Taylor could end up having a long career.

Bernard James: James went 33rd to Cleveland and was immediately shipped off to Dallas in exchange for Tyler Zeller. James is 27 years old, but he’s a young 27 physically (he didn’t play ball for a six year stretch) and an old 27 mentally (he wasn’t playing ball because he did three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan). He’s big, he’s athletic, he’ll defend and he rebounds the ball. What team couldn’t use a guy like that?

Jae Crowder: The thing about Crowder, who went 34th and ended up in Dallas, is that there really isn’t anything that he doesn’t do well on a basketball court. He can defend bigger players in the post and spread the floor with his ability to shoot and he can defend smaller wings on the perimeter while doing damage in the paint. I doubt he’s ever even going to be a starter at the next level, but couldn’t he play the same role as Ron Artest (minus the insanity, or course)?

Tyshawn Taylor: Taylor has the tools to be a successful point guard in today’s NBA. He’s got size, he’s athletic and he is a dynamic scorer that can make plays for his teammates. The problem for the Brooklyn-bound 41st pick is that he truly struggles with his decision-making both on and off the floor. He turns the ball over too much, he takes some silly shots and he found himself in trouble too often during his career.

Darius Miller: James Posey. Bruce Bowen. Danny Green. These guys are 6-foot-7 perimeter defenders that are knock-down three-point shooters. The first three have carved out solid NBA careers. Miller should be next in that line after going 46th to New Orleans.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

St. Bonaventure landed Andrew Nicholson thanks to a broken phone?

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The good folks over at CBSSports.com put together an interesting read on some of this draft class’s under-the-radar prospects.

It’s not the typical under-the-radar post, either.

Instead of breaking down what the player is able to do on the court and why they will make for a quality NBA player, the article focuses on how their college coaches landed them and why they weren’t recruited to by bigger schools.

There were two particular stories that I really liked. The first comes from Dan McHale, who was in charge of recruiting Scott Machado to Iona:

He changed high schools a little bit. At St. Mary’s, he played with Danny Green as a freshman, then moved to North Carolina, so he got lost in the shuffle a little bit. At St. Benedict’s, he played with Samardo Samuels, Zack Rosen, Chris Smith. With AAU teams, bounced around a little bit. I remember, one time in Vegas, it was myself, coach [Kevin] Willard and Shaheen [Holloway] in a back gym. The rosters weren’t right, but we knew Scott because we were on him. He made four or five great bounce passes, and people were wondering who he was. No one knew his name. Sean Doherty from Quinnipiac asked me who he was, and I said, ‘Nah man, I don’t know.’

Smoke screens. Throw ’em off the chase. Well played, Dan. Well played.

Jeff Massey didn’t need to throw off the competition as he pursued Andrew Nicholson at St. Bonaventure. Nicholson did that himself:

“Two reasons, really. One, he stepped on his cellphone, and I don’t think a lot of people could reach him. It was those size 18 shoes. I tried for two months before I could get a hold of him. Second, he hurt his ankle, so he didn’t play AAU the summer before his senior year.” But there is another reason though, and that was where Nicholson actually played high school ball. Father Michael Goetz Secondary School in Ontario was a uniform school, and “basketball wasn’t one of the main things,” Massey added. “Most of the coaches are volunteer coaches. They could teach home economics and then head to the gym for practice.”

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

If I’ll be honest (and not in the least bit humble), my favorite story is how Jae Crowder wound up at Marquette. After spending a year at an unaccredited Junior College in Georgia, Crowder had to take two years worth of classes in one year in order to get himself eligible for Division I basketball. Then, when Buzz Williams finally made it to see him play a game, Crowder scored three points and fouled out.

It is also worth noting that Darius Johnson-Odom, another JuCo transfer, came to Marquette despite an assistant coach seeing him score just a single point at a Hoop Hall game. I guess it is a good thing that Buzz Williams has his own way of evaluating talent.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Breaking down the draft: Second round steals

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Over the next couple of days, each of our writers here at College Basketball Talk will weigh on certain topics and prospects. Yesterday’s question? Who will be the biggest bust in this year’s lottery. Today’s question? Who will be the steal of the second round:

Eric Angevine: I’m going with Jae Crowder out of Marquette. The positives about Crowder fill up a notebook: he’s tough, physical, built like a battleship, stays fired up and energetic, and can shoot from outside. The only knock anyone can seem to come up with is that he’s a ‘tweener’ in that he’s 6’7”. But he has long arms that will help him defend wherever his future coach puts him on the floor, so let’s not get hung up on labels. This guy’s a hardcore baller.

Raphielle Johnson: Scott Machado. Really thought for much of the season that Machado, one of the nation’s best floor generals, should go in the first round. He slips into the second he’s at the very least going to be a good backup point guard to begin his career. With the right system and the opportunities to make plays in pick-and-roll situations Machado will be of great value to a team.

Daniel Martin: Jae Crowder proved in college that he could compete and win in a high-major, high-competition conference. Questions linger because of his size, but there is nothing more valuable in the second round as a guy who will play hard every night and work to fill in the gaps on a playoff team.

Mike Miller: Jared Cunningham. Was tempted to choose Doron Lamb — someone’s gonna be delighted to acquire his shooting skills — but I’ll go with Cunningham for the upside. Few players in the entire draft are more physically gifted than the 6-5 guard. He’ll play defense, provide scoring off the bench and once his jumper becomes more consistent, be an All-Star caliber player for years.

Rob DausterDarius Miller. The odds of finding an all-star in the second round of the NBA Draft are more-or-less non-existent. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t players capable of playing a role. If there is anything we’ve learned from guys like Bruce Bowen, James Posey and now Danny Green, it’s that a 6-7 wing that can lock up defensively and knock down open threes, that there is a place for them in the NBA. That’s Miller.

Comparing Kentucky to other champs who replaced everything

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Now the all five of Kentucky’s underclassmen stars are officially headed to the NBA (along with senior Darius Miller), it’s time to marvel at the production coach John Calipari must now replace.

Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague and Miller represented93 percent of the Wildcats’ scoring, 94 percent of their rebounds, 95 percent of their blocks, 96 percent of their steals and 96 percent of their assists. Those are simply staggering numbers, per Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal. (He has a complete listing of those totals and by player.)

It’s not anything new for a champion to lose a hefty amount of production. In just the last 10 years, at least four teams have been in the same position.

The 2005 Tar Heels lost their top seven scorers (Sean May, Rashad McCant, Ray Felton, Jawad Williams, Marvin Williams and Jackie Manuel), but those players “only” accounted for 84 percent of the team’s scoring. (David Noel and Reyshawn Terry managed to get on the scoreboard.) Those seven did account for massive amounts of rebounds (93 percent), but nothing else was above 83.

When Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Bobby Frasor and Danny Green, it wasn’t nearly the same amount of attrition.

Kansas lost 80 percent of its scoring from its 2008 title team (Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun), but returned a sixth man in Sherron Collins and a big man who played a key role in the Final Four in Cole Aldrich.

Even the back-to-back Florida champs didn’t have replace as much even though it also lost its six top players (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard and Corey Brewer). Those six accounted for 83 percent of the scoring, 77 percent of the rebounds, 81 percent of the assists, 81 percent of the steals and 87 percent of the blocks. (Having Marreese Speights, Walter Hodge and Dan Werner helps).

Kentucky will probably be similar to ’06 UNC and Kansas. Both of those teams made the NCAA tournament the following season (Kansas was 27-8, won the Big 12 and reached the Sweet 16; UNC was 23-8 and second in the ACC). Florida (24-12) and the 2010 Tar Heels (20-17)  were in the NIT. The Wildcats’ incoming class – which will likely still add another impact newcomer – has elite players ready to step in at every position. And we’ve already learned that Calipari excels at replacing entire rosters.

It’ll undoubtedly look different, though. When you’re replacing everything, that can’t be helped.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Coach Cal strikes again: Noel makes Kentucky a favorite in ’13

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Think about this: prior to Wednesday night’s recruiting special where Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad announced where they will be spending one season before heading to the NBA, John Calipari already had signed three recruits that would likely make up the best recruiting class any coach in the country had ever put together.

Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress are both consensus top 20 recruits while Willie Cauley is a top 40 player by most accounts. Add the top-ranked Noel to the mix, and all of a sudden Kentucky once again looks like a Final Four contender, and that’s before you consider who else they may be able to add to the mix: top ten recruit Anthony Bennett, top 25 recruit Amile Jefferson, former UConn big man Alex Oriakhi.

Kentucky could end up losing the top six players from their national title team and still end up heading into the 2012-2013 as the nation’s Preseason No. 1 team.

Noel commits to Kentucky

And that is why John Calipari said the sending five players to the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft was one of the most important days in the history of Kentucky basketball.

In 2009, UNC won the national title and then lost Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. The following year, they added a loaded recruiting class — headlined by John Henson and a handful of other McDonald’s all-americans and blue-chip prospects — to a roster that already included Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller and promptly went to the NIT. In 2006, UConn lost six of their top seven players off of the most-talented (and under-performing?) team in the country — five of whom were draft, four in the first round. They brought in a recruiting class that included Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson and added them to returnee Jeff Adrien and spent hte season as a non-entity in the Big East.

Does anyone see that happening with the Wildcats next year?

Calipari has turned Kentucky into a machine. He barely needs to make a pitch at this point; his program sells itself. He brings in the top players. He coaches them up throughout the season. He gets them competitive on a national level. He sends them off to the NBA. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

What blue-chipper isn’t looking for a fast-track to NBA money?

It’s fascinating, and I don’t think there is another coach in the country that could pull it off or another school at which Calipari would be able to pull it off. It’s the perfect storm, and it creates the nation’s most efficient producer of NBA level talent.

And Noel is just the latest cog in that machine.

The question I have is how long can it last.

Nothing about the job is stress-free. Big Blue Nation is as rabid, passionate and demanding as any fan base in the country. Keeping them satisfied — both with wins on the court and accessibility off the court — is as important as teaching his team how to properly rotate defensively. And you better believe that the teaching part of Calipari’s job is not easy, either. As talented as his freshmen are, they are still freshmen that need to be shown how to play and carry themselves at this level of basketball. And since those freshmen are immediately thrust into the spotlight, there is no adjustment period. They learn on the fly.

And even when they win a national title, they don’t have any time to celebrate. Kentucky won the title on a Monday and got back to Lexington on a Tuesday and by Friday, Calipari was already on the road recruiting, trying to ensure that he would be able to bring in a freshmen class that would live up to the expectations he had built.

Even if Calipari doesn’t ever go back to the NBA, how long is his body going to be able to handle the constant grind?

Because until he decides he no longer wants to roam the sidelines at Rupp Arena, it is tough to imagine a spring Kentucky isn’t following up a deep run through March with a notable signing day haul.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.