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UNC-Greensboro Game Preview

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a public university and a part of the University of North Carolina system. The school has about 18,500 students and was founded as the State Normal and Industrial School in 1891. It was a women’s college up until 1963 when it started admitting men, subsequently changing its name to the one it now bears. The university offers a plethora of undergraduate, masters, and doctorate level degrees and is considered to be one of the better value public colleges in the nation by publications such as Forbes and the Princeton Review. Distinguished alumni include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Claudia Emerson, Country Grammy award-winner EmmyLou Harris, and Danny Valencia who plays 3rd base for the Minnesota Twins.

The UNCG Basketball Tradition:

The UNCG Spartans are a member of the Southern Conference and play in the 23,000-seat Greensboro Coliseum, familiar to many college basketball fans as the site of the ACC tournament. The Coliseum is reconfigured to seat about 7,500 for Spartans games and has been renovated to feature a UNCG court design as well as Spartan-themed locker rooms.

The Spartans have been to the NCAA tournament twice, 1996 and 2001.  In 1996 as a member of the Big South conference,  Randy Peele led his team past Liberty in the conference championship game. Randy Peele now coaches Winthrop University and will be facing the Rams this year in the Preseason NIT  in Winston Salem, NC. The 15th-seeded Spartans drew 2nd-seeded Cincinnati in the first-round and played a close-game before falling short 66-61. In 2001 this time as a member of the Southern Conference, the Spartans once again got to the NCAA’s drawing Stanford and the unenviable task of trying to beat a top-ranked team as a 16-seed. The Fran McCaffrey-led Spartans were soundly thumped to the tune of 89-60. Fran McCaffrey would go on to have some great teams at Siena that would pull some mid-major upsets over Ohio State and Vanderbilt and has since started his first year at Big 10-member Iowa.

Whenever a conversation comes up about who the best basketball player to come out of UNCG is, the discussion begins and ends up with Kyle Hines. Hines was lightly-recruited despite a stellar New Jersey high school career, and accepted a scholarship offer from Fran McCaffrey to play at the non-descript SoCon program. The 6’6 forward burst onto the scene from the start, averaging 13.6 ppg, a team-leading 8.6 rpg, and topped the SoCon shooting 62.1% from the field (good for 7th in the country). His stellar freshman year was only the beginning as he went on to have an fantastic career, garnering dozens of accolades and subsequently putting the UNCG program on the map. He finished his career as the all-time leading scorer (2,187 pts), rebounder (1,047), and shot-blocker (349 blks) at UNCG. He earned the distinction of being one of 6 players in the history of the NCAA to have at least 2000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 300 blocks. The others on that list (CAA’er David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Pervis Ellison, Tim Duncan, and Derrick Coleman) put Hines in elite company. Hines went undrafted in 2008 and is currently playing in Germany.

This will be the first-time the VCU and UNCG have faced off as the two teams have never faced off before.

The 2010-2011 UNCG Spartans:

The Spartans are coming off a tough 8-23 2009-2010 campaign and 2010-2011 doesn’t look too much better. The Spartans graduated 6’5 forward Ben Stywall (14.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg), who was first-team all conference in the SoCon. As if that wasn’t bad enough the Spartans graduated 4 more seniors along with Stywall and had one rising junior end up going to a JUCO (6’9 forward DeAngelo Jackson). It seems that head coach Mike Dement is taking the sacrificial lamb approach to this season as the Spartans literally play half the ACC (Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Clemson, Duke, and Miami) as well as some strong mid-major programs (and common opponents) in Wofford (in-conference) and Richmond.

Key Losses:

6’5, 220 lbs. F Ben Stywall (1st team All-SoCon, 14.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg)
6’4, 195 lbs. G Mikko Koivisto (8.6 ppg)
6’3, 203 lbs. G Kendall Toney (6.8 ppg)
6’6, 242 lbs. F Pete Brown (4.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Newcomers:

6’5, 170 lbs. SF Trevis Simpson
6’8, 210 lbs. PF Cody Henegar
6’2, 185 lbs. PG Drew Parker
6’7, 185 lbs. SG/SF David Williams (former Indiana commit)
6’9, 225 lbs. PF Aloysius Henry (JUCO- Three Rivers C.C.)
6’8, 245 lbs. PF Aaron Brackett (JUCO- Alleghany College of Maryland)

It’s always difficult to project how a team will play at the beginning of a season with no real statistics for the squad you are facing. This is even more true when half of the team consists of new faces. The top returners look to be Kyle Randall, 5th-year senior Brandon Evans, and sophomores Korey Van Dussen and Brian Cole. Most notably, the team returns their 2nd-leading scorer in 5’11 sophomore guard Kyle Randall. Randall was named to the SoCon All-Rookie team last year averaging 9.5 ppg and 2.6 apg. While those numbers look good on the surface, he had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio and only shot 33% from the field (including a horrid 20.3% from 3). The one department where he does look to be efficient is at the free throw line (78.8%), where he ranked 8th overall among SoCon players.

Looking at last year’s statistics, the Spartans were a very poor 3-point shooting team (28.7%). The sophomore duo of Brian Cole (35.7%) and Korey Van Dussen (33.3%) look like the most proficient returning 3-point marksmen. Outside shooting is clearly a concern for the group as a whole. The Spartans looked to drive most of the time last year, drawing fouls to get to the line, or getting easy baskets on the way to the rim. The Rams will have to defend in the half-court and use our size and strength to force their guards to stay on the perimeter.

The Spartans have missed a tough post presence post presence since Kyle Hines graduated and they are hoping they have the solution in both Aloysius Henry and Aaron Brackett. Both have nice size for a SoCon program and have shown flashes of ability in the early part of the season. The Spartans scrimmaged UNC and were mauled 89-49 by the Tar Heels but Jeff Goodman at FoxSports.com noted that Henry, Brackett, and freshman Indiana de-commit David Williams -all competed and showed flashes. Spartans head coach Mike Dement will be counting on the new players Henegar, Henry, and Brackett in the frontcourt, and Williams, Parker and Simpson in the backcourt to make an impact early on. With the brutal schedule ahead, they will need all the help they can get.

Keys to the Game:

1. Pressure the Ball: The Spartans have shown a propensity to turn the ball over. Both projected backcourt starters (Randall and Evans) had negative assist-to-turnover ratios last season and the Spartans had a A/T ratio of just 0.64 as a team.

2. Impose Tempo: The Spartans played a relatively slow pace last year and their lack of experienced depth ensures they will want a similar type of game to keep their gamers on the floor as much as possible. They also have a game with Florida State at home just 2 days after the game at the Stu. They will not want to play fast-paced basketball. Last season the Spartans averaged 63 points per game. VCU averaged 76. The message should be clear. Let us be relentless Coach!

3. Defend in the halfcourt: When they can the Spartans are going to want to play half-court to give their players a chance to breathe and collect themselves a bit. If they are able to impose a slower pace at any point, our guys are going to have to buckle down and get stops on defense. Their guards are poor outside shooters so they are going to be taking it to the rack whenever they see an opening. Jamie Skeen, Toby Veal and DJ Haley are going to have to control the lane to keep Randall and Evans out of there as well as the glass to keep Brackett and Henry from giving the Spartans extra possessions.

Prediction:

Friday’s matchup has 2 teams each introducing 6 new players into their lineups and having lost their star all-conference player from last season. The difference is that one team went 27-9, while the other went 8-23. It will show on the court as the Rams romp in the home season opener. Rams by 18.

GO RAMS!