Roy Williams

North Carolina hopes to avoid making the list of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock

North Carolina hopes to avoid making the list of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock

GLENDALE, Ariz. - You know you've got it going on when someone in the social media world creates a meme about you achieving superhuman feats. Take the shot-blocking prowess of Oregon forward Jordan Bell, for instance.

A search of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock on Twitter produces memes of Bell blocking a variety of items, including: A meteor from hitting the earth, the Titanic from sinking, the Death Star from destroying a planet and the Auburn kicker from making the winning field goal against Oregon in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.

What's not available yet are images of Bell blocking the shots from Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Austin Jackson and Luke Maye. They make up North Carolina's five players 6-foot-8 or better that will be attacking the 6-9 Bell when the Tar Heels (31-7) and Ducks (33-5) meet in Saturday's Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Bell, who had eight blocks last week against Kansas in the Elite eight, will have to contend with all five of those Tar Heels, and a few more from their 10-man rotation, in order for the Ducks to win a game in which North Carolina has a decided size advantage. The Tar Heels plan to give him plenty of opportunities. NC's game plan is to attack Oregon's lone impact big man. 

“We’re going to try to go at him and hopefully get him in foul trouble,” Maye said.

“The best thing to do to a shot blocker is to just go right at him,” said Hicks. “Don’t give him a chance to block it.”

Many teams have tried to do just that and have failed. Namely the Jayhawks. They kept going inside and Bell kept rejecting their shot. Those Bell didn't block, he either altered or impacted with his mere presence. 

“He’s a grown man in the paint,” Bradley said.  “It’s going to be a great challenge."

Oregon coach Dana Altman said Bell has taken his game to another level since the Pac-12 Tournament when the team learned that 6-10 senior forward Chris Boucher would be lost for the season. Junior Kavell Bigby-Williams offers size at 6-10, but hasn't shown that he is ready to make big contributions in big games.

In UO's first game without Boucher, the Ducks lost 83-80 to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game while having some trouble inside against the Wildcats. That has changed since, and Bell is the key reason why. 

"That dude is a freak," NC forward Theo Pinson said. 

Hicks said what makes Bell special is his ability to anticipate the shot, and "having the ability to jump quick." He said shooters have to be mindful of Bell after beating the man guarding them. 

“Most of (his blocks) come from the weakside so you’ve got to be aware of that," Hicks said. "You’ve got to know that you have an open teammate when you drop to the basket because he’s going to help. "

Junior All-American Justin Jackson said the Tar Heels must be savvy against Bell. 

"I think there are going to be a lot of times where there are going to be pump fakes involved, or drop offs involved," Jackson said. "It will be key to try to get him in foul trouble." 

The problem there is that Bell averages just 1.7 personal fouls per game, has fouled out only once this season while reaching four fouls only once since November, and has has committed just three personal fouls in four NCAA Tournament games with 12 blocked shots.

"I think part of it has just been his focus," Altman said. "And he's risen to the occasion. I think he knew when Chris went down that there was going to be more pressure on him to perform. And fortunately for us he's handled that pressure very well."

The bottom line for UO is that if Bell can be disruptive on defense, the Ducks have a chance to win. If not, and if NC's bigs can get to the basket and score, Oregon's season ends on Saturday. 

Oregon's Dana Altman has upset NC's Roy Williams before, can he do it again?

Oregon's Dana Altman has upset NC's Roy Williams before, can he do it again?

Oregon coach Dana Altman has steadily been establishing himself as an elite coach on a national level. Guiding the Ducks to the Final Four this weekend in Glendale, Ariz., is his crowing achievement.

On Saturday, Altman will take on a certified legend within the profession in North Carolina coach Roy Williams (814-216), winner of two national titles with the Tar Heels (31-7).

“He’s very well respected in the coaching ranks,” Altman (597-312) said during a recent teleconference. “He’s done an outstanding job for a long, long time. As a coach I admire that and I think the coaching profession does.”

The 66-year-old Williams’ resume is off the charts. In 14 seasons with the Tar Heels he has won two national titles, lost the title game last year, been to five Final Fours, eight Elite Eights and nine Sweet 16s.

At Kansas – a Williams' era Altman is all too familiar with - from 1988 through 2003, Williams reached the championship game twice (lost both), the Final Four four times, the Elite Eight five times and the Sweet 16 nine times.

All told, Williams has made 27 NCAA Tournament appearances. He has reached the Sweet 16 a total of 18 times, the Elite Eight 13 times, the Final Four nine times, the championship game four times and has two national titles.

Altman, 58, said he most admires Williams' ability to steadily put good teams on the court.  

“The consistency with how hard his teams play game in and game out, not only are they consistent from year to year, but game in, game out, they just perform," Altman said. 

No. 3 Oregon (33-5) plays No. 1 North Carolina in the Final Four on Saturday when Altman will try to pull off the upset against William’s team favored by 4 ½ points. Altman has achieved big upset wins over Williams in the past.

Altman coached at Kansas State as an assistant from 1986 through 1989 and then as the head coach from 1990 through 1994.  Williams spent 16 years as the head coach at Kansas from 1998 through 2003 before heading to North Carolina.

Kansas, a national power then and now, dominated the rivalry, but on Jan. 17, 1994, when the Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Wildcats pulled off a 68-64 upset win at Allen Fieldhouse.  It was one of four conference wins for Kansas State that season.

“Guys stepped up and it was one of the times we got ‘em,” Altman said. “It was a big upset. I was really happy with the guys.”

Kansas got its revenge, however, taking down the Wildcats, 65-56 on the road on Feb. 12, and then again 73-52 during the first round of the Big Eight Tournament on Mar. 11.

Kansas went on to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament that season. KSU finished the season 20-14 (4-10).

Overall, Williams went 8-2 against Altman during their in-state rivalry. Altman got a win over Williams in the semifinals of the Big Eight Tournament on Mar. 13, 1993 by the score of 74-67 after losing to the Wildcats twice during the regular season.

“That was a long time ago and we had some good games, but unfortunately he won most of them,” Altman said. “Roy was doing a great job at Kansas, but we upset him a couple of times.”

Williams is doing another great job at North Carolina and as fate would have it, Altman will get another crack at pulling off an upset over his former rival. 

No. 3 Oregon will face storied No. 1 North Carolina in the Final Four

No. 3 Oregon will face storied No. 1 North Carolina in the Final Four

The Oregon Ducks went through a legendary Kansas program to reach the Final Four where they will face an even more storied college basketball program in North Carolina at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Final Four in Phoenix, Ariz.  

The No. 1 Tar Heels won the South Region today by defeating No. 2 Kentucky, 75-73 in Memphis, Tenn.  

Oregon (33-5) put on a spectacular performance while upsetting the No. 1 Jayhawks (31-5) in the Midwest Regional finals Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.  The Ducks might need an equally great showing to do the same to the Tar Heels (31-7). 

North Carolina is one of the deepest teams in the nation, often playing a 10-man rotation, as it did Sunday against the Wildcats (32-5). 

Plus, the Tar Heels have tons of front court depth, something UO sorely lacks. The Ducks play just two players taller than 6-foot-7, junior forward Jordan Bell (6-9) and junior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams (6-10). Only Bell is a consistent performer. So much so that he was named the Midwest Regional MVP

The Tar Hells, coached by Roy Williams (814-216 overall, 396-115 at NC), rotate five players that stand 6-8 or better: Senior Kennedy Meeks (6-10), freshman Tony Bradley (6-10), senior Isaiah Hicks (6-9), junior Justin Jackson (6-8) and sophomore Luke Maye (6-8).

Maye hit the game-winning jump shot with .3 seconds remaining to defeat Kentucky. Jackson is an All-American averaging 18.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Meeks gives the Tar Heels 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. 

Despite all of the team's size, NC averages a modest three blocked shots per game. Bell had eight blocks against Kansas and is averaging 2.3 on the season. 

North Carolina has an elite point guard in Joel Berry II, who is averaging 14.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. 

NC's size certainly will provide a test inside for the Ducks. But Oregon can counter with the hottest offensive player in the nation in sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, and Pac-12 player of the year, junior forward Dillon Brooks. 

History of success is certainly on North Carolina's side. The Tar Heels, producer of legendary stars like James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Vince Carter, will be going to their 20th Final Four seeking their sixth national title. Most recent titles came in 209 and 2005. NC lost the national championship game last season to Villanova. 

The Ducks will be making their first trip to the Final Four, but second to the semifinals. When the Ducks won the 1939 national title there was no formal Final Four round held at a single site.