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College Basketball Notebook: 11.13.19

Julian Council
November 13, 2019 - 11:18 am

​I present to you, the people, the first edition of what I will not promise you will be a weekly college basketball notebook highlighting the only sport that has ever mattered, and will ever matter in our state:

 

The Footprint

Cole World

​I'll be the first one to admit that I thought North Carolina was in trouble last Wednesday night against Notre Dame. The Tar Heels were only returning 21 percent of its scoring from a year ago while Notre Dame was bringing 85 percent.

Counting the absences of senior guard Brandon Robinson and junior center Sterling Manley, the Heels were down to 15 percent of the returning scoring. Well, I definitely didn't factor in the Cole Anthony being a friggin' stud into the equation.

All Anthony did was score a North Carolina freshman debut record 34 points, graciously erasing Rashad McCants' name from the Tar Heel record books, while going full mixtape on the Fighting Irish in the second half. 

Anthony bailed out Carolina on Wednesday night but Roy Williams recognizes that his team will have difficulty scoring (note: Notre Dame went on a 12-2 run in the first half while Anthony was on the bench) to start the season and a team can only rely on an uber-talented freshman for so long. 

Duke Is Still Duke 

Duke, thanks to its annual commitment to the "Champions Classic" (sidebar: how can an annual college basketball event be called the "Champions Classic" when neither UCLA, Indiana or North Carolina are apart of it? Michigan State and Kansas combined have the same amount of national championship as Indiana's 5. Also, UCLA, in case you've forgotten, which I wouldn't blame you if you have, has the most all-time with 11. While North Carolina owns 7, and yes I'm counting 1924. Not salty, just saying.), opened the season as the lone ACC team to not start conference play.

The Blue Devils used an aesthetically pleasing defense to make Kansas' offense look very much not aesthetically pleasing, forcing 28 turnovers in a 68-66 "upset" win over the then-3rd ranked Jayhawks. 

So far, the only thing that matters about Duke is that we all miss Zion. For the time being, we'll have to settle for Cassius Stanley highlight reels, which aren't that bad. 

Oh, by the way, Tre Jones exited Tuesday night's 105-54 thrashing of Central Arkansas due to a head-to-head collision. Jones did not return to the game.

Although, in a statement from Duke, it was more precautionary than anything else. Were Jones to ever miss any significant time this season that would be the worst-case scenario for the Blue Devils.

While RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson took over the ACC last season, and Cam Reddish stood in the corner watching them, the return of Jones was undoubtedly the biggest recruitment of the offseason for Mike Krzyzewski and his staff.

Jones, like Duke points guards before him, will dictate how far Duke can go and what they can achieve. 

NC State S*** Starts Early

There were actually people who were upset that the ACC decided to start conference play on the opening night of the season due to the recent launch of the ACC Network.

I get, if you're a coach  *cough, Jim Boeheim*, you'd like for your team to have the chance to work towards the most important part of your schedule.

If you're a fan, why wouldn't rather see your team play against a legitimate opponent rather than say, William & Mary​? Well, if you're an NC State fan then I can understand why last Tuesday night's opener was less than fun.

The Wolfpack, in true Wolfpack form, led Georgia Tech by as much as 15 in the first half only to somehow allow Georgia Tech to find a way to force the ill-timed ACC opener into overtime.

There, the Wolfpack would find themselves trailing for the first time ALL GAME following Asanti Price's three-pointer to open the extra session. Two last-second James Banks III (remember him?) free throws would be enough to send the Wolfpack to 0-1 just over two hours after 2019-20 began.

The good news is, the Wolfpack were without Preseason All-ACC Second Team guard Markell Johnson, who sat out the contest after rolling his ankle in practice and forward D.J. Funderburk, who hates paying for parking tickets.

So, the loss wasn't solely based on an extremely NC State performance but more so on the absence of two players who should play major roles under Kevin Keatts this season. 

Johnson returned on Sunday against Detroit Mercy, scoring three points while handing out 10 assists in the Wolfpack's 85-64 victory. While Funderburk remains sidelined with a suspension. 

Wake Forest Already Back on Their 'BS'

It should go unsaid but will be said numerous times but myself and every other media member that weighs in on Wake Forest, that this is kind of an important season for Danny Manning as the head coach of the Demon Deacons.

Especially if he aspires to remain the head coach of those same Demon Deacons past this season. Well, if the opening week is any indication it's going to be a struggle and a half for Manning to keep his job and folks interested in risk potential public humiliation anytime they step foot inside 'The Joel'. 

The Deacs, predictably I might add, welcomed back former Duke exile Derryck Thornton back to ACC with a 77-70 road defeat at Boston College. Then, Wake followed the 0-1 ACC start with nearly another mind-numbing loss to a mid-major program.

This time, the Demon Deacons avoided putting a stain on the reputation of the dear ol' Dash City by closing out Sunday afternoons game on a 6-0 run, highlighted by Brandon Childress' game-winning jumper with 0.9 left on the clock. 

My mother always taught me to give credit when credit is do so that I will do. Congratulations, Wake. You didn't embarrass your fanbase this time. 

Queen City (+ Rock Hill) Hoops 

Charlotte Takes Home the Hornets Nest

Ron Sanchez has me believing in Charlotte 49er basketball again. That is not something I've said since the end of that wacky A-10 tournament game against Richmond when Pierria Henry attempted 11 free throws in the final four seconds of the game.

That season, like all the rest following, ended in disappointment. The Charlotte 49ers have not sniffed the sweet March smells of the NCAA Tournament since 2005.

The Niners had also not touched the brass glory that is the Hornets Nest trophy since 2012. Well, on Tuesday night they got their dirty mitts all over it.

Sanchez's bunch surprised Davidson 71-58, leading at one point by 24 points, in the program's first win against its cross-county rivals in seven years.

The win doesn't necessarily point to a successful 2019-20 campaign but it does provide a baseline for how good this team could on a single night. 

Davidson Off to a Sluggish Start​

One thing I wasn't expecting to see early this season was a Davidson team to limp out the gates to an 0-2 start.

Friday night's 76-66 loss to Auburn at the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, MD wasn't the least bit surprising. Auburn is a program coming off of a Final Four berth and known for utilizing a pressing, up-tempo style highlighted by freakish athletes.

Basically, the worst possible matchup for the Wildcats. Davidson's star backcourt of Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson struggled to get going offensively, combining for 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting. The lone positives from the game were the bench player of "sixth starter" Carter Collins, who had a team-high tying 18 points, along with the debut of redshirt freshman guard Mike Jones, who scored all 14 of his points in the first half. 

Bob McKillop talked about how being able to rely on his bench will be vitally important this season, opposed to overworking his top six players from last season. 

Right now, McKillop doesn't have the option not to go to his bench. Tuesday night at Charlotte, McKillop was again without redshirt senior guard KiShawn Pritchett, who McKillop later announced had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, a problem Pritchett's dealt with since his days back at Lake Norman High School, and Collins, who sat out with what was deemed a "lower-body" injury.

While McKillop expects Collins to return to practice on Wednesday, he's hopeful that Pritchett will be able to return to the lineup by conference play.

Two games are too early to start worrying about Davidson McKillop is an experienced coach and has a veteran team. It's only a matter of time until the Cats show the promise that many expect to see from them.

Winthrop Upsets Saint Mary's

Randy Bennett has built Saint Mary's into one of the top mid-major programs, not only on the West Coast, but in the country.

There was a time when Winthrop under Gregg Marshall, and briefly under Randy Peele, was one of the most consistent mid-major programs.

Pat Kelsey has done a marvelous job stamping his own legacy on the program, taking the Eagles to NCAA Tournament back in 2017, while only failing to win at least 18 games once in his tenure. 

Fun Fact: Winthrop had never played a game in the state of California until Sunday when the Eagles lost 77-74 at Fresno State. Monday night's win over No. 18 St. Mary's wasn't only a top 25 victory but it was California victory, which has never happened before. So let's celebrate that. 

Around the Old North State

-My alma mater, Elon, started the highly-anticipated Mike Schrage era (former K and Bobby Knight assistant, NBD) by needing overtime in an exhibition to stave off Division II Indiana University...of Pennsylvania. The Phoenix then opened the season by skating past Division II Mars Hill and annihilating Division II Milligan before going scoreless for more than nine minutes at Georgia Tech on Monday. To say that I'm discouraged wouldn't even be a good place to begin.

-ECU also traveled to Annapolis for the Veterans Classic. ECU also lost. The only difference: ECU lost to Navy, who I'm pretty sure isn't coming off of a trip to the Final Four. I thought y'all told me that ECU was supposed to be good a basketball this year. Or, at the very least interesting. 

-ICYMI, Appalachian State does have a basketball program and other sports outside of football. Turns out, a basketball program good enough to stay within eight points of Michigan, 79-71, and also good enough to beat the same ECU team y'all told me was going to be worth watching. 

Games That Matter This Week:

Western Carolina at Florida State 7:00 Fox Sports South

Why: Because Western Carolina is playing an ACC school 

Gardner-Webb at North Carolina Friday 9:00 ACC Network

Why: Cole Anthony

UNC-Wilmington at Davidson Saturday 7:00 ESPN+

​Why: It's between two teams who reside within the state of North Carolina

Wake Forest at Charlotte Sunday 6:00 ESPNU

Why: An ACC team is coming to Halton Arena

Nevada at Davidson Tuesday 7:00 ESPN+

Why: Nevada is coached by Steve Alford. Also, Davidson needs a non-conference win against a quality mid-major opponent. 

 

​Be sure to follow Julian on Twitter and listen to him weekdays from 2-6 pm on The Clubhouse with Kyle Bailey​. Also, check out Julian on Saturdays throughout the fall from 12-2 pm for College Football Today.

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