Cavs 1st foe for new No. 1
UVa prepares for the first UNC squad to be the top-ranked team in the country since 2001.
By Doug Doughty
After UCLA's loss on Saturday put North Carolina in position to be ranked No. 1 for the first time in his tenure as men's basketball coach, Roy Williams invoked the 1939 movie classic, "Gone With the Wind" in describing his reaction.
"Frankly, my dear," Williams told the media Sunday night after an 84-58 victory over visiting Florida State. "You know, one of those."
The full quote, spoken by Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'Hara was, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Williams averaged 25 wins and won a national championship in his first three seasons at North Carolina, but it wasn't until this week that one of his Tar Heel teams was ranked No. 1 in the country.
"I've been No. 1 before," said Williams, who spent 15 years as the head coach at Kansas, "and, if you don't finish that way at the end of the year, it means you had a good little stretch, but it [isn't] what people remember."
Matt Doherty was Carolina's coach the last time the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1, in 2000-01. Two years later he was out of a job.
Don't expect Williams to have a similar fate, not with a roster replenished by the nation's top recruiting class.
Carolina (14-1) has 10 players who have played in every game and an 11th, point guard Bobby Frasor, who has averaged 15 minutes when not hobbled by a stress fracture that has kept him out of six games.
"Normally, you try to give some sort of rational, reasonable explanation when you lose a game," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Sunday. "The truth of the matter is, we got beat by a much better basketball team."
In its previous game, North Carolina had trailed by 10 points in the first half, then destroyed Pennsylvania 102-64.
"You have to play 40 minutes against North Carolina," Quakers' coach Glen Miller said. "It was a 15-point game with 8 minutes left and we wind up getting beat by 38. You want to stay away from turnovers and low field-goal percentage against this team [North Carolina] because they get out in transition and convert better than anybody in the United States."
The Tar Heels are hungry and so are their fans.
"Bojangles is going to be fired up tomorrow morning," said Williams after the Penn game, referring to a promotion that offers a free biscuit to any ticket-holder after the Tar Heels score 100 points or more.
"In some ways, that makes you cringe because you feel for the other guy, but, at the same time, it's part of college athletics. I love the enthusiasm. If it takes biscuits to make everybody stay in their seats until the very end, I guess that's OK."
Dave Leitao won his first game against Carolina as Virginia's coach, He apparently overlooked it Monday on his weekly call-in show.
Leitao said one of his first milestones would come when his Virginia teams had beaten every team in the ACC and said that UVa was hoping to add to that list at 9 tonight, when the Cavaliers visit the Smith Center.
Virginia beat then-No. 24 North Carolina last year in Charlottesville, 72-68, but the Tar Heels won two subsequent meetings, including a 99-54 thrashing in Chapel Hill, N.C., that represented the largest margin of defeat for UVa in the 96-year history of the series.
"They had players like [Danny] Green and [Marcus] Ginyard who were integral members of that team and now they're just afterthoughts," Leitao said.
Moreover, it appears unlikely that the Tar Heels will overlook the Cavaliers. On the same night that Carolina struggled early against Pennsylvania, Virginia and went on to win 108-87.
North Carolina probably would have been ranked No. 1 long before now if not for an 82-74 loss to the Zags in the Preseason NIT bock on Nov. 22.
"Virginia, with [Sean] Singletary and [J.R.] Reynolds, provides you with a lot of challenges." Williams said. "If they come out and make a bunch of shots, you're not going to beat 'em. Gonzaga saw what really happens there and last time I looked, Gonzaga whacked us."
Leitao, whose team dropped a 76-75 decision to Stanford on Sunday night, wouldn't want to play the comparative-score game with Williams.
"This is the No. 1 team in the country, not just because the polls will rank them there, but because they are," said Leitao, whose Cavaliers (9-4) have been 1-0 in ACC play for more than a month, following a Dec. 3 home win over N.C. State.
"They're [the Tar Heels] the deepest, they've got experience, they've got star-player quality, they've got every ingredient. That's our reward for getting back into ACC play. The challenge is monumental."
Singletary's six steps to sinking free throws
A.J. Carr, Staff Writer
Stand behind the basket and wave your arms. Hold up "Brick It" signs. Yell, scream, stomp.
Chances are those activities won't distract Virginia's Sean Singletary at the foul line, where he has converted 101 of 109 shots this season for an ACC-leading 92.7 free-throw percentage.
The junior guard, now an 85.3 career shooter at the line, has a shot at the ACC record of 95.3 percent set by Duke's J.J. Redick in 2004.
Like most sharp foul shooters, Singletary -- who also leads the ACC in scoring with a 19.5 average -- follows a routine regardless of time, score or noise. He explained his six-step progression.
* Step to the line, look at the rim, examine the rim.
* Give the ball a spin.
* Bounce the ball twice.
* Take a deep breath.
* Gradually lift his eyes toward the rim.
* As soon as his eyes are focused on the goal, he releases the ball.
Mechanically, Singletary strives to keep his elbow in -- close to his body -- bend his knees and follow through on the shot. He likes to shoot about 150 free throws per day and take approximately 600 shots overall.
"The more you shoot, the better you get," he said. "It's all about repetition and muscle memory."
And sticking to his routine.
Cavs head to UNC trying to snap slump away from home
By Whitelaw Reid / email@example.com | 978-7247
January 10, 2007
If there is one statistic that Virginia coach Dave Leitao would love to apply a giant bottle of Wite-Out out to, it is this: under Leitao’s watch, UVa has yet to win a road game outside of the commonwealth.
Tonight, Virginia will have a chance to rectify that situation - but it’s not going to be easy.
Actually, the challenge facing UVa couldn’t be any harder.
The Cavaliers (9-4, 1-0), whose road wins under Leitao have come against Richmond and Virginia Tech, face North Carolina, the No. 1-ranked team in the country. UNC (14-1, 1-0) is riding an 11-game winning streak, including an 84-58 waxing of Florida State in its ACC opener on Sunday.
Virginia, whose last win in the Dean Dome came during the 2001-02 season, is coming off a last-second loss to Stanford on Sunday.
It is UNC’s wondrous talent and depth that is of obvious concern to Leitao.
“They’re like an old-style ’80s basketball team where guys didn’t leave early, where you could assemble talent and keep them there,” Leitao said. “From a guy that’s a senior in Reyshawn Terry or freshmen like Brandan Wright and [Wayne] Ellington or [Marcus] Ginyard, it’s a very well-balanced [team].”
Lest Leitao forget Tyler Hansbrough, last year’s national Freshman of the Year, or the next NBA-bound UNC point guard, Ty Lawson.
This season, Hansbrough hasn’t been quite as dominating, but with a better supporting cast, he hasn’t needed to be.
Lawson, a 5-foot-11, 193-pounder who makes the Tar Heels purr, certainly does not play like a freshman. The Oak Hill Academy product is averaging 5.3 assists, which ranks him fourth in the ACC.
“They’re locked in, and Roy Williams has been magnificent,” Leitao said. “You can go all the way back to Adonis Jordan - his first point guard at Kansas - and you don’t find that much difference between the way Adonis Jordan played, the way Raymond Felton played and now the way Ty Lawson plays.”
Williams himself sounded giddy with the play of his young floor general.
“[Ty] has been so good,” Williams said. “It’s mind-boggling to me that a freshman can come in, and in the first seven games have like 58 assists and 11 turnovers”
It is Lawson’s defense, however, that might prove paramount against Virginia. He will be one of the UNC guards trying to keep Sean Singletary from going too nuts.
Singletary is averaging 31.3 points in his last three games. Of course, UNC must also be cognizant of J.R. Reynolds, who only played 23 foul-plagued minutes against Stanford.
“Virginia provides a lot of challenges with Singletary and Reynolds,” Williams said. “You’ve got to cut down on their percentages. If they come out and are making a bunch of shots and shooting a high percentage, you’re not going to beat them.”
Williams referenced UVa’s win over Gonzaga last Wednesday in which it drilled a school-record 18 3-pointers.
“The last I looked, Gonzaga whacked us,” said Williams, alluding to an 82-74 loss to the Zags that his team suffered on Nov. 22 in New York City, “so it’s a huge concern for us to try and slow them down and hopefully try and keep their percentages down … occupy them on their defensive end of the floor, and at the end of the game maybe they won’t have quite the same legs as they did at the start.”
Clearly, North Carolina will also look to take advantage of Virginia where most opponents have this season - inside.
In its win over North Carolina at University Hall last season, UVa was able to do a good job of muscling up on Hansbrough and making him work hard for all of his shots. However, in its two losses against UNC - one at the Dean Dome and one in Greensboro in the ACC Tournament - it was not able to accomplish that.
And now Virginia has another man-child inside to worry about in Wright, who is coming off a 20-point effort against FSU and is shooting 68 percent from the field, tops in the ACC.
Virginia sophomore Lars Mikalauskas, who did a great job of defending Hansbrough in the home victory a year ago, knows the Cavs have their work cut out for them.
“As long as we do everything we’ve got to do, we have a chance,” Mikalauskas said, “but they’re a very good team, so it’s going to be tough.”
North Carolina leads the all-time series 120-48. … Leitao refused to use Ryan Pettinella’s absence as an excuse for his team struggling on the interior of late. However, he admitted the team misses the junior, who is most likely still a few weeks away from returning from knee surgery. “It’s another body,” Leitao said. “He was averaging five points per game, which doesn’t sound like much, but it was more than the two guys who have filled in for him have averaged - combined.” … The good news for the Cavs on the injury front is that Sean Singletary is at his all-time healthiest, according to Leitao. “Sean has turned the corner physically and is now playing the way we all thought he could throughout the year,” Leitao said. … UNC sophomore point guard Bobby Frasor is still trying to find his rhythm after missing time with a foot injury. “Not only are we going slow with his foot and trying to get him back into things gradually,” Williams said, “but Saturday morning he woke up and was throwing up and was just sick as a dog.” Frasor played just six minutes in the win over FSU, scoring two points.
Heels impress Leitao
UNC's depth concerns U.Va. coach; Cavs are thin in the backcourt
BY JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Jan 10, 2007
Had voters done the unexpected this week and not ranked North Carolina No.1, Dave Leitao's opinion wouldn't have changed.
Leitao, the University of Virginia's second-year coach, holds the Tar Heels in the highest regard, and not only because they're U.VA. AT UNCnext on his team's schedule.
"I like to think I watch a lot of basketball, and I'm pretty convinced that we're playing against, obviously the No. 1 team in the country, not just because the polls will rank them there this week, but because they are," Leitao said Monday.
"If you compare them to the other teams that are up in the top five, or seven, or 10, it's clear to me they are the best, the deepest."
Virginia, which edged undermanned N.C. State in Charlottesville last month, plays its second ACC game tonight. Top-ranked UNC (1-0, 14-1) hosts U.Va. (1-0, 9-4) at 9 o'clock.
From an overachieving team that finished 28-8 in 2005-06, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams returned most of his top players, including Tyler Hansbrough, Reyshawn Terry, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Marcus Ginyard. To those veterans Williams added an extraordinarily talented group of freshmen, led by 6-9 Brandan Wright, 6-4 Wayne Ellington and 5-11 Ty Lawson.
Many observers predicted that Williams would have trouble keeping all his players, especially his veterans, happy. Carolina's coach wasn't so concerned.
"The attitude of the kids has pleased me," Williams said, "but it hasn't surprised me, because I really thought that we had such a good group of guys that they would basically try to do everything we asked them to do."
Wright, who already has been named ACC rookie of the week five times, immediately won a starting job, as did Ellington. Lawson has started 10 games, in part because of an injury to Frasor. Of Carolina's returning players, only Hansbrough and Terry are averaging more than 17 minutes.
Somehow, Williams has made it all work.
"I had said since Day One that the character of our kids, I thought, would take care of that," he said, "but there's no question that I've tried to be more aware of it, because every kid wants to play, and we've tried to continue getting everyone to focus on the name on their jersey and not get caught up in their individual situation."
Virginia is coming off a one-point loss to Stanford, which scored on 11 of its final 14 possessions Sunday night at John Paul Jones Arena. The Heels had more fun that day, crushing Florida State 84-58 in Chapel Hill.
"They've got a nice blend of extremely talented kids who've accepted their roles and bought into the system," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
"Hansbrough was a handful last year, and he really has improved. I think he's playing quicker, he's more athletic, he's increased his range. He's complemented very well by Wright."
The 6-9, 245-pound Hansbrough, last season's ACC rookie of the year, averages 18.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. The 6-9, 200-pound Wright, the favorite to succeed Hansbrough as the ACC's premier rookie, averages 15.7 points and 6.4 boards. The Heels figure to pose enormous problems inside for U.Va.'s post players, who were overwhelmed by Stanford's 7-foot freshmen, twins Robin and Brook Lopez.
Another concern for Leitao is his team's lack of depth in the backcourt. Junior Sean Singletary, the ACC's leading scorer, is U.Va.'s only true point guard. His backup is senior J.R. Reynolds, also the Cavaliers' starting shooting guard. Look for UNC to press and run tonight in an attempt to wear down Singletary and Reynolds.
Of course, Leitao noted, the Tar Heels favor that style "whether you have 18 point guards or one. They're locked in. They're the best team in the country. If they walked it up, that would be a concern."
Cavs in search of post presence
By Whitelaw Reid / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7247
January 9, 2007
Paging Patrick Patterson. Paging a Mr. Patrick Patterson.
Mr. Patterson, as one of the best high school big men in the land, your presence is needed immediately at the corner of Emmet Street and Massie Road in Charlottesville.
If you happened to watch Sunday night’s Virginia-Stanford game on television, you know exactly why.
UVa, one of the schools still in the running for your services, lost 76-75. The Cavaliers were handed their first-ever defeat at John Paul Jones Arena, in part, because they had no answer for Stanford’s post players - namely 7-foot twins Robin and Brook Lopez.
Robin had an unstoppable hook shoot that killed Virginia in the second half. When UVa doubled him, he found open teammates for easy scoring chances.
Mr. Patterson, this is the essence of basketball - playing inside-out. You should know something about this since your current teammate at West Virginia’s Huntington High, O.J. Mayo, is the most highly touted guard in the country.
So far in his tenure, UVa coach Dave Leitao has been forced to play outside-in. Unless you are the Phoenix Suns, this is not a good way to play basketball.
When Sean Singletary, J.R. Reynolds and company are on fire from the outside, like in the win over Gonzaga on Wednesday night, everything is dandy.
But when they have pedestrian performances from the perimeter - or worse - the Cavs have looked dreadful.
“If we expect that Sean is going to score 35 a game, then we don’t have as many worries,” Leitao said.
Without any Virginia big man commanding attention on the blocks, that’s not going to happen. Opposing teams can focus their entire game plans on stopping the All-ACC guard.
Against Stanford, Singletary had 24 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
Meanwhile, J.R. Reynolds, Virginia’s second-leading scorer, had zero points in the first half before finishing with 14. Mamadi Diane was 1 of 6 from the field for two points.
In its four losses this season, Virginia has been victimized by its lack of a post presence on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Against Purdue, Carl Landry had 19 points and eight rebounds. Virginia’s main post players - Jason Cain, Ryan Pettinella, Lars Mikalauskas and Tunji Soroye - combined for eight points and seven rebounds.
In Puerto Rico, former Cavalier Donte Minter scored nine second-half points to propel Appalachian State.
The next day against Utah, big man Luke Nevill looked like the second coming of Bill Walton in posting 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against Virginia. The Utes pounded the ball inside, then kicked it out for wide-open jumpers.
The most telling game of the season was Virginia’s seven-point triumph over a winless Division II Puerto Rico-Mayaguez squad. With six players on the Tarzans under 6-foot tall, surely this would have been the game where Cain, Soroye or Mikalauskas put up some fat numbers.
The trio was outscored by some guy named Diego Garcia, 16-8.
On Sunday, less than two minutes into the game, Mikalauskas scored on a nice post-up move inside. It was almost a surprise that the game wasn’t stopped to commemorate the moment.
As far as this beat writer can recall, it was just the second successful back-to-the-basket post bucket that a Virginia player has scored this season - the other was by Ryan Pettinella in San Juan.
Mr. Patterson, clearly you have many suitors for your services, including programs such as Duke and Kentucky, but is there any place in America where you could make a quicker impact than at Virginia?
It would be hard to imagine.