Quick Hitters from Saturday’s conference opening 75-63 road loss to Georgia Tech.
Of everything you would want to see in the first conference game on the road against the presumptive worst team in the conference, this performance was the exact opposite of those things. I’m not sure just how bad the illness is that’s going around the team, but most players looked either a step slow or indifferent. The Heels looked sloppy and committed a season high 20 turnovers. In the ultra-competitive ACC, you cannot afford to lose games like this. Great teams find a way to pull out an ugly win, even on a day like today.
With Georgia Tech’s football team playing their bowl game in Jacksonville, FL at the same time as this game, a lot of the Yellow Jacket faithful were absent from McCamish Pavilion. This allowed for a lot of Tar Heels to fill the seats. This was obvious with 6 minutes left in the game when you heard a “de-fense” chant when North Carolina was on defense. After a forced shot clock violation, a “Tar – Heels” chant broke out.
Joel Berry shot five three-pointers before the first media timeout, making two of them. As a team, Carolina shot seven three-pointers in that same time span. A lot of this was coaxed from Georgia Tech’s zone defense. Despite a better three-point shooting percentage this year, this is not ideal shot selection. All told, Carolina shot 5-26 (19.2%) from deep for the game.
Speaking of Georgia Tech’s zone, this game was a great primer for playing Syracuse. The zone rendered the Carolina offense ineffective. The guards seemed content to throw the ball around the perimeter and shoot the first somewhat-open three that was available.
After the first couple possessions of the first half, Justin Jackson was absent offensively the rest of the half. He forced a couple shots to try and get going, but they were not within the rhythm of the offense. He did finish with 16 points, but it took him 17 shots to get there, including going 0-5 from three.
11 first half rebounds for Kennedy Meeks, three of which were offensive. He finished with 14.
Nate Britt was the main bright spot and provided some veteran leadership in a game that was not going well. Big baseline jumper to tie the game early in the second half. Followed by a steal and assist to Luke Maye on a fast break. Britt, who had been in a shooting slump, was the catalyst in this game for the Heels. He finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting (3-4 from three), three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, and five steals.
Joel Berry is clearly still not feeling well. He had eight points on 3-13 shooting (including 2-9 from deep) and committed six turnovers.
I didn’t keep track of the number, but there were a lot of missed lay-ups in this game.
There are 18 regular season games remaining in the 2016-17 University of North Carolina men’s basketball schedule. Every one of them is an ACC conference match-up. With every conference team having played at least 12 games, we can take a more informed look at the conference schedule.
With that conference schedule beginning today at Georgia Tech, let’s examine what will unfold between now and March 4 when the conference slate ends in Chapel Hill against Duke.
Current ACC Standings
#20 Florida State (13-1, 1-0)
#12 Virginia (12-1, 1-0)
#5 Duke (12-1, 0-0)
Virginia Tech (11-1, 0-0)
#9 North Carolina (12-2, 0-0)
Pittsburgh (12-2, 0-0)
NC State (11-2, 0-0)
#24 Notre Dame (11-1, 0-0)
Clemson (10-2, 0-0)
Miami (10-2, 0-0)
Georgia Tech (8-4, 0-0)
Syracuse (8-5, 0-0)
Boston College (7-6, 0-0)
#6 Louisville (12-2, 0-1)
Wake Forest (9-4, 0-1)
Florida State, Virginia, Louisville, and Wake Forest have each played a conference game and are, therefore, currently the top two and bottom two teams in the standings.
Florida State beat Wake Forest 88-72 on Wednesday, December 28.
Virginia beat Louisville 61-53 on Wednesday, December 28.
UNC Conference Schedule
@ GT (12/31)
@ Clemson (1/3)
NC St (1/7)
@ Wake (1/11)
@ BC (1/21)
@NC St (2/15)
@ Pitt (2/25)
@ Virginia (2/27)
Every ACC team except for Louisville (who travels to Indiana) will play a conference game this weekend.
There are currently six ACC teams ranked in the AP Top 25: Duke (5), Louisville (6), UNC (9), Virginia (12), FSU (20), and Notre Dame (24).
Three other ACC teams showed up in the “others receiving votes” category: Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Miami.
Joe Lunardi currently projects 10 ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament field – the nine teams mentioned in the AP poll plus Pittsburgh.
The five ACC teams not included in the AP poll or Lunardi’s field are: Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC State, Syracuse, and Wake Forest
The Tar Heels will play two games (a home and home) against Pittsburgh, Virginia, NC State, and Duke.
There will be one game against each of the other 10 conference teams: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Miami will all be on the road.
FSU, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Louisville will all be at home.
1 game against (in chronological order):
@ GT (8-4)
@ Clemson (10-2)
@ Wake (9-4)
#20 FSU (13-1)
@ BC (7-6)
#24 ND (11-2)
#6 Louisville (11-2)
2 games (home and home) against:
#5 Duke (12-1)
NC State (11-2)
#12 Virginia (11-1)
The Tar Heels will play seven conference games against teams currently ranked in the AP poll.
Match-ups with Virginia (#12) and Duke (#5) will be a game on each teams’ home court, accounting for four of the seven games.
Of the other three games against currently ranked teams, all three games will be at home – FSU (#20), Notre Dame (#24), Louisville (#6).
Road wins in conference are always hard to come by. There are four ACC teams (BC, GT, Syracuse, Wake Forest) who have yet to reach double digit wins for the season. Of the Tar Heels five road games against teams they only play once, three of them are against one of these four teams (all but Syracuse).
The ACC is deep and loaded. No team will make it through the 18-game onslaught unscathed. This is a veteran and battle-tested North Carolina team who should compete with Duke, Virginia, and Louisville for the ACC regular season championship. In order to do so, the Tar Heels must hold serve at home, win expected road games (Boston College, for example) and steal a few other road games against tougher competition. What are the keys to this happening? Joel Berry must stay healthy, Theo Pinson needs to return sooner than later and assimilate rather seamlessly, Justin Jackson needs to continue to be aggressive, and the three freshmen need to take another step forward. It all starts today against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 102-74 home win against Monmouth.
Congrats to Kennedy Meeks for becoming the 20th Tar Heel to break the 800 career rebound mark. He’s currently at 803 rebounds. Jason Capel is 19th on the list with 807 career rebounds.
Though Monmouth is not a sexy opponent, this was Carolina’s fourth game against a team picked to win their conference in the preseason. These types of games against veteran mid-major squads are invaluable.
Joel Berry took what appeared to be a knee to the thigh in the first ten minutes of the game. Thankfully, this was not a re-injury to his ankle. After briefly leaving the bench, he came back into the game. With the beginning of ACC play pending, and three games over the course of seven days (including the Monmouth game), this will hopefully not be a deep bruise that causes Berry to miss time. How important is Berry? In the two games he missed, UNC averaged 78.0 points, while they have averaged 90.6 points in the games he’s played (not including Monmouth).
Justin Jackson is absolutely on fire from deep. He hit five threes in the first half and tacked on one more in the second. The great thing is that the shots are in the flow of the offense, he’s still looking to get teammates involved, and he didn’t need a ton of shots (nine) to get his six threes. For the season, the Heels three most prolific three-point shooters (Jackson, Berry, Kenny Williams) are all shooting 40% or more from deep.
Tony Bradley has done a lot really well this year. One thing he hasn’t done as much of as you would expect is record blocks. Coming into this game he had eight on the season (0.6 BPG). He recorded three in the first half of this game. Obviously, Monmouth has shorter interior players than a lot of teams UNC will face, but this is still a good sign.
Speaking of Tony Bradley, he sometimes seems skittish finishing around the rim. He has the athleticism to finish dominantly and needs to begin to do so.
Isaiah Hicks sported a new hair-do in this game. It was suspect. However, he scored 15 points and, more importantly, grabbed nine rebounds. If Isaiah is going to continue rebounding like that, he can sport whatever hair style he wants to.
Justin Robinson for Monmouth had a great first half – 16 points. The Heels shut him down in the second half, however, and he finished the game with those same 16 points.
Poor end to the first half for the Heels. A 19-point lead was whittled down to nine. This was reminiscent of several games in recent years when the Heels failed to close out the first half – most notably, last year’s national championship game.
Three technicals on Monmouth within the first three minutes of the second half, over the course of 55 seconds. Six free throws for Joel Berry? Yes please. Those six free points ballooned the lead to 20 points
Speaking of Joel Berry, he finished the game with no field goals. His only points were the six free throws off the technicals. However, on a night when everyone else wanted to turn the ball over, Berry had five assists and no turnovers.
Ugh, turnovers. There were 17 turnovers in this game, a season high. Gotta clean this up.
There were wholesale substitutions on three separate occasions in the second half.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 85-42 home win against Northern Iowa
Don’t be alarmed – for the second year in a row, Marcus Paige did not play against Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa is tough. We learned that last year both in their victory over UNC and their showing in the NCAA Tournament (despite the meltdown against Texas A&M). Despite losing a lot of talent, the Panthers have the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Player of the Year, and once again played tough. There was just too much North Carolina in the second half after a close first 20 minutes.
Despite a somewhat slow first half, there was no visible letdown from the emotion of Saturday’s Kentucky game. The Heels didn’t get in a hole early again. They also took care of business in the second half, making sure there was no opportunity for an upset.
Northern Iowa was committed to getting back on defense and not attacking the offensive glass. Consequently it was difficult to get any transition game going, but the Heels still wound up with 11 transition points (to UNI’s zero). For the game, UNI had only three offensive rebounds. The final rebounding totals were 42 (UNC) – 24 (UNI)
We’re starting to see Isaiah Hicks’ foul trouble rear its ugly head. He had two fouls in the first 12 minutes, limiting him to eight first half minutes. In the second half however, Hicks did a good job of staying straight up. Though he allowed a couple baskets, you’ll trade a couple points to keep Hicks on the floor.
Jeremy Morgan, the aforementioned MVC Preseason Player of the Year, came into this game averaging 18 PPG. He had just scored 36 against North Dakota. Given what Malik Monk just did, this was a scary proposition. In this game, he had only six points, which came on two three-pointers in the last four minutes of the first half. That means he didn’t score for the first 15½ minutes of the game or the entire second half.
UNI was also dedicated to doubling the post. This lead to many great possessions of Meeks and Hicks passing well out of the double team.
Nate Britt’s shooting woes continue. Dating back to the Wisconsin game, Britt is shooting just 11 for his last 49 (22.4%).
This was a close game for a long time and before you knew it, the lead had quietly ballooned to 18. The final margin was an astounding 43 points.
Only five turnovers in the entire game for the Tar Heels. This is impressive in any game, but especially against a team that ranks fifth in Ken Pomeroy’s percentage of defensive possessions resulting in a turnover.
Dunk of the season candidate from Isaiah Hicks in the second half. Thanks to the aforementioned post passing (and really the passing of the whole team), Kennedy Meeks, after being doubled found a cutting Hicks for a monstrous jam.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 103-100 neutral site loss to Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.
First off, you never like to lose, and especially not to Kentucky, but this looked like the team that was playing in Maui, not the team we’ve seen in the four games since – an encouraging sign. The trick now is becoming that team always. This game had the feeling of a game in March or April and will pay dividends for both teams throughout the season.
I think Joel Berry is going to be all right. With a player coming back from a lower body injury, you always wonder what their first game back will be like. Berry’s return was reminiscent of Marcus Paige’s first game last season against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The key is not having the let down that Paige had after that. Berry’s line from Saturday: 23 points on 9-15 shooting, 3-5 on 3s, 2-2 FTs, 5 R, 7 A, 3 TO, 2 S in 34 minutes. Also, Berry fell to the court after getting his shot blocked less than two minutes into the game. While you hate to see him fall, it’s nice that he was able to get right back up.
The pace of this game was incredibly fun to watch. Two deep and athletic teams who like to run. And yet they take care of the ball really well – both teams finished with single digit turnovers.
Speaking of pace, both teams scored 50+ points in the first half. Kentucky had 56, which is the most given up in the Roy Williams era in the first half. In the end, both teams finished with over 100.
Justin Jackson missed more free throw in this game (five) than he had the rest of the season combined (four). Coming into the game he was 25-29 (86.2%). On the other side of the coin, Tony Bradley, who was shooting 30-50 (60%), went 6-6 in this game to balance out Jackson’s misses.
Speaking of Justin Jackson, he’s getting to the line so much because he is attacking and aggressive. This is a good sign. Jackson finished the game with a career-high 34 points.
Great close to the first half. The Heels closed the lead to as little as four after being down 12, and finished the half down five.
Understatement of the season: Malik Monk is good at basketball. A couple of great defensive possessions against him in the closing minutes of the first half were what helped Carolina close the gap.
That said, you know who would’ve done a great job guarding Monk in this game? Theo Pinson. Not saying Pinson would have completely shut Monk down, because he was hitting everything in sight. However, his lankiness and athleticism certainly would’ve bothered Monk and lowered his point total. Thanks to my man Carter Gilchrist for pointing this out!
Speaking of Pinson, the Heels only got two points from the 2-guard spot today, and you’ve got to think that Pinson would’ve contributed more.
Luke Maye had some important contributions. He had to HUGE 3s down the stretch as the Heels were fighting back. He also had a big time tap out on a missed Justin Jackson free throw that gave the Heels a chance to go up two possessions with under one minute left. Unfortunately, Joel Berry missed a shot and we know what happened next. Maye finished with a career high 11 points.
Foul trouble hurt the Heels in this game. Berry, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks each were playing with four fouls down the stretch. Meeks fouled out, but both Hicks and Berry played smart to stay on the court down the stretch and impact the game in big ways. (Berry did ultimately foul out, but it was on the last meaningful play of the game).
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 73-71 home win against Tennessee:
Let’s get this out of the way: this was not a pretty game, but it was a win. A game in which the Tar Heels were missing two starters, shot 2-17 from 3, and shot 13-24 from the free throw line.
Since returning from Maui (Indiana, Radford, Davidson, Tennessee), the fire, intensity, and urgency that was present to that point of the season appears to be gone. Joel Berry being out for the last 2.5 games doesn’t help matters. It could get really ugly next Saturday against Kentucky if the team can’t recapture the fire they played with in Maui.
After going down 30-15 with 7:35 left in the first half, there was a steal from Nate Britt, a steal by Kenny Williams, a forced 3-second violation and, less than two minutes later (5:40), the Heels are only down 9. All keyed by defense.
After cutting the lead to 8 just before halftime (on Justin Jackson’s first two points), the Heels had the lead down to two within the first two minutes of the second half. Another run keyed by defense.
Nate Britt (similar to most of his teammates) did not shoot the ball well, but he did have FIVE steals.
Hicks and Meeks each had 3 fouls by 2:30 into the second half and were rather ineffective.. They have to dominate games for this team to accomplish the goals it wants to. Thankfully, Tony Bradley played really well.
Too many mid-range, contested jumpers. In particular from Justin Jackson, who was struggling with his shot (3-for-15 FG, 0-for-6 3P). When the shots aren’t falling you have to get the ball to the rim.
Elevator screen on two straight plays in the second half. The first time, Kenny Williams couldn’t quite get through so the usual look at a 3 wasn’t there. The second time, Tony Bradley slipped the screen for a wide-open dunk when his man anticipated the screen and overplayed it to the top side. This was a thing of beauty.
Who hit the shot to tie the game at 50? None other than Stilman White. He’s filling a similar role to what Jackson Simmons did in recent years. The less-talented, but savvy veteran who comes in and gives a few solid minutes to help settle his team.
Great end-of-game substitution by Coach Williams. He subbed out Kennedy Meeks for the longer Tony Bradley, who promptly rewarded his coach’s decision by blocking Tennessee’s last shot.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 83-74 home win against Davidson.
The starters looked flat to start the game. So much so that four minutes into the game the five players on the floor were Seventh Woods, Stilman White, Luke Maye, Brandon Robinson, and Tony Bradley. This crew moved the score from 10-3 to 15-13 when they exited, exactly what you want to happen when you bring in the second unit to provide energy.
Much of the 10-0 run the reserves went on early in the game was fueled by Luke Maye, who had seven points in that stretch. Maye finished with a career high 10 points.
Once again Seventh Woods is taking too many shots and dribbling too much. He wound up playing only 11 minutes in a game where it seemed like he would play a lot more due to Joel Berry’s injury.
Most of the minutes I assumed Woods would get went to Stilman White who had a solid 15 minutes including six points (all on free throws) and one assist against no steals.
Much of the credit for the frustration in this game is due to Davidson’s double-teaming the post. The Heels got sped up, made some poor decisions, and then didn’t spend time getting the ball inside in the first ten minutes of the game. This trend continued throughout the game. For the most part the interior players did not handle the double teams well.
That said, the team did a poor job of forcing the issue inside. This is attributed both to Davidson’s active defense and the absence of Joel Berry.
Justin Jackson’s work over the summer is paying off from deep. He finished 7-13 on three-pointers. Overall, he tied his career high with 27 points.
While it hurts to have Joel Berry out, very similar to last season and Marcus Pagie’s absence early in the season, the extra experience Nate Britt, Seventh Woods, and Stilman White are getting will pay dividends later on. At the same time, based on what we saw tonight, if Berry doesn’t play against Tennessee or Kentucky, things could go south in a hurry.
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 95-50 home win against Radford.
Kenny Williams scored 14 of the first 18 points, including 4-4 from three-point range. He had reached his career high in points five minutes into the game. Williams finished the game with 19 points, leading the way for the Heels.
Too many offensive rebounds in the first half for Radford. In fact, Isaiah Hicks found a seat on the bench after a couple missed block-outs.
After a hot start, there was a lull between the under-8:00 and under-4:00 media timeout of the first half. A couple missed bunnies inside, an early shot clock three from Joel Berry, a turnover by Berry before crossing half court.
After beginning the scoring, Kenny Williams beat the halftime buzzer to put the Heels over 50 for the first half.
With 17:36 left in the game, Joel Berry stepped on the foot of a Radford defender while driving and went down in a heap. Thankfully this was a game where Berry didn’t need to come back in. Coach Williams said the team will take precautionary X-rays to confirm a sprain, but that he is encouraged by the current assessment.
I wrote this before Joel Berry’s injury: Seventh Woods is extremely athletic, but often looks lost when he gives Joel Berry a breather. Hopefully this stretch of games leading up to ACC play will give him a chance to settle in more.
This is a completely different team with Joel Berry out. Hopefully it’s not a long-term injury. However, if there was a good time for Berry to be out, it’s this stretch of games before ACC play.
At this point in his development as a point guard, Seventh Woods is calling his own number too much.
After shooting well on free throws for the first seven games, this is the second game in a row where the Tar Heels struggled from the line. The team was a combined 18-29 (62.1%) against Radford. The main culprits were Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley, who shot a combined 5-13 (38.5%). Taking away those two players, the rest of the team was 13-16 (81.3%)
It seemed like Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Bradley each had rather pedestrian days, yet they wound up with a combined 35 points and 23 rebounds, with all three players scoring in double-digits.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 76-67 loss to Indiana in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge
This was Roy Williams’ 1,000 game coaching in college. He’s won 799 of them. Remarkable. I’m glad he’s the coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Listen, I want to win every game and go 40-0, but that’s unrealistic. If you told me going into the game that Joel Berry would shoot 3-for-12 and Isaiah Hicks would shoot 2-4, I would imagine the margin of victory would have been greater than nine. This is a good learning lesson in a hostile environment that will pay huge dividends on Thursday, February 9 in Durham, North Carolina.
There are many things that we could point to as the reason for the loss. One of these is fast-break points, a Carolina staple. The Heels scored exactly two fast-break points in the entire game. Not a recipe for victory.
Another culprit was the free-throw line. In the first half, the Heels collectively missed the front end of three 1-and-1’s. Collectively the team shot 5-for-11 on free throws in the first half and 13-22 for the game. I’m not saying they have to hit every one of those, but the team missed nine free throws and lost the game by nine points (and don’t forget the missed 1-and-1’s).
This was the third true road game of the season and sixth (out of eight total games) away from home. This was certainly the toughest road environment to play in so far. It’s extremely hard to win on the road when you get down early and let the crowd stay in the game. With that said, Carolina missed eleven of their first thirteen field goals and had a huge hole to climb out of.
A positive sign was the methodical fight displayed. No, the Heels did not win the game, but after being down 17 points in the first half, the lead was cut to as few as four points with 4:29 to go. I use “methodical” because there was no huge run or spurt; the team just settled down in the second half and worked themselves back into the game. Credit Indiana for making big shot after big shot every time the Heels cut into the lead.
The tide really started to turn when Kennedy Meeks scored inside with 3:51 left in the first half and then again less than a minute later. This momentum carried over into the second half as Meeks continued to get position inside.
After being down by double digit rebounds early, the teams ended up tied with 37 rebounds apiece.
The Joel Berry didn’t have a great shooting night (3-for-13), he did have eight assists and only two turnovers. Justin Jackson was the leading scorer with 21 points.
Though UNC didn’t win the game, the ACC won the ACC / Big Ten Challenge for the first time since 2008.