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 Saturday, January 22
UNC willing to give Guthridge room to improve
By Andy Katz

 Bill Guthridge may be the easy target of North Carolina's 11-7 start, but there is no pressure on him to resign early.

The 62-year-old Guthridge has two years remaining on his original five-year contract, but North Carolina officials have told ESPN.com that Guthridge will have the ultimate say in his future, not the administration.

"It's his call," said one source within the department. "No one else's. He has no plans on going anywhere. He's as upset about the 11-7 record as anyone else."

Bill Guthridge
Bill Guthridge still has the backing of UNC, including former coach Dean Smith.

North Carolina's program is steeped in tradition and isn't about to buck the trend by dismissing a loyal foot soldier. Remember, this is still a program that has a junior varsity, coached by assistant Dave Hanners. The team even plays before the "varsity" games in uniforms probably worn by former Tar Heels (they're a little tight).

The other factor to keep in mind is the influence of Dean Smith. He's still walking the halls on campus and isn't about to let his trusted assistant be pushed out because of a poor start. He has told officials that the Tar Heels' tough schedule is as much to blame for their erratic start as anything else.

But Guthridge can't make up for inconsistent play in the frontcourt. The Tar Heels had 21 turnovers in their loss to Virginia Tuesday night -- 12 in the frontcourt. The big guys have to take better care of the ball (that means Brendan Haywood and Kris Lang) for the Tar Heels to stay in the top two in the ACC.

Hold off on naming Guthridge's successor -- Kansas' Roy Williams (a former UNC assistant), Appalachian State's Buzz Peterson, Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl or Notre Dame's Matt Doherty (these three are former UNC players) -- until Guthridge decides it's time.

Wallace will go if he's top eight
Gerald Wallace, the nation's top senior prep player, told ESPN.com he will declare for the draft instead of attending Alabama if he's assured he would be one of the top eight selections in the June 28 NBA draft.

"If I could go anywhere eight or higher, then I'll go," said the 6-foot-7 forward from Childersburg, Ala. "Any lower and I'm still committed to the letter of intent with Alabama."

Ten NBA scouts attended Wallace's game Monday night in Alabama. With word spreading around the league that he may jump, scouts have made a point to catch at least one of Wallace's games. A few scouts checked him out last summer in Las Vegas at the Big Time Tournament when he played for the Alabama Ice.

"He's still going to Alabama unless he can be assured," Ice coach Ken Harris said. "His mother has told Alabama that she wants him to go to school."

In fact, Wallace's mother doesn't think he's mature enough to handle the NBA. Neither does Wallace.

"She's got strong feelings on that," said Wallace, who has qualified academically. "She thinks I need a couple of years to mature. This is a good choice or an easy choice to make. If I don't go high, I have something to fall back on with college. I could work and go even higher."

Wallace is a slasher with a scoring mentality. He can jump with anyone in the nation and has a soft touch in the lane. But he hasn't played the type of competition that, say, a Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett did before they made the jump. He also wasn't in a metropolis like those two and could have a tougher adjustment to the fast NBA lifestyle coming out of a small town in Alabama.

Wallace said he'll have to trust Harris and the Alabama coaching staff on whether or not he would go top eight. But he won't make up his mind until just before the early entry deadline on May 14. Obviously, if he chooses to leave, that late date would damage Alabama's newcomer class for next season without time to fill Wallace's scholarship with someone even half as talented.

Darius Miles, a 6-9 forward out of Lincoln Senior High in East St. Louis, Ill., is the only other potential high school player in the draft. Miles signed with St. John's but hasn't qualified academically yet.

High school players who declare for the draft cannot retain their amateur status if they pull their name from consideration prior to the draft. College underclassmen have the right to declare and then return to college, as long as they do it a week before the draft and don't sign with an agent.

Morris likely to play
Maryland may not have Terence Morris for Saturday's game against Clemson because of an ankle injury, but when he does return, the Terps need more than points out of Morris. He has yet to be the dominant leader they needed this season. Morris injured his ankle in the win over Wake Forest Wednesday when he was held to 3-for-11 shooting (0-for-4 on 3-pointers).

Morris' numbers are decent (16.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.9 blocks, 3.1 assists, 2 steals), but not first-team All-American. He's still "too nice," and needs to take the Terps on his shoulders and carry them back to the top of the ACC. The one good thing for the Terps' future is that Morris actually enjoys college and probably won't leave early for the NBA. He would rather hang with teammates in the locker room or in his dorm rather than bolt for the NBA. That would bode well for the Terps' program, but they need more aggressive behavior out of him this season to ensure a NCAA Tournament berth.

Making the right move at UConn
The Kevin Freeman experiment is over at Connecticut. Coach Jim Calhoun will start freshman Doug Wrenn at small forward against Georgetown at the MCI Center and move Freeman to his natural power forward.

Wrenn has probably been the slowest-developing high-profile freshman in the nation. But he has earned time in practice and will get a chance to give the Huskies a needed scoring lift. Meanwhile, Freeman's numbers have slipped since he moved to the wing, which seemed to benefit his potential pro career more than the Huskies.

With Freeman inside, the Huskies' offensive rebounding and interior scoring has a chance to improve. But the move means the overhyped Ajou Deng is back on the bench.

"Ajou needs to be physically stronger, but remember this is his first year," assistant Karl Hobbs said. "He's never played a physical game. He hasn't played as many games as these other guys. He's still a freshman, and three years down the road he will be very good. It's his first year of major competition."

Freeman's move inside and Deng's to the bench could help a Huskies team inside that wavers against tough competition. The Huskies are getting everyone's best shot and they're not responding. (See how St. John's played the Huskies Sunday versus how the Red Storm played against Seton Hall). Putting Freeman's toughness inside could give the Huskies more attitude.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His Weekly Word on college basketball runs Thursdays throughout the season.

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