Originally Published: October 20, 2011

At UNC, Nothing Less Than A Title Will Do

By Andy Katz

CHARLOTTE -- The new North Carolina narrative is to leave a legacy, a championship that your class can call its own.

The 2005 Tar Heels featured a collection of core players who could have left a year earlier but didn't. The same thing occurred in 2009.

And now it could repeat in 2012.

Harrison Barnes would have been a lottery pick after his freshman season. The length and size of John Henson and Tyler Zeller, regardless of how productive they've been, could have pushed them into the first round. But all three turned down any flirtation with the NBA draft.

Kendall Marshall starts the season as one of the hottest point guards in the country after taking over the team in February and leading the Tar Heels to the Elite Eight. A starting wing also returns in Dexter Strickland. Sure, Leslie McDonald is likely out for the season but there is still depth with guards Reggie Bullock, Justin Watts and P.J. Hairston and impact freshman forward James Michael McAdoo, whom Barnes said reminds him of former Tar Heel Ed Davis.

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Richard Mackson/US PresswireSeth Greenberg has experienced plenty of pain on Selection Sunday in recent years.

So the option for Barnes to leave that legacy is real. Barnes is savvy enough on his Carolina history that he's not going to draw a parallel to the 2009 Tar Heels and Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green.

"It mirrors it a lot, but comparing the two teams wouldn't be giving them justice," Barnes said. "We're all interested in winning this year. That's our biggest focus. We've always been working toward this point. We want to say that we have something accomplished. It would be great for us and the biggest thing last year was that we had our ups and downs on the road."

That consistency can come if someone like Henson finds his offensive game and doesn't get lost at that end of the court.

"I've got to be more consistent with my shot and that part of my game so I won't come in one game and look good and then not," Henson said. "I've got to play hard every possession."

Barnes, Henson and Zeller complement each other well in what might be the best frontcourt in the country. Barnes is an all-around, versatile player who can dribble, create his own shot and score facing the basket. He can also get to the rim and finish. Zeller is more of a low-post threat than Henson, but both have the length to be a problem for any opposing team.

Virginia's Mike Scott said to score on these Heels, he has to use shot fakes to avoid the height. Duke may have its tallest team under Mike Krzyzewski with 6-foot-11 Ryan Kelly, 6-10 Mason Plumlee, 6-10 Miles Plumlee and 6-8 freshman Alex Murphy, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Blue Devils so far, according to Krzyzewski.

But the Tar Heels are a preseason No. 1 for a reason -- they have the most talented starting five returning, led by a frontcourt that wants to leave its historic mark at a historic program.

"We're a great trio that all do different things," Henson said. "We can shoot outside and inside. Defensively we're pretty good. Z runs the court well. It's a match made in heaven. Everybody wanted to come back and give it one more shot. That's what we plan to do. That's what you want to do when you play at Carolina. We need to do it this year."

Can These Hokies Get Over The NCAA Hump?

By Andy Katz
CHARLOTTE -- Seth Greenberg didn't take any calls on the night of Selection Sunday this past season. He shut himself in and hunkered down, feeling beat down and not up to defending his program this time.

Getting shut out of the NCAA tournament -- for the fourth time in a row -- was too hard to swallow. So he kept quiet.

"This year probably hurt more than any others because we took care of business," Greenberg said at Wednesday's ACC media day. "Our seniors, four-year guys, did all the right things. They met the challenges and were the winningest class in the history of the school. But it hurt me that they were denied the opportunity and it was difficult for me."

Virginia Tech went 9-7 in the ACC, the second straight season the Hokies were above .500 in the league and didn't get a bid. The Hokies did play a tougher schedule last season, but lost all of the key games (at Kansas State and against UNLV and Purdue). They did play admirably through an injury-plagued season that limited Dorenzo Hudson to just nine games and prevented J.T. Thompson and Cadarian Raines from playing at all. And there was that win over Duke in February.

But nevertheless, Tech again had to settle for the NIT.

"It was very difficult for me," Greenberg said. "After a while, people don't want to hear it about getting in the tournament. But if I don't defend my kids, who will? Part of my obligation is to protect my guys. I have another chance, they didn't and that was hard."

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AP Photo/Andrew ShurtlefIt's easy to forget just how good Mike Scott was before his injury last December.

Greenberg has been to just one NCAA tournament since he arrived in 2003. And in the NIT years, the Hokies finished third in the league once and fourth three times, which really speaks to how watered down the ACC has been.

"It's extremely frustrating and whether you're Jim Baron [at Rhode Island] or Brian Gregory [formerly at Dayton], it's hard to make the NCAA tournament," Greenberg said. "It's objective. The [selection committee] people in that room control your fate and every year they might change. We're trying to clearly define a number and one of the most important things is who you choose to play. But we play in a conference where there is a cumulative effect of playing those 16 games more than a lesser conference.

"In a league like the Horizon, you can get yourself back up and get your mojo back because there are games to do so. But in our league it's tough. You might have Carolina, Maryland and Clemson all in a row. How do you get healthy with that?"

The Hokies return Hudson, Erick Green, Victor Davila and Thompson. Freshman Marquis Rankin, an expected impact guard, has been out with a knee injury but sophomore guard Jarell Eddie did get cleared by the NCAA after being suspended last spring and the freshman class is highly regarded.

Virginia Tech does have another respectable nonconference schedule. The Hokies are in the NIT Season Tip-Off and will likely face George Mason to get to New York, where Syracuse and Oklahoma State would be potential opponents. Hosting upstart St. Bonaventure will be a chore, while playing at Minnesota, hosting Kansas State and going to Rhode Island and Oklahoma State are all potential tough spots. Will it be enough on Selection Sunday?

It's the eternal question in Blacksburg.

Tanner Smith Sets Perfect Example For Tigers

By Andy Katz

CHARLOTTE -- Clemson's Tanner Smith should be one of the top shooters in the ACC.

He may be the most accomplished, too.

Smith's charitable efforts with Tanner's Totes were beautifully documented by ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil two years ago and he was featured on ABC's "Everyday Health" last month. Tanner's idea of providing tote bags to help pre-teens and teens deal with long-term care in hospitals has caught on across the country. As a young child, Smith had experience going to hospitals for his father's cancer treatments.

Now Smith has become the ideal model for Brad Brownell's second season at Clemson. He's a person who everyone on the team can emulate in their quest to become a more well-rounded person and contributor to society, not just to the greater good of making the Tigers a success on the court.

"He's a phenomenal young man," Brownell said. "He's an incredible kid. He runs golf tournaments. He fundraises. There aren't that many 18- to 20-year-olds who have that much community service in mind."

Smith said being at Clemson has helped the project soar. The tote bags, according to Smith, are now in 35 different hospitals from Hawaii to all over the mainland.

"It's nothing I ever thought was possible," Smith said. "We're selling Tanner Tote T-shirts online now, and every day I see our guys wearing the shirts on campus. It means so much to see my teammates wrapping their arms around it. We've got a great group of guys on this team."

Clemson is a legitimate sleeper in the ACC. The Tigers did lose Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant off a team that won a First Four game against UAB in Dayton before falling to West Virginia in Tampa two days later. If Smith makes shots, it will be because he's playing off Andre Young in the backcourt and Devin Booker, Milton Jennings and Bryan Narcisse are productive, too.

But Brownell can't thank Smith enough for getting his teammates grounded and thinking about the greater good.

"It helps tremendously that the other kids on the team have a leader like this," Brownell said. "He does a great job on the basketball court. He understands the service aspect. He's making a difference."

With A Healthy Scott, Watch Out For Virginia

By Andy Katz
CHARLOTTE -- Mike Scott was quite possibly the ACC's top big man heading into last season. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds a game in 2009-10 and had massive potential going forward.

With Scott, Virginia showed signs of progress early last season, winning back-to-back road games at Minnesota and at Virginia Tech.

And then Scott hurt his left ankle, done for the season after playing in just one ACC game.

"I was playing the best basketball of my career," Scott said.

Virginia scrapped together a 7-9 record in the ACC, but now that Scott is healthy, lean and feeling even more productive, the Cavaliers have a very real chance to turn that seventh-place finish into a 10-win ACC season and a top-four place in the standings.

"I feel good," Scott said. "I'm not a patient person, but I had to stay patient. I think I'm playing better than when I was hurt."

That's good news for the Cavs. Virginia returns four starters and seven of its top 10 scorers. And guards Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski are sure to benefit from Scott's presence in the middle.

"He's showing more leadership than I saw last year," said UVa coach Tony Bennett. "Something was taken away and now he has it back and he's got that zest back. He's a threat for us and he'll draw attention for our team. He's trimmed down and [is] even more mobile."

Bennett said the Cavaliers were offensively challenged without Scott's inside presence last season.

"We had to drive the lane to score," Bennett said. "We lived and died off the perimeter. But whoever is playing alongside of him will be helped now."

The Cavs should be one of the teams to beat in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. Hosting Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and playing at Oregon will be good tests to see just how much UVa has improved this season.

"I think we can all come together defensively," Scott said. "We've bought into how [Bennett] wants us to play defensively, and we're playing more freely."


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