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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / October 22.
  • Jersey’s Strickland Adjusting to Life at Carolina; Tar Heels Loaded Schedule

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    I wrote a feature on North Carolina freshman point guard Dexter Strickland that that you can read here on SNY.tv but there were a few items that didn’t make the story.

    **First off, how about this loaded schedule that North Carolina has in the next couple of weeks? The defending NCAA champion Heels could play five ranked teams in an eight-game span.

    They face No. 15 Ohio State Thursday in the Coaches vs. Cancer semis at MSG and could then face either unranked Syracuse or No. 13 Cal in Friday’s title game.

    After two tilts against Gardner-Webb and Nevada at home, the Heels host No.2  Michigan State Dec. 1 and visit No. 4 Kentucky Dec. 5. After a home game with Presbyterian, the Heels play at No. 3 Texas Dec. 19.

    “Perhaps I took one more game this year than I probably should have for this team,” Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

    “You look at the poll and you have Michigan State, Texas, Kentucky 2, 3 or 4 and we’re playing all three of those and only one of them in the Smith Center. It is something that is difficult but the Texas game is the last one I took, but the idea of playing the first college basketball game in the Cowboys Stadium was intriguing to me. And looking back on it and looking at it as we get closer and closer, I said maybe I shouldn’t have done that but we’ll see how it works out.”

    The Heels host Marshall, Rutgers and Albany before playing at the College of Charleston to close out the non-confernce. They begin ACC play Jan. 10 against Virginia Tech at home. 

    Carolina hosts No. 9 Duke Feb. 10 and plays at Cameron Indoor to end the regular season March 6.

    “We have played really good schedules but I think it’s important to be tested before you get into conference play because when you get into conference play I think you have to raise your play another level even over those big-time national games,” Williams said.

    **Speaking of Duke and Carolina, I asked Strickland his thoughts on the recent commitments of former teammate Kyrie Irving (Duke) and Irving’s close friend Harrison Barnes (Carolina).

    Strickland and Irving teamed up to lead Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick to the New Jersey Tournament of Champions crown in 2009, the program’s third in four years. This year the Celtics are ranked No. 1 in USA Today’s preseason poll and, with Irving, Michael Gilchrist, Derrick Gordon and Kevin Boyle Jr., are favored to win a fourth in five years.

    Strickland on Irving’s decision: “I wasn’t surprised really because we’re close friends so we talked about it. I just told him before he picked to make the right decision and if you’re comfortable with it that’s a good school for you.”

    He added: “I think it’s a good pick for him I just hope that that system doesn’t change who he is as a player. He’s a good scorer looking to score and I know Coach K is going to want to run the program and make him fit into the system. I told him to just to stay on top of your game and just focus and have a good time at Duke.”

     Strickland on Barnes’ decision to announce for North Carolina via Skype on ESPNU: “Honestly, everybody was surprised. Coach Williams was surprised himself. [Barnes] did a good job of keeping on a straight face and not letting anybody think he was going here or think he was going to another school.

    “I was surpsried. When he called us on the Skype I was really surprised and I’m happy also.”

    (Strickland Photo courtesy UNC Athletics)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.