Monthly Archives: March 2016

Quick Hitters – Notre Dame (NCAA Tournament – Elite 8)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-74 win over Notre Dame in the Elite 8:

  1. First off, biggest play of the game was the steal by Theo Pinson with 12:22 left in the game. Although Marcus Paige had just hit a jumper to stop a 12-0 Notre Dame run and put the Tar Heels back in the lead 53-52, the Irish had all the momentum. Theo’s steal ignited the bench and things progressed positively from there.
  2. The crucial juncture of the game was the 12-0 Notre Dame run midway through the 2nd half to take a 52-51 lead. Rather than packing it in, the veteran Tar Heels responded in kind, with a 12-0 run of their own and never looked back. All of this run happened with Brice Johnson on the bench, having just picked up fouls 2 & 3 (the latter of which was a technical).RAURLXFSQQASTCA.20160328040042
  3. Getting back to Theo Pinson, he provided a huge spark this evening. His stat line was solid, but not overly impressive if you didn’t see the game: 6 points on 2-2 shooting, 2 rebounds (both offensive), 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers. But if you did see the game, you know how important every one of those stats was. Almost all of this stat line came in 2 critical stretches of the 2nd half – all after the Brice Johnson technical. Stretch #1 (12:22-8:37). Situation: Notre Dame has just reeled off the 12-0 run to take the lead and gain momentum. Carolina could fold, or respond. Enter Theo: The 1 steal in the stat line is the aforementioned biggest play of the game at 12:22. Subsequently, although he missed both free throws (which provided the craziest play of the game when Isaiah Hicks had a left-handed tip-in from 5 feet out off the 2nd miss), he drew the 3rd foul on Zach Auguste at 10:57. He then secured his first two points with a lay-up at 10:01 while guarded by the now-saddled-with-3-fouls Zach Auguste who couldn’t play aggressive defense. Next, at 9:21, off a beautiful, standard-issue Kennedy Meeks full court outlet pass, Pinson threw a nice alley-oop to Hicks for one of his 4 assists. Then, at 8:40, he corralled an offensive rebound in traffic (with all 5 Notre Dame players surrounding him) and put it back for points 3 and 4. Stretch #2 (2:07-1:39). Situation: The Tar Heels are maintaining a pretty comfortable 10 point cushion, but the game is not out of reach. Enter Theo: At 2:07, Justin Jackson snags an offensive rebound and kicks it back out to a wide-open Pinson at the top of the key. Pause. Syracuse was in the exact same situation just a few hours earlier. Up 6, Tyler Lydon got an offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Michael Gbinije at the top of the key. He promptly fired a 3. With a fresh 30 on the shot clock. Up 6. With 2:37 to in the Elite 8. Would Theo suffer the same fate? No, he pulled the ball out, found Berry and the Tar Heels ran clock until the Irish decided it was time to start fouling. At 1:54, Justin Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Theo had a tip-out to Joel Berry for offensive rebound number 2. To wrap up stretch #2, Pinson was fouled at 1:39 and sank both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to give Carolina a 12 point lead. Mr. Theo Pinson earned his trip to the press conference on this night.
  4. With 25 points and 12 rebounds tonight, Brice Johnson broke a record and tied a record. The double-double was his 23rd of the season and is the most by a Tar Heel in one season. The 12 rebounds gives him 399 on the season, which places Brice in a tie with Tyler Hansbrough’s 2007-08 season for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Should Brice secure 1 rebound against Syracuse he would hold the single-season rebound record and be the only Tar Heel to ever get 400 in a season.
  5. At this point, I’m convinced Marcus Paige was sandbagging all season. In all seriousness, so glad for Marcus and the re-start that the tournament has allowed him.
  6. Coming into the game this Tar Heel team had the best assist-to-turnover ratio and the lowest turnovers per game average of any Tar Heel team since turnovers were first recorded in 1981-82. Carolina only had 6 turnovers tonight (versus 17 assists), so both those numbers should continue to improve.
  7. Big play when Demetrius Jackson hurt his ankle. He was clearly at least somewhat hobbled and Joel Berry was able to take advantage on several drives to the hoop.
  8. This is the first time I remember seeing Brice’s emotions affect the game in such a monumental way. Getting a 2nd foul was no big deal, but the subsequent technical foul (& therefore 3rd personal) which sent him to the bench really hurt. It was in the middle of the Notre Dame 12-0 run and could have potentially effectively ended the North Carolina men’s basketball season. Fortunately, his teammates picked him up and it didn’t end up hurting. Brice was quick to take the blame at the top of the press conference.
  9. Another solid game from Kennedy Meeks. Although he only played 15 minutes, he scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting and hit both free throws he shot.
  10. The “burn” offense. Great tactic from Mike Brey. Certainly a source of frustration for the Heels in the 1st Also allowed the Irish to stay in the game while Zach Auguste was on the bench in foul trouble. All the same, for the most part, the Heels showed great defensive patience and stayed dialed in for the full shot clock. I should also say, I’m not sure Notre Dame was still using this tactic down 12 with 5 minutes to go. I think they should have abandoned this approach much sooner than they did, but that’s why they pay Mike Brey and not Isaac Schade.
  11. Tonight, the Irish had the highest FG% (55.1%) against the Tar Heels all season. Previous to this, the Heels had held 28 straight opponents under 45%. This was only the 2nd time all season a team has shot over 50% against Carolina.
  12. Hats off to Notre Dame. Back-to-back Elite 8s. Came in with a great game plan tonight and executed it. They are a classy program, who works hard and plays the game well. Certainly going to miss watching the departing players in the ACC.EEPNYHUDSNAOMRW.20160328021838
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The Path To Houston, Part 4

Welcome to the 2016 ACC Tournament, Round 2! What a testament to the depth and talent in the conference. On the second day of Elite 8 games, the only four teams in play are all from the ACC: Virginia vs. Syracuse and North Carolina vs. Notre Dame. It’s highly possible that the Tar Heels could repeat the path they took in the semifinals and finals of the ACC Tournament. They play Notre Dame tonight (ACC Tournament semifinals) and, with a win, would most likely play Virginia (ACC Tournament final) in the Final Four next Saturday.

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Elite Eight: Notre Dame

  • 24-11 (11-7)
  • 6th in ACC
  • Stat Leaders
    • Points: Demetrius Jackson – 15.5
    • Assists: Demetrius Jackson – 4.7
    • FG%: Zach Auguste – 55.9
    • Rebounds: Zach Auguste – 10.9
    • Steals: Demetrius Jackson – 1.2
    • Blocks: Demetrius Jackson – 1.1
    • Minutes: Steve Vasturia – 36.0

Previous 2015-16 ND / UNC Games

  • February 6. UNC @ ND. Notre Dame won 80-76. UNC led by at many as 15 and 9 at the half. The Heels let off the accelerator in the 2nd half and lost by 4.
  • March 11. ACC Tournament semifinal. North Carolina won 78-47. The Heels were locked in defensively and the game was effectively over by halftime. The Tar Heels had a 24-0 run at one point in this game.

Game Notes

  • Bonzie Colson has started most of the season for Notre Dame, but Coach Mike Brey has inserted Matt Farrell into the starting lineup throughout the NCAA Tournament. As he says, this gives them “another ball handler on the floor…and that’s kind of helped and taken a little pressure off Demetrius that we have another ball handler on the floor to start a game”. The problem for the Irish is that while this gives them another ball handler, it eliminates their height advantage in the backcourt and doesn’t seem to provide any matchup difficulties for the Tar Heels in the frontcourt.
  • While North Carolina has won every tournament game by double digits, Notre Dame has played three very close games. In fact, Notre Dame has been behind in the 2nd half of every game they’ve played. Michigan last held a lead with 4:32 remaining. Both Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin held leads with under :30 left.
  • This is Notre Dame’s 2nd straight Elite 8. They lost to Kentucky in the same round last year.
  • By the numbers, Notre Dame’s defense is by far the worst of the 4 units in adjusted efficiency. UNC is 2nd on offense and 16th on defense. ND is 10th on offense but 154th on defense.
  • While having a very efficient offense, Notre Dame plays at a much slower pace (318th in the country) that do the Tar Heels (50th). It will be interesting to see which team can exert their will.
  • There has been a lot of talk from Notre Dame about 2014-15 when Duke beat them handily before Notre Dame got revenge later in the postseason. They are hoping to do the same to North Carolina after the Heels’ 31 point victory a few weeks ago. If I were Roy Williams (and I’m most decidedly not), I would counter by reminding my team of the 2008-09 season. Carolina played Michigan St. in the Big 10/ACC Challenge and won 98-63 (35 point victory). When the teams met again for the National Championship later that season, there was a lot of talk of revenge, but the Heels won 89-72 in a game that never felt that close.

A couple records that might be broken tonight:

  • Brice Johnson has 387 rebounds this season. This is 12 shy of tying Tyler Hansbrough for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Tyler has 399 in 2007-08. Should Brice break the record, he would be the first Tar Heel to have 400 rebounds in a seson.
  • Brice also has 22 double-doubles (points and rebounds) on the season. He is tied with Billy Cunningham for the most for a Tar Heel in one season. Cunningham achieved this in 1963-64.

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Notre Dame Starters (**Colson usually starts but Farrell has been starting in the NCAA Tournament)

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TO/G SPG BPG
Demetrius Jackson 6’1” 201 35.9 15.5 3.5 4.7 44.4 32.7 81.5 2.1 1.2 0.3
Matt Farrell** 6’1” 175 12.9 2.4 0.8 1.6 35.0 28.1 88.2 0.6 0.2 0.0
Steve Vasturia 6’5” 212 36.0 11.4 2.6 3.2 43.3 34.6 85.0 1.9 0.8 0.2
V.J. Beachem 6’8” 200 31.1 11.9 3.9 0.8 47.1 44.0 57.1 0.9 0.8 0.8
Zach Auguste 6’10” 245 29.8 14.3 10.9 1.1 55.9 0.0 62.6 2.5 0.7 1.1

Notre Dame Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TO/G SPG BPG
Bonzie Colson** 6’5” 225 25.2 11.2 6.7 1.0 53.6 33.3 77.0 1.0 0.9 1.0
Matt Ryan 6’8” 217 14.8 5.3 1.7 0.5 41.7 37.4 79.2 0.2 0.3 0.1
Rex Pflueger 6’6” 198 13.6 2.4 1.4 1.1 38.2 32.0 95.2 0.3 0.6 0.2

The Numbers

  North Carolina Notre Dame
KenPom Rank 4 34
Points per game 82.9 75.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 121.6 (2nd) 118.2 (10th)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 94.4 (16th) 102.7 (154th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.9 (50th) 65.7 (318th)
Field Goal% 47.9 47.4
2P FG% 53.7 52.8
3P FG% 32.1 37.1
3PA% 26.8 34.2
FT% 74.4 74.1
FT Rate 32.7% 33.0%
RPG 40.9 35.7
Offensive Reb Rate 40.0% 33.0
Defensive Reb Rate 69.8% 68.3
APG 17.9 13.5
BPG 4.5 4.0
SPG 6.9 5.5
TPG 10.9 10.1
TO Rate 15.4% 15.4%

X-Factor: Notre Dame’s starting lineup change. Can Carolina take advantage of the now even more pronounced frontcourt size advantage before Bonzie Colson comes in off the bench? Justin Jackson (6’8”) will most likely match up with Steve Vasturia (6’5”) – advantage Jackson. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson (both 6’10”) will, in some form, match up with Zach Auguste (6’10”) and VJ Beachem (6’8”). The Heels need to attack whomever Beachem is guarding. The question for Carolina is whether Meeks will be quick enough to follow either Auguste or Beachem or whether Roy Williams will need to bring in Isaiah Hicks or go small with Theo Pinson. The personnel chess match between Coach Williams and Coach Brey will be interesting and go a long way to determining which of these teams will head to the Final Four next Saturday.

Main Key to the Game: Stop me if this sounds familiar to Friday’s game against Indiana: Stop Demetrius Jackson’s dribble penetration (Friday it was Yogi Ferrell). Staying in front of Jackson (without fouling) is top priority tonight. If other players have to help off, that leaves shooters open outside for 3s and, with the defensive rotations required, also leaves the offensive glass vulnerable.

Quick Hitters – Indiana (NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16)

Quick Hitters from Carolina’s 101-86 victory over Indiana in the Sweet 16:

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 25: Marcus Paige #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels shoots the ball in the first half against Nick Zeisloft #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) 
  1. Oh hello there, Marcus Paige, good to see the real you. Paige was 4-4 from 3. BEFORE THE FIRST MEDIA TIMEOUT. Unreal. Marcus finished 6-9 from 3, granted two of those misses were near the end of the game on a possession when the Heels were jacking up shots. Along the way to scoring 21 points tonight, Marcus passed Michael Jordan for 12th on the UNC career scoring list. Brice Johnson has moved up to 19th, so this team has 2 players (heck, roommates) who are top 20 in UNC history in career scoring.
  2. This game marks the first time the Heels have scored 100 after the first week of the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Probably the biggest storyline all week was Indiana’s ability to shoot a high volume and percentage on 3 pointers. They did shoot 41.9% (13-31) for the game, but that was neutralized by Carolina’s 55% (11-20). To be honest, Carolina’s percentage would have been even better were it not for end of game possessions in which Carolina was playing run-the-shot-clock-down-and-shoot-a-3-at-the-buzzer offense.
  4. The Tar Heels had 3 turnovers in their final 5 possessions of the 1st half and 7 total for the half. At least 5 of those turnovers were traveling calls. The Heels cleaned this up and only had 2 turnovers in the entire second half.
  5. The story of the first couple minutes of the 1st half was Marcus Pagie’s shooting. The story in that same time frame of the 2nd half was Indiana’s fouling. UNC reached the bonus with 16:35 left and eventually the double bonus with 12:52 to go.
  6. With 15:20 left in the game, Kennedy Meeks stepped around to poke away an entry pass seemingly leading to a run-out. Yogi Ferrell came up the loose ball before Nate Britt could get to it. At this point there were five players beneath the free throw line – 4 Hoosiers and a Brice Johnson. Ferrell had what looked to be a gimmie layup, but Johnson came flying in from the opposite wing to block the shot (we’ll just skip the part where Troy Williams finished the possession with a 3).
  7. Though it probably wouldn’t have helped Indiana overcome so great a deficit, it’s worth noting that Robert Johnson didn’t play at all tonight for the Hoosiers.
  8. You might have already realized this, but with the ACC sweep of Friday night (Virginia, Notre Dame, and Syracuse in addition to Carolina), the conference has secured half the spots in the Elite Eight and is also guaranteed 2 teams in the Final Four and 1 team in the National Championship game. Also, with the way things are laid out, it’s highly possible that the Heels will have to replicate the semifinal (Notre Dame) and final (Virginia) of the ACC Tournament in order to reach the National Championship game.
  9. Brice Johnson recorded his 22nd double-double this season. That ties him for the most ever in a season by a Tar Heel with the great Billy Cunningham. Incidentally.
  10. Speaking of Brice and records: he now has over 1,000 rebounds for his career (1,006) which only 7 other Tar Heels have done. He also has 387 rebounds this season. Tyler Hansbrough holds the record for the most in one season with 399. There’s a very good chance Brice Johnson could become the first player in program history with 400 rebounds in a season.
  11. Tip of the cap to Yogi Ferrell. What a career. An incredible basketball player and leader; a seemingly even better young man.

 

 

 

Factors to Track for UNC/IU (Sweet 16)

Here are some factors to track that will affect the outcome of tonight’s Sweet 16 game:

  1. Yogi Ferrell’s penetration.
  2. Thomas Bryant foul situation.
  3. Effectiveness of Indiana’s injured players.
  4. Indiana’s 3 point shooting (both percentage and number made).
  5. Which Troy Williams shows up for Indiana?
  6. Can North Carolina assert their inside advantage?
  7. What kind of start does North Carolina have?
  8. North Carolina’s defensive intensity
  9. Offensive Rebounding (both teams consider it a strength)

 

The Path To Houston, Part 3

As expected, the Tar Heels survived the 1st weekend in Raleigh. While tested, neither game ever seemed to be in doubt. Indiana presents a new challenge. They can match Carolina’s depth. They also feature strength in some typical areas of weakness for this Tar Heel squad – strong 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding. Here is a primer for what most people are considering the marquee matchup of the Sweet 16.

Sweet Sixteen: Indiana

  • 27-7 (15-3)
  • 1st in Big Ten
  • Stat Leaders
    • Points: Yogi Ferrell – 17.0
    • Assists: Yogi Ferrell – 5.5
    • FG%: Thomas Bryant – 68.6
    • Rebounds: Troy Williams – 5.9
    • Steals: Troy Williams – 1.2
    • Blocks: Thomas Bryant – 0.9
    • Minutes: Yogi Ferrell – 34.7

Probable Indiana Starters

Player Height Weight MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TO/G SPG BPG
Yogi Ferrell 6’0” 180 34.7 17.1 3.8 5.6 45.9 41.9 82.5 2.5 1.1 0.0
Nick Zeisloft 6’4” 210 20.1 6.7 1.6 0.9 42.6 42.5 90.5 0.5 0.2 0.1
Troy Williams 6’7” 215 26.0 13.0 5.9 2.0 51.6 31.3 68.8 2.6 1.1 0.8
Collin Hartman 6’7” 215 21.7 4.9 3.1 1.7 44.9 36.4 84.2 1.1 0.8 0.3
Thomas Bryant 6’10” 245 22.4 11.9 5.7 0.9 68.9 35.7 70.2 1.6 0.5 0.9

Key Reserves

Player Height Weight MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TO/G SPG BPG
Robert Johnson 6’3” 195 24.9 8.1 3.3 3.1 44.9 44.7 63.9 1.7 0.6 0.2
Max Bielfeldt 6’8” 240 17.4 8.0 4.6 0.7 51.7 44.1 69.0 1.1 0.9 0.5
OG Anunoby 6’8” 215 13.6 4.9 2.6 0.5 58.0 44.8 47.6 0.8 0.8 0.8

 

The Numbers

  North Carolina Indiana
KenPom Rank 3 13
Points per game 82.4 82.5
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 120.1 (5th) 118.9 (8th)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 93.6 (11th) 98.0 (54th)
Tempo (Rank) 72.0 (48th) 69.2 (152nd)
Field Goal% 47.8 50.5
2P FG% 53.8 56.6
3P FG% 31.4 41.6
3PA% 26.6 40.5
FT% 74.2 72.5
FT Rate 32.1% 33.6%
RPG 41.0 36.9
Offensive Reb Rate 39.9% 37.1%
Defensive Reb Rate 70.1% 71.2%
APG 17.8 16.1
BPG 4.5 4.0
SPG 6.9 7.0
TOPG 10.9 13.6
TO Rate 15.4% 19.6%

Indiana Injuries

Much like Carolina, the Hoosiers have a lot of depth on their roster. That depth has taken a hit though. Starter James Blackmon, Jr. was lost for the season before conference play. Typical starter Robert Johnson has been limited recently by a high ankle sprain and missed most of the Kentucky game last weekend. Juwan Morgan has been limited by recurring shoulder problems. Johnson and Morgan’s effectiveness will certainly be a factor this evening.

X-Factor – Thomas Bryant. If he stays on the court, it allows Indiana to have a balanced inside/outside attack. The Heels will need to go at him early and often, as he is prone to fouling, and force him to the bench.

Main Key to the Game – Limit Indiana’s open looks from 3. The Hoosiers will score from outside, but the Heels must channel their ACC Tournament defense and get a hand up on shooters. The key will be staying in front of Ferrell or other penetrating guards so that the other 4 defenders don’t have to help off shooters.

Quick Hitters – Providence (2nd Round – NCAA Tournament)

Quick Hitters from UNC’s 85-66 victory over Providence in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

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Brice Johnson dunks in Saturday night’s game against Providence while Justin Jackson (#44) roars his approval. Photo credit: J.D. Lyon Jr.

 

 

  1. A rough start to both halves for Carolina. In the 1st half, the Tar Heels first three offensive possessions: 0-2 from 3, 1 turnover, no post touches. In fact, the Heels attempted three 3s in the first 5 possessions. In the 2nd half, Providence started hot, reeling off 6 points in 75 seconds. Over that same stretch, Marcus Paige struggled: 2 turnovers and a missed 3.
  2. After struggling to get the ball inside on the first couple possessions, Carolina made a concerted effort to control that portion of the court. 18 of the first 21 points came from inside. For the game, Carolina dominated the boards (42-24), points in the paint (46-18), and 2nd chance points (16-1).
  3. Providence certainly proved to be the 2-headed monster they were made out to be with Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. And what a show they put on. I said in my preview that the main key to the game was stopping, or at least limiting, Dunn and Bentil. They certainly got their points (29 & 21 respectively), but their overall effectiveness was limited by foul trouble.
  4. Speaking of foul trouble, Kris Dunn picked up his second with 11:07 to go in the 1st Unfortunately the Tar Heels couldn’t capitalize on Dunn sitting out the rest of the half and, in fact, were outscored by Providence by 1 in his absence. The 2nd half was a different story. Both players had to scale back on their aggressiveness as they picked up 3rd fouls (Bentil – 17:54, Dunn 13:54), 4th fouls (Dunn – 8:44, Bentil – 8:14), and Bentil eventually fouled out at 7:23. It was during these minutes that Carolina put the game completely out of reach.
  5. Sadly for Providence, Dunn and Bentil were the only ones doing anything offensively. Other than their combined 50 points (out of 66 total for Providence), the rest of Providence’s roster had serious trouble scoring. I said in my game preview that Rodney Bullock was the X-factor for Providence. He had 2 points off of free throws, shot 0-7 from the floor, and had 4 turnovers.
  6. Providence did a pretty good job controlling pace early on, but the Tar Heels asserted their will as the game wore on and the Friars wore down. Fast break points were 20-8 in favor of the Tar Heels.
  7. Too many turnovers for Carolina. 7 in the 1st half, 8 in the 2nd – 15 in all.
  8. Carolina closed the 1st half on a 9-2 run. The biggest of that stretch was not Brice Johnson’s monster block, but rather Nate Britt’s strip that lead to 2 free throws and a 30-28 lead.
  9. 2 big defensive shifts swayed the game: One, the move to Justin Jackson guarding Dunn. Dunn still got his, but it was obvious that Jackson’s length bothered Dunn. The second shift, was the now oft-employed small ball line-up that put Theo Pinson on Ben Bentil.
  10. What a sequence for Marcus Paige from 10:29-9:56 of the 2nd He came flying in for an incredibly athletic offensive rebound and tip-in, followed by a defensive rebound, then buried a 3.
  11. Friars’ coach Ed Cooley said they needed to hit 10 3s to be in the game. The Friars shot 6-23 from deep.
  12. Heels made a lot of hey at the free throw line (19-21). Only missed free throws were from Joel James on an and-1 and Luke Maye in the closing seconds of the game. The starters, Hicks, and Britt were a combined 18-18.

The Path To Houston, Part 2

At this time of year, there is great joy in having the honor of continuing to play basketball. Tonight, The Tar Heels get that honor at least one more time in the 2015-16 season when they take on the Providence Friars in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.

Providence

  • 24-10 (10-8)
  • 4th in Big East

Game Notes:

  • These two teams played two years ago in the 1st Round (although at that point it was called the “2nd Round” in one of the NCAA’s silliest marketing ploys ever). 79-77 UNC. Providence featured another dynamic point guard named Bryce Cotton who went off for 36 and played the entire game. Here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen again.
  • A difference for Providence this year is that there is also a formidable frontcourt player (Ben Bentil) to go along with point guard Kris Dunn (this team’s iteration of Cotton).
  • As per the DailyTarHeel.com, Providence is 9-1 this season in games decided by 4 or fewer points. Given the Tar Heels’ penchant for not closing games down the stretch, although they’ve done marvelously in this department during the current 6 game winning streak; Providence’s experience in close games could prove worrisome.
  • While Dunn and Bentil are the names to know, Rodney Bullock is the x-factor as the only other player averaging double-digit points for Providence.
  • As per usual, the Tar Heels will have a size and depth advantage in the front court. However, Providence will have a height and size advantage in the backcourt.
  • On paper, there doesn’t seem to be a Providence player that will slow down Brice Johnson and the UNC front court attack, assuming the back court players will be able to effectively feed the post.

Starting Line-Ups

  1. Kris Dunn (6’4”, 220) vs. Marcus Paige (6’2”, 175)
  2. Junior Lomomba (6’5”, 205) vs. Joel Berry (6’0”, 195)
  3. Jalen Linsey (6’7”, 210) vs. Justin Jackson (6’8”, 200)
  4. Ben Bentil (6’9”, 235) vs. Brice Johnson (6’10”, 230)
  5. Rodney Bullock (6’8”, 225) vs. Kennedy Meeks (6’10”, 260)

The Numbers (from tarheelblog.com)

  North Carolina Providence
KenPom Rank 3 47
Points per game 82.3 73.9
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 119.5 (6th) 108.0 (92nd)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 94.1 (15th) 95.8 (27th)
Tempo (Rank) 72.0 (46th) 69.1 (154th)
Field Goal% 47.7% 42.1%
2P FG% 53.6% 47.9%
3P FG% 31.5% 32.3%
FT% 73.8% 72.8%
Offensive Reb Rate 39.7% 30.6%
Defensive Reb Rate 69.9% 70.1%
TO Rate 15.3% 16.1%
3PA% 26.7% 37.0%

Main Key to the game: Stop Dunn. Stop Bentil. Heels win.

Quick Hitters – Florida Gulf Coast (1st Round – NCAA Tournament)

Quick Hitters from UNC’s 83-67 win over Florida Gulf Coast in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament:

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida Gulf Coast vs North Carolina
The enduring image of this 1st round NCAA Tournament win. Brice Johnson had 8 blocks, 6 in the 2nd half.  Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  1. 1st turnover for UNC came at 5:21 left in the 1st
  2. Favorite moment of the game: Isaiah Hicks trying to throw the ball through the hoop from 3-4 feet away with about 4:30 left in the 1st
  3. Comforting to see Marcus Paige hit his first two 3-point attempts after going 0-7 in the ACC Championship game.
  4. Despite an overall lazy 1st half, the Heels were able to push the lead out to 9, but then went back to lackadaisical mode to end the first half only up 1.
  5. After the 1-point halftime lead, the Heels came out with more determination and desire (Roy must have said some nice things at halftime) and were up by 20 with 11:32 to go in what still felt like a close game.
  6. Isaiah Hicks continues to show great athleticism and motor. This is a good sign for next year when he will most likely form the starting frontcourt tandem with Kennedy Meeks.
  7. Speaking of Kennedy, he is going to have to continue shedding weight in the offseason. Against athletic bigs inside, he consistently gets out-jumped, blocked, and fails to score what would be an easy dunk for Johnson or Hicks.
  8. At the 8:46 mark of the 2nd half, Brice Johnson got the ball in the post and an immediate double team came. Brice then delivered a beautiful wrap-around pass to a cutting Justin Jackson for 2.
  9. Joel Berry continues to have a keen awareness of when to drive to the basket, finishing strong in traffic. This will be important as the NCAA Tournament moves along. Ty Lawson had some similar big buckets in the 2009 championship run.
  10. For the 3rd game in a row, no double-double for Brice Johnson, but how’s this for a stat line: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 8 blocks, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers. Well done young man.
  11. Just to be sure you didn’t gloss over this – 8 blocks for Brice Johnson (6 in the 2nd half), a UNC NCAA Tournament record – and several of them were of the “Big Boy” variety.
  12. With the win tonight, Roy Williams has 66 NCAA Tournament victories, and passes Coach Smith for 2nd place all-time.

The Path To Houston, Part 1

The Path To Houston, Part 1

The path to March Madness glory is rarely paved with chalk. But what if it was? These are the teams the Tar Heels would play:

Round 1: Florida Gulf Coast

  • 21-13 (8-6)
  • 3rd in Atlantic-Sun

Round 2: USC

  • 21-12 (9-9)
  • 6th in Pac-12

Sweet Sixteen: Kentucky

  • 26-8 (13-5)
  • 2nd in SEC

Elite 8: Xavier

  • 27-5 (14-4)
  • 2nd in Big East

Final Four: Virginia

  • 26-7 (13-5)
  • 2nd in ACC

National Championship: Kansas

  • 30-4 (15-3)
  • 1st in Big 12

In the meantime, this is the first (of hopefully 6!) part of The Path To Houston, looking at the teams UNC will play on the road to Houston. First up, Florida Gulf Coast:

  • 21-13 (8-6)
  • 3rd in Atlantic-Sun
  • Mascot: Eagle
  • teamrankings.com gives UNC a 95% chance to win this game
  • UNC is favored by 22.
  • You might recall that in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, FGCU, as a 15 seed, beat Georgetown (#2) and San Diego State (#7) before losing to Florida (#3) in the Sweet Sixteen. That team was coached by Andy Enfield, who is now at USC, a potential 2nd round match-up for the winner of this game.
  • Interestingly, FGCU averages more possessions a game (73.3), than does UNC (72.4). Should be a fun, fast-paced, up-and-down game. Afterwards, we’ll probably hear Roy say something about the discrepancy in talent between the two teams.
  • Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
    • FGCU – 102.8 (179th)
    • UNC – 119.6 (5th)
  • Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
    • FGCU – 103.1 (163rd)
    • UNC – 93.8 (12th)
  • FGCU strengths
    • Defensive Rebounding
    • Shooting Accuracy
  • FGCU weaknesses
    • FT shooting

22 Points

I hate losing. If you are anything like me, every loss is a slow, painful death that sticks with you the rest of the season (and sometimes even in the years to come). I can name the Tar Heels’ 6 losses, in order, off the top of my head: Northern Iowa, Texas, Louisville, Notre Dame, Duke, and Virginia. All 6 of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament – or rather, would be if eligible (here’s looking at you Louisville). Here are the teams in order from strongest to weakest:

  RPI BPI KenPom NCAA Tourney Seed
Virginia 3 2 2 1
Louisville 17 8 11 Not in Tournament
Duke 19 11 22 4
Texas 27 37 30 6
Notre Dame 32 33 39 6
Northern Iowa 73 97 76 11

In some ways, it’s worse when the losses are really close games that you know you should/could win. Or worse yet, if it’s a game where you have a comfortable lead at some point, but can’t hold on to it.

Unfortunately, that was every one of these 6 losses. The Tar Heels lost these games by a measly 22 combined points. That’s an average of losing by 3.67. Or taken another way, Carolina lost by only 1-2 possessions a game. This is such a small margin of error: 1 or 2 extra turnovers, 1 or 2 missed boxouts, 4 missed free throws, 1 or 2 times not properly defending the pick and roll, 1 or 2 times not staying in front of your man, a silly foul, etc. You can agonize over the tiny mistakes that can swing a game. Or you can learn from them, remove them, and move on (not exactly Coach Smith’s mantra, but very similar).

The silver lining is that Carolina has been in every game it’s played this season. They have never been blown out – the largest loss was by 6 points. The largest deficit the entire season is 13 points (@ NC State). They’ve held a lead at some point in every game this season. They’ve either been tied or held a lead in the 2nd half of every game this season. In fact the only game they didn’t at some point have a 2nd half lead was the regular season loss to Virginia in Charlottesville.

So, at the end of the day, maybe these losses are not so unfortunate. Maybe this veteran group of Tar Heels have learned something from these 6 losses. Maybe those missing 22 points have helped them get tougher. The domination of the ACC tournament certainly seems to point to that.

Can those 22 points continue to be meaningful to the make-up of this team as the stakes get higher? We’re about to find out during the best 3 week stretch of every year.