Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:07 pm
By Matt Norlander
I can't see why UNC wouldn't opt to go with this look for the Carrier Classic.
One of the coolest regular-season events in the history of college basketball is almost two weeks away (Obama's going, remember), and it's all but guaranteed that both Carolina and Michigan State will wear camouflaged-themed uniforms as a way of honoring the troops/the fact they're playing on an active United States Military vessel.
The event keeps getting better and better. Lots of build-up. Only hope it doesn't rain.
Wait a second -- this is in San Diego. We're in the clear, literally.
Michigan State hasn't released their alternate threads formally yet, but Tom Izzo's confirmed it and there's already been a camera that's caught the alleged green-and-grays. Wonder if these uniforms will go up for auction/charity afterward. They're one-of-a-time style kind of lends itself to an auction, right?
Photo via UNC athletics
Posted on: October 24, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 1:11 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Now that I've returned home and had an opportunity to catch my breathe from my Preseason Tour, I'll try and run through my thoughts from each practice I attended. I've already done so for Ohio State.
Here are my thoughts and observations from North Carolina - where I was for Midnight Madness:
1) Harrison Barnes will pick up where he left off last season and then some. The Tar Heels sophomore has that swagger back and while he isn't exploding to the basket, he's certainly more assertive. He's also far more comfortable playing with his buddy and roommate, Kendall Marshall.
3) It'll be interesting to see which one of Reggie Bullock or P.J. Hairston emerge. Both are terrific perimeter shooters - arguably among the Top 50 in the nation - but Bullock has the edge - when healthy - because he's further along defensively.
4) James Michael McAdoo may come along slowly since he has been on the mend due to tendinitis for a month or so. The positive is that, barring an injury to one of the frontline guys, McAdoo will be a piece this season. A damn good piece. Then he will turn into a star as a sophomore.
5) Dexter Strickland will be a huge key for this team and its national title hopes. He's a glue guy, but his perimeter shot appears to be more consistent - and his ability to run the team has improved as well. He will likely split his time between both backcourt spots, but the critical component for Strickland will come on the defensive end where he'll need to become a lock-down defender.
6) John Henson's offensive game is a work in progress. He's still raw on that end of the floor, but I still say he's as important on the defensive end as just about anyone in the country due to his length and ability to both block and alter shots.
7) Tyler Zeller is vastly underrated and is also the biggest beneficiary (Barnes is a close second) of Marshall and his floor game. Zeller, one of the best big man "runners" in the country, should be the recipient of a couple fastbreak baskets per game from the pure point guard.
8) Leslie McDonald said he hasn't ruled out playing this season, but it appears far-fetched. He tore his ACL this past summer in a Pro-Am game and said there's a chance he could be back on the court shortly after the New Year. My guess is he winds up redshirting.
9) Spent some time with ex-Tar Heels Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor. Psycho T is completely healthy after a brutal offseason a year ago in which he wasn't cleared to do anything - and Frasor is trying to break into college coaching.
10) Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes need ping pong lessons.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 8:26 am
By Gary Parrish
The Coaches Poll just got released.
I've looked it over good.
Now it's time to Poll Attack.
----- NO PROBLEMS AT THE TOP -----
Before looking at the poll I knew I'd be OK at the top as long as North Carolina and Kentucky got every first-place vote, and that's exactly what happened. Thirty-one coaches voted. Thirty put UNC No. 1. One put UK No. 1. And I'm cool with that. But a No. 1 vote for any other school would've been silly and an example of a voter being different just for the sake of being different, and I hate voters like that. So I'm glad the Coaches Poll didn't feature any voters like that. That's why I start with praise.
But how did St. John's get 11 votes?
The top eight players from last season's team -- that's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight -- are all gone, leaving Malik Stith as the leading returning scorer. He's a 5-foot-11 guard who averaged 3.3 points in 12.2 minutes per game last season. Meantime, three of the top recruits have been ruled academically ineligible, which leaves St. John's with, I believe, just seven scholarship players. None of the veterans are impact players at the Division I level. None of the newcomers are named Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond. So this is not a team that should be getting votes for the Top 25. It's a team that should instead be picked about 12th in the Big East, which is where Big East coaches placed the Red Storm earlier this week.
And VCU getting four votes doesn't make much sense, either.
Look, nobody loves Shaka Smart more than me.
But Jamie Skeen is not walking through that door.
And neither is Brandon Rozzell.
Or Joey Rodriguez.
Or Ed Nixon.
That means four of the top five scorers from last season's team are gone, and even that team -- the team with Skeen, Rozzell, Roriguez and Nixon -- finished just fourth in the Colonial ... behind George Mason, Old Dominion and Hofstra. People forget that because of the run to the Final Four. But the truth is that VCU was a bubble team for four months last season, and this team isn't as talented as that team. Perhaps Smart will prove me wrong. God knows he's done it before. But for now the Rams shouldn't be on anybody's Top 25 ballot.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 10:51 pm
By Jeff Goodman
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller were on the court, acting, well, like college kids.
They were performing the annual dances that have become a staple at North Carolina's Midnight Madness.
However, they could as well have been in the stands, sitting next to Vince Carter and Raymond Felton, waiting for the NBA lockout to end.
Barnes, Henson and Zeller all considered leaving Chapel Hill early for the NBA.
But the moment all three opted to return, the Tar Heels became the frontrunners to cut down the nets in New Orleans this April.
"They did make the right decision - for that reason," Felton said following the festivities. "And for the opportunity to do something special."
This group has a different outlook than some that have been tabbed as the unanimous (find me one idiot who doesn't have UNC at No. 1 in the preseason) top team in the country.
Remember, upperclassmen Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Dexter Strickland had endured a year and a half of getting crucified.
Two years ago, the Tar Heels were 20-17.
A year ago, they were hammered again - even after the addition of a freshman class which featured Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall.
Until Marshall entered the starting lineup in mid-January.
Then it all changed.
The pieces began to click - and everyone fell in love with the Tar Heels.
No. 1 to start the season, no shortage of accolades.
While the NBA players can only sit and wait.
However, Zeller isn't quite ready to anoint his decision as a success.
Not just yet.
"We'll see at the end of the year whether it was good or bad," he said of the decision to return to Chapel Hill for another go-around.
Zeller is hoping that'll be determined on April 2 in New Orleans.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 9:11 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 2:59 pm
By Gary Parrish
LEXINGTON, Ky -- It's Big Blue Madness Day in Kentucky, and folks really do like blue around here. They wear blue shirts and blue hats; I've even seen some blue shoes. And I'm not talking about students, exclusively. Old people wear lots of blue, too. It's a little crazy, but I'd expect nothing less from the nation's most passionate fan base as their national-championship-caliber team prepares to open practice tonight at Rupp Arena.
I will be there.
Then I'll spend Saturday with Louisville.
And Sunday with Vanderbilt.
Meaning my next four days will be spent with the coaches who have the teams ranked No. 2 (Kentucky), No. 7 (Vanderbilt), No. 8 (Louisville) and No. 9 (Memphis) in our preseason Top 25 (and one). Meantime, my colleague Jeff Goodman is spending the next two days with No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke, then he'll be with No. 5 Ohio State on Monday. My colleague Matt Norlander is with No. 3 Connecticut. My colleague Jeff Borzello is with No. 4 Syracuse.
What does that mean?
It means CBSSports.com staff writers will spend the next four days with the teams ranked first to ninth in the preseason Top 25 (and one), and I'm not sure any website or newspaper in America (or any other country in the world, for that matter) can match how we're attacking this college basketball season. So you're in the right place. We've already had Jerry Palm project the Field of 68, and Goodman and I have filled out his bracket. We've got conference previews running daily, and columns on North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut and Syracuse up now.
Check them out.
Check everything out.
Then bookmark this blog and keep coming back.
Because we aren't planning to slow down until at least mid-April.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 9:01 pm
By Matt Norlander
Though we've not yet heard official word from the White House (UPDATE: Now we do.), according to Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, President Obama will indeed make an appearance at next month's Carrier Classic.
"Honored to have Pres. Obama at the Carrier Classic as we pay tribute to those men & women who serve our nation and our freedom. #whitehouse," Hollis tweeted. He also sent a direct tweet to Magic Johnson, saying "White House confirmed today President Obama will attend 11.11.11 Carrier Classic between Michigan State & North Carolina."
On Friday, we told you Obama had been formally invited by the event's organizers. It's a little surprising the news is coming out so early -- someone asked me if this was a national security risk by putting the RSVP out there so publicly so soon -- but I'd imagine that ship will be as secure as Fort Knox.
The game is the first of its kind. Basketball on an aircraft carrier on Veterans Day on the ship that laid Osama bin Laden to rest.
You can bet apple pie will be part of the media buffet.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 5:04 pm
By Matt Norlander
Will the ship that sunk Osama host Obama?
According to USA Today, which quotes Morale Entertainment executive Mike Whalen, there's already been an invitation extended to the most powerful man in the world. When North Carolina and Michigan State play on the USS Carl Vinson in the first Carrier Classic on Nov. 11, the President could very well be on hand to watch some college hoops, which he's done before on multiple occasionssince earning the gig in the Oval Office.
"President Obama has been invited," Whalen told USA Today. "(The White House) is very interested. We're cautiously optimistic."
Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, is already on board to attend, per Whalen. Obama (pictured at right, presumably reading the latest news on Sarah Palin's presidential-race decision) would increase the security detail on the ship 20-fold. And it's already arguably the toughest ticket in the sport this season, Carolina-Duke game included.
Additionally, James Worthy has been locked in as the honorary captain for the Tar Heels. Worthy played under Dean Smith at UNC in the early '80s and is one of the biggest names in the history of the program. Initially Michael Jordan was the target for honorary captain, but a "personal conflict" is preventing him from showing up.How perfect, though, since Magic Johnson will rep the Spartans. Magic and Worthy were teammates throughout the '80s and early '90s on the Lakers, of course.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:36 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Sean May doesn't even think there's a debate.
North Carolina's national title team in 2005 or this year's Tar Heels group?
Take your pick.
My colleague, Gary Parrish, wrote about that notion in a column recently -- and we continued the conversation on our weekly podcast.
"It's not even close," said May, reached Wednesday morning in Croatia. "Overall, talent-wise, I think we were better."
I'd tend to agree with May, although it's hardly a no-brainer.
For a full perspective, here's the comparison between the two teams:
SG - Jackie Manuel
PG - Raymond Felton
SF - Rashad McCants
PF - Jawad Williams
C - Sean May
F - Marvin Williams
F - David Noel
G - Melvin Scott
G - Quentin Thomas
SG - Dexter Strickland
PG - Kendall Marshall
SF - Harrison Barnes
PF - Tyler Zeller
C - John Henson
F - James McAdoo
G - P.J. Hairston
G - Reggie Bullock
Williams (2), Felton (5), May (13) and McCants (14) were all taken in the lottery after winning the national title in 2005. Noel was selected in the second round the following season. This year's Tar Heels team could well have four players taken in the lottery as well: Barnes, Henson, Zeller and McAdoo. Marshall could also find his way into the first round, according to multiple NBA executives.
Hairston and Bullock -- with their size and ability to shoot the ball -- both have a chance to play in the league as well.
"Obviously, Harrison is really good," May said. "John is still a little raw. He's a great player, though. We had more talent on our team. Our most talented player, Marvin, was coming off the bench."
"Rashad would give Harrison a run for his money," added May. "And while Kendall is great, you can't even bring that conversation to me between him and Ray. I played with Ray and he made me the player I was in college."
However, what may have separated that 2005 team was the "role guys." Jaward Williams was a veteran who came to understand his place on the team and Manuel was a terrific defender who could have cared less about scoring.
Can McAdoo accept his this season as a supporting guy, an energy guy coming off the bench. Will Strickland continue to develop into that Manuel-esque role and be able to run the team when Marshall is out of the lineup?
"They've got a lot of talent," May said. "But we had more."