ESPN College Hoops analyst LaPhonso Ellis speaks to Justin Terranova of the Post about his new role and the North Carolina-Duke showdown that he will report on Saturday.
Q: How was the game day experience?
A: It was just incredible. The energy – I was a really passionate player and I fed the energy of the booing on the street and the cheering at home – to return to this atmosphere I get adrenaline and goose bumps. I literally feel ready to play. The students were very warm and we felt comfortable.
Q: The Tar Heels lost Cole Anthony for a long distance, but why else was North Carolina that bad this year?
A: It started before Anthony was really hurt. They have good players, but they are role players. You don't have the alpha dogs on the offensive to carry them. For example, Brandon Robinson shot 40 percent of 3 last year. He is a perfect guy to have two people who can get their offense from dribbling or out of post. But they don't have the one guy who can attack himself and pull the defender and take him to the open guy.
Q: Where is Duke one of the country's elite teams?
A: You are right there. You have one of the most efficient defenses in the nation. They are efficient on the offensive, they know their identity on the offensive, which consists of letting Vernon Carey the ball as often and as often as possible. They are really good at getting on the defensive and forcing sales that lead into transition baskets. You shot better than I thought. One problem is that they don't have a man who … can keep turning them off to insult themselves and their teammates. Tre Jones tries to be that guy, but after 40 minutes he wears out a little – as much as he protects.
Q: Is Seton Hall a legitimate national title contender?
A: Seton Hall was my dark horse from the start. Veterans team, Solid Point Guard game with Quincy McKnight, who I believe showed while Myles Powell was away, that he can be both a scorer and a go-between. Everyone has risen when necessary, and that brings a certain level of trust. An elite scorer in Powell, great rim protectors, and they're just getting their second leading scorer back in Sandro Mamukelashvili.
Q: How is San Diego State unbeaten?
A: They are one of the most efficient defensive teams in the country. Everyone is talking about defense, but when you see that, it takes strategy, communication and everyone is excited to see what the next one will be. You have a lot of distractions, the defense is always in the right place. You have a transfer from Washington, Malachi Flynn, one of the nation's top 10 guards.