North Carolina is heading back home. In a specific sort of way.
The Tar Heels are returning to their former home gym of Carmichael Arena for a one-night engagement thanks to a scheduling conflict with Wofford and the Dean Dome, the school announced Thursday.
Wofford’s schedule and UNC’s need to head west to face Gonzaga later in the week made moving the date unworkable while the Dean Dome is hosting commencement that day, Dec. 15.
“Due to Wofford’s playing schedule and Carolina’s travel schedule to Gonzaga, it was necessary to play the game on the 15th, but of course we knew that is the date of Commencement,” said senior associate director of athletics Clint Gwaltney. “We appreciate both coach (Roy) Williams’ and Wofford’s flexibility in agreeing to move the game to another venue. It should be an outstanding environment in which to play that game.”
Carmichael hasn’t hosted a regular season game since 1986, though the Tar Heels did play an NIT game there in 2010.
“Carmichael brings back great memories of my first eight years as an assistant to coach (Dean) Smith and the exciting game we played against William and Mary in 2010,” Roy Williams said in a statement. “Wofford will bring an outstanding team and the environment will be electric. I’m sure it will be a tough ticket to get and a special day for everyone who is lucky enough to be there for that game.”
The 6,800-seat venue will make for a cool and memorable environment as the former home to the likes of Dean Smith, James Worthy and Michael Jordan.
Wofford’s 3-point shooting goes missing as Kentucky advances to Sweet 16
One of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country and college basketball’s all-time most prolific 3-point shooter suddenly couldn’t make 3s.
They’re out of the NCAA tournament because of it.
No. 2 Kentucky’s defense bottled up the usually-potent No. 7 Wofford 3-point attack to defeat the Terriers, 62-56, on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville to advance to Kansas City and the Sweet 16, where either No. 11 Ohio State or No. 3 Houston will await them next week.
The story Saturday, though, was Wofford’s inability to dial in from distance. The Terriers came into the game second nationally with a 41.7 percent conversion rate from 3-point range with Fletcher Magee, who has made more 3-pointers in his career than any other player in history, leading the charge. Instead of powering Wofford to an upset, its 3-point shooting was a disaster.
The Terriers were 8 of 27 (29.7 percent) overall while Magee was an inexplicable 0 of 12 from deep.
Wofford’s greatest strength abandoned it at the worst possible moment.
Yet, despite that, the Terriers still had a chance to upend one of the sport’s Goliaths.
Wofford led into the second half and even when Kentucky overtook the Terriers, the Wildcats were never gain more than a few points of separation. The Terriers were within two with 37 seconds left, and looked to be on the verge of getting a stop when Reid Travis’ attempt by the bucket was off the mark, but Wofford was whistled for a foul and Travis sunk two clutch free throws to make it a two-possession game that would prove to be enough of an advantage to get Kentucky to its eighth Sweet 16 under John Calipari.
Travis was a huge contributor for the Wildcats with 14 points and 11 rebounds as a major presence inside with PJ Washington still sidelined with a foot injury. Ashton Hagans was 4 of 11 from the floor, but had 12 points.
It was Kentucky’s defense, though, that kept their season alive as the Wildcats deserve quite a bit of credit in harassing Wofford into their dreadful shooting day.
Nathan Hoover’s offense helped keep the Terriers close as he had 19 points, making 4 of 5 3s, while Cameron Jackson added 11 points as the program made its first-ever Round of 32 appearance.
The Midwest region in Kansas City has its first entrant in what could be a monster few days at the Sprint Center. One of the juicier narrative remains alive with a potential North Carolina/Kansas collision in the Sweet 16, pitting Tar Heels coach Roy Williams against his former program just 45 minutes east of Lawrence with the winner potentially meeting the Wildcats for a Final Four berth. A regional with Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas is some serious stuff. Of course, Auburn and Washington could still play spoiler, but a blue blood regional is still on the table.
The saying goes, it’s guards that win games in the NCAA tournament, and the history is there to back it up. Whether it’s a point guard making his teammates better (Tyus Jones, Duke) or dominating play (Kemba Walker, UConn). There will be a whole host of guards, some we know and some we don’t, that’ll make a huge difference over the next month.
Here we’ll take a look at a group that maybe aren’t quite as well known as the country’s absolute top-tier. So you won’t find R.J. Barrett or Cassius Winston or Carsen Edwards or Ja Morant here. You will, however, find a group that can make or break a bracket.
Markus Howard, Marquette
It’s a bit surprising that Howard hasn’t broken through as a major star in college basketball given he’s a 5-foot-11, sweet-shooting guard who absolutely fills it up. He’s a high-volume guy with one of the highest usage rates in the country while still shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range en route to averaging 25 points per game. Howard is certainly no secret to those who follow college basketball closely, but given how celebrated 3-point shooters are in this day and age, Howard, truly one of the country’s elite in that department, seems broadly under-appreciated. His shooting is potent enough to put the Golden Eagles on a run, even if they’re entering the tournament on a downward trajectory.
Josh Perkins, Gonzaga
There have been plenty of questions about Perkins on these pages but he’s largely answered the bell this season for the Zags. He’s averaged 11 points with an assist-to-turnover ratio great than 3:1. He’s shooting 36.8 percent from 3-point range. He’s run the point for one of the best and most successful teams in the country. But…there are still a couple of red flags. Perkins had four turnovers and was 4 of 14 (0-3 from 3) in the Zags’ loss in the WCC title game to St. Mary’s, and in Gonzaga’s last loss before that, all the way back in December, he had six turnovers against North Carolina. He had nine assists in a loss to Tennessee, but was also 0-6 from the field. There might be some that say Killian Tillie is Gonzaga’s x-factor, but with how good they are already in the frontcourt, I still think Perkins remains the guy that can swing the pendulum the most in either direction for the West’s No. 1 seed.
Sam Merrill, Utah State
Merrill has been the best player you haven’t heard of this season. He’s averaging 21.2 points, 4.2 assists and 4.0 boards for a Utah State team that won the Mountain West tournament. He’s averaging 27.2 points over the last five games, in which the Aggies beat Nevada to lock up an at-large bid and then rolled through the field to win their league’s automatic bid. He’s terrific.
Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State
An foot injury sidelined Wigginton for most of November and December, and the former five-star prospect has been coming off the bench for an up-and-down Iowa State team since returning. A year after being the Cyclones’ best and perhaps only scoring option, Wigginton now finds himself a part of a more balanced attack that actually features another player – Virginia transfer Marial Shayok – more than him. Still, he’s a 38 percent 3-point shooter with high-level athleticism, and his ability to score in bunches could be the catalyst that keeps the Cyclones hot after their Big 12 tournament championship.
Fletcher Magee, Wofford
The Terrier senior has a chance to become a Big Dance darling thanks to his 41.3 percent shooting from 3-point range and his prowess for big-scoring games ( he’s averaged 20-plus for two years). Wofford became something of a national novelty as they cracked the Top 25 for the first time in school history, but here’s guessing Magee shows why the Terriers weren’t just a collecting wins in the Southern Conference – they’re actually a serious threat over the next few weeks.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
If St. John’s is going to storm out of the First Four and make a dent in coach Chris Mullin’s first NCAA tournament with his alma mater, Ponds is going to be what’s powering it. The 6-foot-1 Brooklyn native is averaging just under 20 ppg with 5.2 assists and 2.6 steals per game as well. Ponds is a threat to go for 30-plus every time he steps on the floor.
C.J. Massinburg, Buffalo
It’s hard to live up to the hype when you drop 43 in an overtime win at West Virginia in the season’s first week, but the Bulls’ senior has been really good all season. Massinburg is a statsheet stuffer with 18.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3 assists per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from 3 and 46.4 percent overall. It’s not going to be surprising at all to see Buffalo outperform its six seed with its senior guard leading the way.
BJ Taylor, UCF
The Orlando native has starred for the hometown Knights as they’ve secured their first NCAA tournament berth since 2005. The 6-foot-2 guard is averaging 16 points and 3.3 assists per game. He converts at a 36.8 percent clip from 3-point range.
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.
Introducing Cinderella: No. 20 Wofford completes perfect SoCon season
Bubble teams from across the country were keeping a very watchful eye on the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C. as UNC Greensboro got out to a lead that it seemed determined to keep against 20th-ranked Wofford. The Terriers were in win or lose, but the Spartans are a bubble team themselves, leaving the likes of Ohio State, Clemson, Georgetown and a score of others sweating.
Then Wofford took over.
Greensboro led by five with under 6 minutes to play, but the Terriers outscored them 15-3 over the final 4 minutes to claim a 70-58 Southern Conference title game victory and the league’s automatic bid.
The Terriers struggled to shoot from distance, making just 7 of 23 (30.4 percent), but Greensboro was just 3 of 16 (18.8 percent). Fletcher Magee and Nathan Hoover both scored 20 points to power the Wofford offense while Cameron Jackson had a monster game of 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Francis Alonso scored 21 and Isaiah Miller 19 for the Spartans, who will now have six days to await their fate on Selection Sunday as a team on the fringes of a soft bubble. Wofford, meanwhile, will have nearly a week to dream of the high seed it seems destined to get.
COACH: Mike Young
RECORD: 29-4, 18-0 SoCon
PROJECTED SEED: It’s not often you write a post like this and get to this section to write “seven,” but that’s where the Terriers are projected in the latest NBC Sports bracket thanks to an absolutely dominant regular season whose losses all came at the hands of Power 5 programs. Wofford is going to be favored in its first-round matchup.
NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Wofford has a backcourt with names you need to know not only because they’re good players, but because they’re great names, like a couple of detectives from an ‘80s cop movie. Fletcher Magee and Storm Murphy – can’t you just picture their names adorning the cheesy movie poster? But I digress. Magee is averaging 20.5 points while shooting 45/43.2/90.9 while Murphy leads the team in assists at 3.2 while shooting a team-best 48.9 percent from distance. Cameron Jackson – a solid ‘80s action hero name himself – is averaging 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds with a field goal percentage of 58 as the Terriers’ highest-usage player.
BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: The Terriers beat South Carolina (KenPom 73) in November for their best non-conference win while three wins against East Tennessee State (71) and UNC Greensboro (80) both make for a strong resume. In the loss ledger, none come anywhere close to “bad.” Wofford’s only losses this year were in the season-opener to North Carolina (5), Oklahoma (36), Kansas (17) and Mississippi State (24), the last of which came Dec. 19 and was the last time the Terriers lost.
STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Terriers are dangerous in the tournament first and foremost because they’re very good. Look at the rankings. Look at the record. What should absolutely terrify whatever high-majors they run into though is the 41.9 percent they shoot as a team from 3-point range, which is second in the country. Wofford gets 40.4 percent of its points via 3s (14th nationally). The Terriers can fill it up.
FINAL THOUGHT: Wofford is only a Cinderella by a narrow definition. The Terriers would have been in the field of 68 regardless of whether they beat Greensboro on Monday night. Mike Young has taken the Terriers to four NCAA tournaments in his previous 16 years at the helm, but doesn’t have a tourney win on the resume yet. That seems very likely to change in about a week-and-a-half.
NBC Sports Top 25: The final power rankings of the college basketball season
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.