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North Carolina’s Coby White declares for NBA draft

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Following an outstanding freshman season, North Carolina lead guard Coby White declared for the 2019 NBA Draft on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-5 White was a key reason for the Tar Heels making a Sweet 16 run this season as he adjusted from playing more off the ball in high school to playing on the ball at North Carolina. Putting up 16.1 points, 4.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game on the season, White showed flashes of greatness while running the Tar Heels’ fast-paced offense.

Shooting 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range, White could play on or off the ball at the next level as some consider him to be a potential top-10 pick. A former McDonald’s All-American, White’s departure is expected for North Carolina as they’ll need to find a suitable lead guard starter for next season.

Junior guard Seventh Woods is expected to return and the Tar Heels continue to be in the mix for five-star point guard Cole Anthony as replacing White will be a key offseason storyline.

UNC places Sylvia Hatchell, staff on leave during review of women’s basketball program

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina has placed Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and her three assistants on paid administrative leave amid player concerns and is reviewing the program.

School spokesman Steve Kirschner said Monday in a statement that the review is “due to issues raised by student-athletes and others.” He did not specify what those issues were.

He said the university has hired a Charlotte-based law firm to conduct the review and “assess the culture” of the program. He said there was no timetable but added the review will be “thorough and prompt.”

In a statement, Hatchell said she will cooperate fully with the review.

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” Hatchell said. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life.

“I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all.”

Hatchell, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, is the winningest women’s basketball coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history. She has a career record of 1,023-405 and is 751-325 mark in 33 years at UNC with a national title in 1994.

Hatchell became the third women’s coach in Division I with 1,000 career victories in 2017, made her 23rd career NCAA Tournament appearance last month and is the only coach with national championships at three levels — AIAW, NAIA and NCAA.

She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, underwent chemotherapy through March 2014 and returned the following season to lead the Tar Heels to a 26-9 finish. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school’s multi-year NCAA academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

Hatchell received a contract extension in September 2016 that runs through the end of next season.

North Carolina went 18-15 this season with upsets of top-10 teams North Carolina State and Notre Dame . The Tar Heels lost to California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the first trip there since 2015.

Andrew Calder, the program’s associate head coach who was in charge while Hatchell fought leukemia, has been at the school for 33 years. Her other assistants are Sylvia Crawley, a former Tar Heel player and former head coach at Boston College; and recruiting coordinator Bett Shelby.

Auburn earns Elite Eight bid with blowout win over No. 1 seed North Carolina

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Auburn advanced to its second Elite Eight in program history as hot second-half shooting led the No. 5 seed Tigers to a 97-80 win over No. 1 seed North Carolina in a Midwest Regional semifinal on Friday night. The win places Auburn in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

The Tar Heels are the first No. 1 seed to get eliminated from the 2019 NCAA tournament as Auburn shot 17-for-37 from three-point range after a sluggish first half (5-for-19) from the perimeter. Using a 14-0 run spanning halves, Auburn built a comfortable second-half lead once perimeter shots started to fall. The Tigers officially closed out the game with a late 7-0 run to build an 18-point lead with under two minutes left as Auburn outscored North Carolina 56-41 in the second half.

Sophomore Chuma Okeke (20 points, 11 rebounds) was a matchup nightmare for North Carolina as the versatile wing forward was outstanding for the Tigers. Okeke was tough to contain for Tar Heel senior forward Luke Maye before Okeke exited the game with a left knee injury with eight minutes left. Danjel Purifoy picked up the slack at forward, as he got hot from the perimeter to finish with 14 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting. Guards Malik Dunbar (13 points), Bryce Brown (12 points) and J’Von McCormick (10 points) and also finished in double-figures for Auburn as five Tigers finished in double-figures.

This was a very balanced and impressive offensive effort for Auburn as they thoroughly outplayed one of the best teams in the country while both of their leading scorers, Brown (12 points) and Jared Harper (nine points, 11 assists) only combined for 21 points. The Tigers used multiple weapons who could space the floor and hit shots as undersized Auburn outplayed North Carolina on the interior while also hitting a flurry of second-half shots.

Auburn (29-9) started 2-4 in the SEC. It looked like the Tigers’ season might crumble. During a season in which the Tigers have been one of the main schools involved in the FBI’s college basketball corruption scandal, Auburn is one game away from its first Final Four appearance despite the distractions. Head coach Bruce Pearl and his veteran team never listened to what others predicted as they overcame the mid-season lull to look like a legit title contender.

With a team that can space the floor from all five spots, the Tigers have turned things around with an 11-game winning streak. They’re one of the hottest teams in the field. With timely perimeter shooting and an ability to turn other teams over, the Tigers can compete with any team in the country — particularly if multiple shooters get hot.

The Tigers cruised through the SEC tournament and they’re clearly playing with a lot of confidence over the last month of the season. Okeke’s health will be a concern if he can’t play in Sunday’s Elite Eight, but Purifoy did a great job of providing additional spacing and filling that role as Auburn does have depth.

North Carolina (29-7) struggled to get going in the second half as cold perimeter shooting (7-for-28) and turnover issues (14 turnovers) forced them into a big deficit. The Tar Heels had a couple players sick during the week, most notably senior Cameron Johnson (fever) and freshman forward Nassir Little (flu), as North Carolina didn’t appear to have the same energy as usual. It didn’t help the Tar Heels when Auburn poured on an avalanche of threes in the second half.

Freshman guard Coby White stayed in attack mode, but he struggled to remain efficient, as he finished with 15 points on 4-for-15 shooting. In his final college game, Maye had 13 points and seven rebounds. Johnson shook off a slow start to finish with 15 points while senior guard Kenny Williams (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

The Tar Heels found an opponent comfortable playing fast and putting up offense in a hurry as the tempo of North Carolina didn’t bother Auburn. Once the Tigers delivered a bunch of three-pointers early in the second half, North Carolina failed to counter with consistent enough offense.

Although this is a disappointing tournament exit for North Carolina, this season still gave the Tar Heels a share of the ACC title while pushing into the second weekend for the fourth time in five seasons. Seniors like Maye, Johnson and Williams were a huge part of a great stretch of success for the program. If White leaves for the NBA, he’ll have exceeded expectations as the team’s lead guard as he was successful most of the time in his transition from playing more off the ball. The Tar Heels just ran into the wrong team as the wrong time as Auburn looks like the top-10 team we thought they were earlier this season.

Auburn advances to face the winner of No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 3 seed Houston on Sunday in the Elite Eight in Kansas City. The Tigers lost to the Wildcats in the SEC play during the season with an 80-53 loss on Feb. 23. The health of Kentucky forward P.J. Washington, who had a big game in the first matchup, would be something to monitor if the Wildcats were to defeat Houston.

2019 NCAA Tournament: Big men you need to know

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This might not be the Year of the Big Man, but the country has produced some really good ones this year.

There are some you know – there’s one everybody knows even if they’ve never even seen him play – and some you might not. T

hey are, however, all important to get acquainted with when you’re filling out your bracket.

Zion Williamson, Duke

I feel like I don’t need to explain this one. Just spend a couple minutes watching Zion do Zion stuff.

Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

The Bulldogs have the best frontcourt duo in the country, and it gets to be an embarrassment of riches if you factor in Killian Tillie, who has hardly played this season due to injuries. Both Hachimura and Clarke could be NBA draft lottery picks in a couple months, and they’re a big reason why the Zags once again secured a No. 1 seed and could be headed back to the title game. Clarke might be the best two-way player in the country, shooting 69 percent from the floor while swatting 11 percent of opponents’ shot attempts while he’s in the game while also being an elite rebounder with the ability to defend on the perimeter. Hachimura might be the better pro prospect with a little-used-but-effective 3-point stroke to go along with his athleticism and 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame. Together, it’s an incredibly formidable frontcourt.

Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan

The freshman from Ontario is a major reason while the Wolverines look capable of returning to the Final Four. He’s averaging 15.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per  game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. He’s not alone in the Wolverine fonrtcourt, though, getting help from 7-foot-1 junior Jon Teske, whose rebounding and shot-blocking are solid complements to Brazdeikis.

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Luke Maye wasn’t the first-team All-American type many thought possible this season, but he’s been really good for a No. 1 seed. The senior is averaging 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. He’s got tournament experience – NCAA tournament hero experience, no less. Oh, and championship experience. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him replicate both.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

The Badger big man hasn’t been in the conversation for national player of the year for a lot of legit reasons, but his production would suggest he’s one of the country’s best players. He’s more central and critical to Wisconsin’s offense than nearly any other player for any other team nationwide, and he’s still incredibly productive and efficient. He’s a premier rebounding, a fantastic passer and assistman and a strong fundamental defender, even if his shot blocking isn’t high-level. Wisconsin’s supporting cast has been the question for much of the last two seasons – which included Wisconsin’s first missed NCAA tournament in two decades last year – but Happ is good enough to get the Badgers through tough spots. As long as he doesn’t have to shoot free throws, an area in which his percentage has plummetted from 64.3 percent as a freshman to 46.5 percent as a senior.

Cameron Jackson, Wofford

Wondering how Wofford got so much love this season? Well, they’re really good, for one, but Jackson is a huge part of that success. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Virginia native averages 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor. He’s a high-usage player and a very good rebounder that helps give the Terriers their bite.

Dedric Lawson, Kansas

This season was disappointing by the standards set by Kansas, which missed out on the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time in 14 years, but things didn’t totally crater largely because of Lawson’s excellence. The Memphis transfer averaged 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds along with 1.7 assists per game. He was the center of everything the Jayhawks did as they lost players to suspension, injuries and a leave of absence. If Kansas is going to go on a run, the Jayhawks are going to need someone like Marcus Garrett, Devon Dotson or Quentin Grimes to outpace their regular-season production, but Lawson will be the foundation that off of which they’ll build.

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder is one of the more physically imposing players in the country with the stats to back it up. He’s a high-level rebounder and a good shot blocker that figures to be a first-round pick come June. If he gets the ball around the goal, he’s probably scoring.

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

The Big Ten’s all-time career rebounder, Murphy should surpass 1,300 career boards against Louisville on Thursday. He’s averaging 11.5 boards per game this season, doing most of his damage of the defensive end with a 28.5 rebounding percentage there. He’s a capable scorer at 14.5 points per game with a shooting percentage of 48.3 percent, but it’ll be his work on the glass that’ll help the Gophers try to win their first NCAA tournament game under Richard Pitino, against his father’s former employer, no less.

Darnell Cowart, Murray State

Ja Morant deservedly gets the headlines, but if the Racers make a play for the second weekend, it wouldn’t be surpringing to see Cowart, at 6-foot-8 and nearly 300 pounds, play a big part. He’s an elite offensive rebounder at 14.5 percent, and averages 10.4 points per game. Now, I did mention Morant, so by rule we have to take a moment to watch him dunk.

Nick Muszynski, Belmont

The 6-foot-11 freshman is both an excellent passer and solid shot blocker. He’s posting 2.2 swats per game along with 2.7 assists. Add that to his 61.4 percent field goal number, and he makes a pretty strong complement to Dylan Windler. 

Scottie James, Liberty

If James shoots it, it’s likely going in. As in an overwhelming likelihood. The Liberty big man is shooting 70.3 percent from the floor this season, top-15 in the country. He’s also a great rebounder, corralling 15.6 percent of his own team’s misses and 27.6 percent of his opponents’, both of which are top-25 numbers nationally.

Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky

The Horizon League player of the year is averaging 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season while shooting 38.4 percent from 3. The Norse’s upset chances likely hinge on how well he plays against Texas Tech.

 

No. 3 North Carolina beats Louisville 83-70 in ACC quarters

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Luke Maye had 19 points and nine rebounds, Coby White added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists and No. 3 North Carolina beat Louisville 83-70 on Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.

Cameron Johnson scored all of his 14 points in the first half to help the Tar Heels (27-5) extend their winning streak to eight games.

Dwayne Sutton had 14 points for Louisville (20-13). The Cardinals shot just 10 of 34 from 3-point range.

The Cardinals beat North Carolina by 19 on Jan. 12 in Chapel Hill — Roy Williams’ worst home loss ever as Tar Heels coach — using their size and length to disrupt shooters and control the glass.

North Carolina had no trouble in the rubber match between the teams.

The Tar Heels got things going early and built a 45-35 lead at the half behind Johnson and White. The versatile Maye scored from down low and stepped out beyond the arc to display his silky smooth jumper.

The lead hovered around 10 for most of the second half until the Tar Heels got their transition game going with eight straight points on run outs — including four by Kenny Williams — to stretch the lead to 18 with 6:24 left.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: Despite the loss, the Cardinals appear to have a good chance to get an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament as a 20-win team in a tough conference.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels arrived in Charlotte chasing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and got that effort going with a balanced scoring attack.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Will await word on an NCAA Tournament bid.

North Carolina: Will face the winner Duke-Syracuse winner in the semifinals Friday night.

NBC Sports Top 25: The final power rankings of the college basketball season

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Yes, I’m the guy that still has Duke at No. 1. I explained why in detail last week, and I’m not going to do it again, especially now that it appears Zion Williamson will be back for the ACC tournament.

And just to make it clear: This does not mean that I believe Duke should be a No. 1 seed. I don’t. Losses, even if they come when a team is not at full strength, need to matter for things like NCAA tournament seeding. They don’t matter when it comes to how the industry — and me, specifically — rank which of those teams are the best.

Beyond that, there isn’t all that much to talk about in what will be the final top 25 of the 2018-19 season.

I bumped Texas Tech up to fifth after they won a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Outside of a three-week stretch in January when Jarrett Culver forgot how to shoot, the Red Raiders were the best team in that conference. With the way they are shooting and scoring the ball in the last month combined with that defense, they are very much a threat to win a national title.

One other thing that I’ll note here: I think there are three tiers at the top of college hoops. At the top is a healthy Duke, Gonzaga and Virginia. Right behind that trio sits North Carolina, Texas Tech, Tennessee and Kentucky. I think those seven are pretty clearly the top seven teams in the country, and one you get past them, it starts to get wild. Purdue, Kansas State, Michigan State, Houston, Michigan, Florida State, Nevada. I think there is an argument for all of these teams to be ranked in the back end of the top ten.

Anyway, here is my final Top 25 of the season:

1. Duke (26-5, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (29-2, 2)
3. Virginia (28-2, 3)
4. North Carolina (26-5, 4)
5. Texas Tech (26-5, 6)
6. Tennessee (27-4, 5)
7. Kentucky (26-5, 7)
8. Michigan State (25-6, 12)
9. Purdue (23-8, 9)
10. Kansas State (24-7, 10)
11. LSU (26-5, 11)
12. Houston (29-2, 12)
13. Michigan (26-5, 8)
14. Nevada (28-3, 15)
15. Florida State (25-6, 18)
16. Virginia Tech (23-7, 17)
17. Buffalo (28-3, 20)
18. Wofford (27-4, 22)
19. Wisconsin (22-9, 19)
20. Kansas (23-8, 16)
21. Marquette (23-8, 14)
22. Auburn (22-9, NR)
23. VCU (25-6, NR)
24. Mississippi State (22-9, NR)
25. UCF (23-7, 25)

Dropped Out: 21. Iowa State, 23. Villanova, 24. Cincinnati
New Additions: 22. Auburn, 23. VCU, 24. Mississippi State