Category Archives: ACC

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Gonzaga

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 103-90 home win on Saturday night over #4 Gonzaga.

Highlights:

  • What a big-time win in an incredible environment. Yes, Gonzaga is missing a starter and another key player, but they’re still good enough to be top five in the country. While you would love to add win over Kentucky to the résumé next Saturday, taking at least one of these two games is encouraging.
  • Welcome to the 1,000-point club Luke Maye! Maye becomes the 78thTar Heel to reach that milestone. The 1,000thpoint was a free throw tacked on to a dunk that put Carolina over the century mark. In fact, Maye was 7-for-7 on free throws, with the first six coming after being fouled while shooting three pointers. This was not only the Heels’ first signature win of the year, but also Maye’s first signature game: scoring 20 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

  • While on the subject of Luke Maye, it is being said around basketball that his production has “really dropped off from last year”. He’s currently averaging 14.3 points to last year’s 16.9 when he neededto shoulder a bigger portion of the scoring load. He’s currently averaging 10.0 rebounds per game as compared to last year’s 10.1. While his field goal percentage (48.6 to 45.0) and three-point percentage (43.1 to 31.3) are down, his free throw percentage is up almost 20 percentage points (62.4 to 79.5). All that to say – Luke Maye is going to be juuuuuuust fine.
  • With a sample size of 10 games (roughly one quarter of the season), we can legitimately begin to look at season stats. Cameron Johnson is shooting 49.1 percent from deep, exactly 15 percentage points better than last year’s 34.1 percent. Johnson had an absurd night, leading all scorers with 25 on efficient shooting. While his six threes (including a shot-clock-ending desperation heave) were impressive, it was this dunk that was the most memorable:

  • Seventh Woods had a career-high 11 points – by halftime. The junior finished with 14 points. Woods made two three pointers, the first time he’s hit multiple in a game. In fact, two three pointers ties the number he hit in his first two seasons combined. Woods went on a personal 6-0 run over the last 1:16 of the first half to stretch an eight point lead back out to 14.

  • Coach Williams wants to dominate the glass, and dominate the glass the Heels did – 42-21. Additionally, Carolina had 14 offensive to Gonzaga’s five and outscored the Bulldogs by an overwhelming 27-0 on those second-chance opportunities.

  • The Tar Heels had to be that good on the boards to win because they coughed up a season high 23 turnovers, which led to 29 Bulldog points and kept Gonzaga in the game.
  • On several occasions Gonzaga out-Carolina-ed Carolina by getting pitch-aheads to a man streaking down the court behind the defense. This will no-doubt be a point of emphasis in the film room.
  • Much like the UNC-Wilmington game, the Heels showed much better defensive desire and did some things well, while others have room to grow. The want-to seems to be there, and that’s a step in the right direction. That said, as I predicted the final score resembled the UNC-Kentucky regular season game from 2016-17 in which the Wildcats won 103-100 behind 47 points from Malik Monk. In fact, Carolina finished with that exact same total tonight. Let’s just hope this season doesn’t wind up for the Heels the way that season wound up for Kentucky. But just for a reminder of how that season ended for Kentucky:
  • On five occasions in the second half, Gonzaga cut the lead to single digits. But on all five of those instances Carolina responded by scoring the next basket to push the lead back to double-digits. The Bulldogs are a team that can score in bunches, so maintaining the double-digit threshold provided security for the Heels. Although, once again, avoiding live ball turnovers and Carolina-like-run-outs would have placed an even larger cushion between the two teams.
  • Roy Williams has been saying how good a shooting team this is and that it would eventually break out. 13-for-25 (54.7 percent) from deep is a great example of that. Shooting that well from outside on a consistent basis will cover a multitude of sins in other facets of the game.
  • Leaky Black, who is dealing with patellar tendinitis, only played three minutes. But in that time he used his go-go-gadget arms to steal a pass and head in the other direction for an electrifying dunk. Sterling Manley also only scored two points, but it was a nice turnaround jump shot early in the second half.

  • I must unfortunately leave you with a sour taste in your mouth: The execution after the final media timeout left much to be desired. The play included several turnovers, some fouls and some missed clutch-ish free throws. Thankfully, the cushion in this game was large enough to absorb these gaffes, but that won’t always be the case.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago against Kentucky on Saturday, December 22. Tip is at 5:15ET on CBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. UNC-Wilmington

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 97-69 home win on Wednesday night over UNC-Wilmington.

Highlights:

  • There are scoring runs and then there are scoring runs. Luke Maye picked up his fourth foul with 17:16 remaining in the game and the Heels up 48-41. You might have been concerned. I was concerned. Should we have been? Nope. The Heels immediately went on a 16-0 run, which extended to an absurd 30-3 run. When Maye checked back in with 9:12 remaining the lead had ballooned from seven to 31 (75-44). Here’s Kenny Williams talking about the 53-point second half explosion:
  • The big concern of late has been the Tar Heels’ (lack of) defense. For the game, Carolina held UNC-Wilmington to 35.5 percent shooting, forced them into 25 turnovers, and scored 34 points off of those turnovers. It remains to be seen whether the defense was legitimately better, or just a product of playing (with apologies to UNC-Wilmington) an inferior team. We’ll get quick answers with the next two games being against Gonzaga and Kentucky.
  • After exploding out of the gate, Cameron Johnson’s scoring has tapered off the last couple games. He rebounded nicely tonight, leading all scorers with 21 points (ties his season high). Here’s Johnson talking about the game:
  • Coby White and Brandon Robinson both sat out the game with injuries. Despite missing those two regulars, nine different players played double-digit minutes. As has often been the case this season, no player played 30 minutes or more.

  • Seventh Woods earned his first career start in White’s absence. He had three assists and three turnovers, a wash. Woods’ biggest contribution was his aggressive play to help grow the lead immediately after Maye went to the bench with his fourth foul.
  • In addition to Woods’ three turnovers, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye, and Nassir Little each also had three. These key players will need to curtail their sloppiness with the ball. The good news is that after nine first half turnovers, the first turnover of the second half didn’t occur until six minutes in.
  • With White out, Leaky Black also played more than usual. He quietly had a rather effective showing – four points (on 2-for-3 shooting), three assists, zero turnovers and two steals. That type of steady play will be important for Carolina throughout the season.
  • Kenny Williams really has become an assist machine. Despite his three turnovers, the senior racked up eight assists. He is averaging 4.9 assists per game this season. For reference to a recent non-point guard playmaker, Theo Pinson averaged 5.1 assists per game last season. As a team, Carolina assisted on 23 of their 37 made baskets tonight.
  • Devontae Cacok is Wilmington’s leading scorer (15.9) and the nation’s leading rebounder (12.3). As you are aware, the Heels pride themselves on rebounding as well. Carolina held Cacok to just six points and six rebounds, as well as just 21 minutes of game action due to foul trouble. It was a classic case of the Heels working to get an opponent’s dominant big man in foul trouble. Overall Carolina won the rebounding battle 49-36.
  • The Tar Heels enjoyed a lopsided 50-16 advantage on points in the paint. Big men Garrison Brooks (seven), Sterling Manley (eight), and Brandon Huffman (seven) each had a meaningful contribution to that tally. Manley also came away with double-digit rebounds (10).

  • Wilmington overcame a 7-0 UNC lead to take a 24-22 lead just over midway through the first half. Carolina responded with a 10-0 to take a lead they would never relinquish.
  • KJ Smith desperately tried to get a three in the closing seconds in order to help Carolina hit the century mark, but couldn’t get one to stick. No biscuits. They’ll have to wait for another day.

Roy Williams postgame press conference (make sure to listen to the story at the end about former President George H.W. Bush who recently passed away.):

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Gonzaga on Saturday, December 15. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Michigan (ACC / Big Ten Challenge)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 84-67 road loss on Wednesday to Michigan in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge.

Highlights:

  • Two years ago the Heels played in a similarly tough road environment at Indiana during the ACC / Big Ten challenge. Things didn’t go well in that game either. However, as you’ll recall that season turned out just fine. Patience. Roy doesn’t play for November. Roy builds for March.
  • Coming into the game, the main story line was Carolina’s top-notch offense against Michigan’s stingy defense. Unfortunately it was the Tar Heels’ defense (or lack thereof) that received top billing. Never doubt Coach Williams’ ability to rally the troops, but defense is currently an area of serious concern. Pick-and-roll and back door cuts, in particular, yielded several wide open lay-ups for Michigan.

  • Kenny Williams appears to be heating back up. In the past two games he’s shot 9-for-15 from the field and 5-for-9 from three while averaging 13 points. He’s done this while maintaining his defensive prowess and dishing out nine assists with just one turnover. Here’s Williams talking about tonight’s game:
  • Similar to the Texas game, Carolina started off hot, hitting four of its first five shots and amassing a quick 10 point lead in the first eight minutes. The Heels hung with Michigan the entire first half, but Michigan pushed the lead to 12 before the first media timeout of the second half and never looked back.
  • Luke Maye recorded his second double-double of the season, grabbing 15 rebounds to go with 11 points. The other starting big man, Garrison Brooks had a sneakily solid 10 points and seven rebounds.

  • Michigan’s style of defense forces a lot of one-on-one basketball. The Heels didn’t do a great job of moving the ball tonight and wound up assisting on only half of their made baskets (13 of 26).
  • On the plus side, while Michigan’s defense is tough, Carolina had its second-lowest turnover output of the season (10). In a true road environment, that’s an encouraging number. Over the past two games the Heels are averaging eight turnovers. That’s a number Coach Williams can live with.
  • While the total score of 67 was a season low, Carolina’s 35 first half points is the most Michigan has given up in the first half all year. The Tar Heels are going to be able to score all year, but some nights that shots won’t fall as frequently and the defense will have to be ready to pick up the slack.
  • Great to have Seventh Woods back from injury. He completed an and-one within his first two minutes of returning to action. His years of experience provide a steadying hand at the point guard position. Woods didn’t move the ball as well as he had been doing prior to his concussion, but he’ll get back there quickly.

  • Michigan’s unheralded (and ambidextrous) freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is impressive. He led all scorers with 24 points. Brazdeikis seems to genuinely enjoy the game and is fun to watch. Michigan has already slaughtered Villanova at Villanova. This Wolverines team might be better than last year’s national runner-up.
  • It was a tough offensive night for Cam Johnson and Nassir Little. The first and fourth leading scorers on the team finished with a combined nine points. Johnson didn’t score his first point until 13 minutes into the second half.
  • As per usual, 11 different Tar Heels entered the game in the first half. As early as the first media timeout, the entire second unit (Seventh Woods, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Nassir Little and Sterling Manley) was in the game. It should be noted that Michigan took its first lead with this group of five on the court. 13 different players were used in the meaningful minutes of the game, including Brandon Huffman and KJ Smith. As often happens when he’s unhappy, Coach Williams benched all five starters for a four-minute stretch of the second half. I’ll say it again: ROY IS COACHING FOR MARCH. BE PATIENT.

  • Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Michigan came into the game shooting 33 percent on three-pointers for the year. They drilled 11 of 22 for 50 percent shooting against Carolina. Texas just had a similar shooting performance against Carolina on Thanksgiving.
  • The Tar Heels are averaging 14.29 offensive rebounds per game, but had just one at halftime. A strong second-half effort got them to 13 for the game and overall out-rebounded Michigan 43-34.
  • In a hostile road environment, a lot of teams would pack it in after a poor performance and falling behind by as many as 22. However, an 11-0 Tar Heel run cut the lead to 11 with 5:30 remaining. Andrew Platek missed a lay-up to further cut the deficit to nine. After that, Michigan pushed the lead back to 18. The good news: these Heels have fight in them. They just need to show it from the tip and show it on defense.
  • In case you care: The ACC tied the Big Ten 7-7 in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge. The Big Ten has 14 teams so one ACC teams sits out each year. Also, it’s time for a name change Big Ten. Because you have 14 teams.
  • The night in a nutshell:

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday, December 5. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. UCLA (Las Vegas Invitational)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-78 victory on Friday afternoon over UCLA in the Las Vegas Invitational.

Highlights:

  • I must be honest, during the first half I was prepared to say that this game was essentially just a continuation of all the same issues from the Texas game (and the first half was). I could have said, “I don’t need to write Quick Hitters tonight, just re-read last night’s.” I had the early season tournament cliché all lined up: “It’s always said of these mini tournaments that a really good team is going to leave 0-2. Unfortunately in this instance, that team was Carolina.” But then the second half happened and I had to scratch all of that.
  • I was curious to see how Coby White would follow up his big night. Was the 33-point explosion just a foreshadowing of things that would come later in the season or the new normal? White responded by scoring 10 of Carolina’s first 17 and finished with 19 total points on 6-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-7 from three. While 19 is certainly less than 33, this was a more impressive performance because he didn’t just create for himself but also dished out eight assists to teammates (against only two turnovers). This balance of scoring and assisting is exactly what Coach Williams will be looking for. All-in-all a great two game stretch from the freshman point guard.

  • The one thing White struggled with was foul trouble. Seventh Woods was still out with a concussion, so Leaky Black once again handled the back-up point guard minutes. Thursday night, the offense severely bogged down with Black running the show. While his stat line wasn’t gaudy against UCLA, he didn’t turn the ball over, had two assists and scored five points on 2-for-3 shooting. Black is gaining valuable experience and looking more comfortable running the team. His best play came early in the second half. With UNC up 55-54, Black blocked a shot (the ball hit the backboard first; it was an obvious goal tend…shhhhh don’t tell anyone), corralled the loose ball and threw a court length bounce pass to Kenny Williams for the fast break layup. Here’s that sequence:

  • Carolina has committed double-digit turnovers in every game thus far, including 18 and 17 in the previous two games. White turned the ball over on the first possession of the game and we appeared to be headed for more of the same. However the Heels committed only four more the rest of the half and just one in the second half for a season low of six.
  • The senior trio of Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson struggled mightily shooting against Texas. Those woes carried over into the first half of the UCLA game. However in the second half they shot a combined 10-for-12, totaling 30 of Carolina’s 53 points.
  • It’s been well documented that Kenny Williams has been struggling with his shot this year (although had a great shooting performance against UCLA). Rather than sulking, he’s found a new way to contribute offense by turning himself into Theo Pinson-type play maker. Prior to this year, Williams averaged 1.6 assists per game. This year he’s averaging a career-high 4.7 assists per game and 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. Here’s to hoping there will be a lot of Tar Heels pointing at Kenny Williams throughout this season.

  • Johnson was on fire after halftime, scoring the Heels’ first nine points. The most impressive of which was his second bucket. After burying a three on the previous possession, he could have easily decided to hoist another, but wisely chose to drive baseline for a lay-up. He followed up that play with a steal on UCLA’s next possession, which he quickly returned to Carolina’s basket for two more points. Here’s all three of those plays:

  • UCLA’s 7’1” freshman Moses Brown has had an impressive start to his college career. There was some concern how Carolina’s bigs would handle Brown’s presence. Cutting to the chase, Brown fouled out with 7:40 remaining having only played eight minutes.
  • Garrison Brooks had two under-the-radar-but-very-important plays that you might have missed. One showed up in the box score, the other didn’t. First, UCLA had the ball, up seven, with about 5:30 left before halftime. Brandon Robinson got a steal and Brooks somehow slapped the ball ahead to Coby White for a fast break dunk. No box score assist to Brooks (that went to Robinson for some reason), but a huge play and UCLA never pushed their lead back to double-digits. The other notable play was Brooks’ only two points of the night. The Bruins had cut Carolina’s lead down to seven and fouled Brooks with 7:40 remaining. He stepped to the line, a career 59.5 percent free throw shooter, and calmly sunk both free throws to push the lead back to nine. Here’s the “slap-ahead”:

  • Defense still needs to be cleaned up. The Heels allowed UCLA to hit their first seven shots and nine of their first 11 shots. The Bruins’ first miss came almost five minutes into the game. Once again, staying in front of the ball is of the utmost importance. Carolina played much tougher and attentive defense in the second half, even securing a shot clock violation at 12:19.
  • Nassir Little was in much more intentional attack mode this game; not settling for jump shots. The highlight of the game was his go-ahead dunk at the 12:00 minute mark of the second half, after which the Heels never again trailed. Here’s the dunk:
  • A stat it would be easy to miss, part 1: Brandon Robinson had four assists and zero turnovers.
  • A stat it would be easy to miss, part 2: reserve KJ Smith has scored in every game in which he’s played so far this season.
  • The Las Vegas Invitational promised to teach us a lot about this team. And it did. But there’s still a lot to learn. How would these games have looked with Seventh Woods in the mix? How will the freshmen respond to a true road environment against a strong defensive opponent (Michigan)? Stay tuned because games against Michigan, Gonzaga and Kentucky over the next several weeks will be revelatory.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Michigan in the ACC / Big Ten Championship. Tip is on Wednesday, November 28 at 9:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Texas (Las Vegas Invitational)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 92-89 loss on Thanksgiving evening to Texas in the Las Vegas Invitational.

Highlights:

  • First off: Happy Thanksgiving. Hoping you had a wonderful day with family and friends and ate way too much good food.
  • Same story, different chapter of the series versus Texas: Opposing guard goes off (Kerwin Roach, 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting). Texas out-physicals Carolina. Texas out-hustles Carolina. Texas out-toughs Carolina. Texas uses the dribble to get in the lane at will. The Tar Heels have now lost eight of their last nine to the Longhorns. Here’s Kenny Williams providing some senior prospective:
  • You might think that the absence of a back-up point guard isn’t a big deal. You’d be wrong. When Coby White checked out with 14:27 left in the first half, Carolina lead 17-5. Typically Seventh Woods would enter the game at that point and run the team seamlessly. Leaky Black just isn’t ready to do that yet and when White checked back in the lead was down to 23-18. Black projects to be an incredible player for this team, but the offense severely bogged down with the changing of the guard.
  • Turnovers were *yet againa major issue, at least in the first half. The Heels coughed the ball up 17 total times; 14 of which were in the first 20 minutes. Literally all 10 players that stepped on the floor for Carolina had at least one turnover.
  • Okay, let’s talk about something positive. Coby White knows how to put the ball in the bucket and we caught our first glimpse of just how prolific he can be. White poured in 33 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including 7-for-10 from deep and 6-for7 from the free throw line. Here’s a look at all his scoring:
  • As out-of-sync as the Heels looked most of the night, they fought to stay in the game and had their chances. Down 80-70 with just under 7:00 remaining, Carolina went on an 8-0 run in under a minute to close the gap to 2. Later, down three with 30 seconds left, Luke Maye had a great look at a three to tie the game, but the ball just wouldn’t stay down. Unfortunately the closest the Heels could get was two.
  • Need a reminder of how every play matters? With 3:30 remaining in the first half and the Heels up seven, Sterling Manley grabbed a rebound and threw his outlet pass to Kerwin Roach who took one dribble and buried a three. Final deficit? Three points. Here’s the play:

  • It wasn’t all bad for Manley. He had two really nice assists to Cam Johnson.
  • As well as Coby White shot, the senior trio of Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson were a combined 12-for-33 from the field, including just 2-for-13 from three.
  • After the St. Francis game, I mentioned that Carolina’s bench was outscoring the opponents 194-66. The bench only contributed 18 tonight.
  • Defense has been something of an issue all season. However against inferior competition, the problems have been masked. In the second half, Texas shot 62.5 percent from the field and from three. To put it bluntly, that just won’t cut it against either the rest of the non-conference schedule or the ACC gauntlet.
  • Despite winning the total rebound battle 41-32 and the offensive rebound battle 15-9, the small line-up surrendered some ill-timed offensive boards to Texas.
  • A final positive note: Congrats to Cam Johnson for reaching 1,000 career points combined between Pittsburgh & Carolina.

  • Despite the loss, the most painful part of the night for this writer? My wife is a Longhorn.

  • 2ndmost painful part of the night? We’re going to the Texas football game on Friday where I will be cheering for the Longhorns.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational against the loser of UCLA/ Michigan State on Friday afternoon. Tip is at 4:00ET on FOX.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. St. Francis (PA)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 101-76 home win on Monday night against St. Francis.

Highlights:

  • Just like Carolina, St. Francis prides themselves on rebounding. Carolina still held a solid margin leading the battle of the boards 46-37. St. Francis, however, won the offensive rebounding battle 13-11.
  • 18 turnovers. The most in a game this year for the Heels. Coby White and Leaky Black were responsible for four apiece (but only one assist each). Keep in mind – these guys are freshmen and will have games like that sometimes.
  • On the other hand, Kenny Williams and Seventh Woods picked up the assist slack, while turning the ball over only once and twice respectively. Williams had a career-high nine assists while Woods had seven.
  • Speaking of Williams, just a few days removed from hurting his ankle, his status for this game was in question. Not only did he play, but Williams started and immediately threw his body into the mix as he always does. By night’s end Williams had drawn two offensive fouls (somehow his first two of the year). That’s the senior leadership you need to have a successful and long season.

  • Cameron Johnson once again led the team in scoring (20). The combination of his health and his second year in the Carolina system have allowed him to be a much more active and attacking player. Four other Tar Heels scored in double figures.
  • Remember last year when you fretted every time Coach Williams substituted because the bench struggled so mightily? In the first five games of the 2018-19 season, the Carolina bench is outscoring the opponents’ bench 194-66.
  • If you haven’t noticed, Coby White is blazing fast. He’s still learning to harness that speed, but it did cause a funny moment in the second half. White led a fast break and stopped suddenly for a pull-up near the free throw line. As he did so the St. Francis defender literally came out of his shoe. Here’s video of the play:

  • Despite the sloppy play, Carolina scored 100+ points for the third time in the last four games.
  • This was yet another game where no Tar Heel hit 30 minutes of playing time. Through five games, only two players have had to play 30+ minutes in any game (Luke Maye and Cam Johnson against Wofford).

  • Nassir Little had an impressive game. 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting and seven rebounds. Perhaps the most remarkable moment was his back-to-back three point plays. Little has shown a capability to finish strong through contact. This will be important in ACC play. Here’s a tasty dunk for you:

  • Luke Maye finally secured a double-double (11 points | 10 rebounds). He’ll get his if and when he needs to, but as referenced earlier, this teams’ depth doesn’t need him to do as much every night out. And that’s a good thing. Incidentally, Maye now has 931 career points. If his averages hold, he should eclipse 1,000 on December 15 against Gonzaga.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first game of the Las Vegas Invitational against Texason Thanksgiving Day. Tip is at 7:30ET on FS1.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Tennessee Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 108-58 home win on Friday night over Tennessee Tech.

Highlights:

  • Let’s first address what we’re all most concerned about: Kenny Williams’ ankle. All reports are that it appears to be a minor injury. Coach Williams indicated he could be ready for Monday’s game against St. Francis. However, in a game the Heels should win, expect the coaching staff to proceed with caution. Here’s the injury:

  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, with just over 13:00 left in the second half and the, he missed a three but sprinted back on defense to thwart an ally-oop. By the way, Carolina was up 35 points when that happened. That’s Kenny Williams being Kenny Williams and the reason why everyone was so concerned about an injury for a player shooting 29.6 percent and 12.5 percent from three. Here’s the play:

  • In half the games this season Seventh Woods has five or more assists and zero turnovers. The tally for this game was eight assists (a career high) against zero turnovers, bringing his assist-to-turnover ratio for the season to 5:1. Woods has already equaled his total number of assists from last season (20), while only surrendering one-third of last season’s turnovers (4 vs. 12). Woods also hit a three pointer; just the third of his career after sinking two in the first four games of his freshman year. Here’s Woods talking about his performance on Friday night:
  • Woods and Coby White combined for 12 assists and just two turnovers. If the Tar Heel point guards can maintain this level of production, the 2018-19 season will be special. Additionally, Leaky Black, who will also shoulder meaningful point guard minutes has seven assists with only two turnovers.
  • Luke Maye hasn’t recorded a double-double yet this season. And that’s a great thing. Hear me out: It’s because he hasn’t had to. Two reasons why. First, this team has more depth and balance than last year. Against Tennessee Tech six different players had double-digit points and 10 had six or more points. The other reason is minutes played. Only twice this season has a player had to play 30 minutes or more (Maye and Cameron Johnson against Wofford).
  • And yet, don’t be confused about Maye’s level of play or efficiency. In just 20 minutes against Tennessee Tech he scored 15 points and hauled in eight rebounds. For the season he is averaging 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 26.5 minutes. Also, I’m not going to tell Tennessee Tech how to play defense, but in the future they might want to guard a preseason All-American rather than leave him continuously wide open under the basket.
  • Different night, same rebounding story. The Tar Heels outrebounded Tennessee Tech 54-24 (+30) and had more offensive rebounds (18) than the Golden Eagles had defensive rebounds (15). Because this is a regular occurrence, Carolina fans might not appreciate how impressive this stat actually is.
  • With several freshmen getting meaningful minutes, there will be a fair share of freshman mistakes early in the season. Just before halftime, Carolina got a turnover with 20 seconds remaining. Instead of holding for the last shot, Coby White took (and missed) a three pointer with 12 seconds left. Those 12 seconds were enough time for Tennessee Tech to hit a three of their own. The result didn’t matter much in this game, but those three points could be the different between a win and a loss in an important ACC game.
  • The Tar Heels have scored 50+ points in five of the last six halves they’ve played and are averaging 98.0 points per game. After a sub-par defensive showing against Stanford on Monday, a higher level of defensive attention and buy-in was evident. If the defensive intensity can match the offensive output throughout the season, Roy Williams will be a happy man.
  • Sure, Tennessee Tech isn’t good, but Carolina did a much better job than against Stanford of putting the opponent away in the second half. They extended a 24-point halftime lead to 50 by game’s end.
  • Carolina recorded 16 steals. That’s the most since taking 17 in the 107-56 drubbing of NC State in the 2016-17 National Championship season. Here’s a steal from Leaky Black leading to a Kenny Williams lay-up:

  • Several positive signs from Sterling Manley. He hit two mid-range jumpers (and looked smooth doing so). Another was around the 2:00 mark of the first half when he chased down a rebound well out of his area and slithered in for the put-back. On the subsequent defensive possession he dove after a loose ball to secure a jump ball. Here’s one of the jump shots:

  • This team has a chance to shoot a high percentage from the free throw line. The current team average is 73 percent. Coby White and Cam Johnson are both shooting over 90 percent and Leaky Black is at 85 percent. Luke Maye (who will have the most free throw opportunities on the team) is shooting 78.3 percent after previously shooting 59.8 percent for his career.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against St. Francis on Monday, November 19. Tip is at 8:00ET on ACC Network Extra.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Elon

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 116-67 road win on Friday night over Elon.

Highlights:

  • Let’s not bury the lead: rebounding was the story of the game. 60 rebounds for Carolina. First time to haul in 60 boards since grabbing 64 against Duke on March 5, 2016. Additionally, the Heels had more offensive boards (24) than Elon had defensive boards (21). And those offensive rebounds led to:

  • A point of concern has been turnovers. That number continued to shrink tonight, with Carolina only surrendering 11. Most importantly, the point guards combined for only one of those 11.
  • Garrison Brooks did not have the same numbers as he did against Wofford, but was solid. Seven points on 3-for-5 shooting, six rebounds, and three steals in 16 minutes. Sterling Manley had a much more productive night: 11 points and eight boards in 15 minutes. A combined 18 points & 14 boards in 31 minutes is great production from the center position.
  • Remember last year when Cam Johnson only shot 34% from deep? Two games is an admittedly small sample size, but he is 7-for-10 so far this year. Additionally he hasn’t missed a free throw yet and is leading the team in scoring. Impressively, as well as Johnson is shooting, he’s still looking for his teammates. Against Wofford, a lob in the lane to Garrison Brooks. Against Elon, a kick out to Coby White for a three in transition. In both instances, Johnson could have taken the shot and no one would have batted an eye. But in both instances he found a better shot. Here’s Johnson talking about his shot:
  • Last year, Carolina had to rely heavily on the starters for consistent offensive production. While tonight’s game was admittedly against Elon, the bench contributed 65 points.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Tar Heel guards will need to do better at stopping dribble penetration (which leads to wide open threes) going forward. After allowing the Phoenix to shoot 57% from the field in the first half, Carolina buckled down in the last 20 minutes and allowed a paltry 16% field goal percentage.
  • Leaky Black is the type of guy that might wind up with a triple-double on his résumé before he leaves Chapel Hill. The rangy freshman finished tonight with eight points, six boards, five assists, zero turnovers and a steal in just 15 minutes.
  • 10 different Tar Heels scored…in the FIRST HALF. All 15 available players scored a point in the game (Walker Miller was out with an injury).

  • Poor Kenny Williams can’t buy a basket right now. He still hasn’t made a field goal and his only point in the first two games is one made free throw. As has been documented, Williams is impacting the games in multiple other ways. His shot will come around (unless his shoulder injury from the other night is worse than we know).
  • More on the point guards: Coby White (14 points, three boards, two assists, a turnover and a steal), traditionally a score-first point guard, is still learning how to balance when to hunt his shot and when to distribute. He is young, relentlessly fast, can light it up and will have a long leash. Be patient with him Tar Heel fans. Remember than playing point guard for Roy Williams is one of the most difficult things in college basketball. Seventh Woods (three points, three boards, five assists, one block and zero turnovers) looked the most comfortable I’ve ever seen him. He is in control, setting others up and making good play for himself. Here’s White talking about adjusting to the point guard role:
  • Having more offensive firepower this year is allowing Luke Maye to somehow fly under the radar. He scored 24 points against Wofford and it was an afterthought. He had a near double-double tonight (eight points, 10 boards) and it’s just business as usual. He’s a career below 60% free throw shooter who is shooting 91% so far this year. The lack of attention will hopefully allow Maye to be more fresh as the season wears on.
  • Is it time to talk about Nassir Little now? This guy can do a little bit of everything. Hit threes. Block shots. Dunk ferociously. Play defense. Despite an authoritative tip-dunk at the end of first half, Little’s first huge highlight reel dunk came with just under 14:00 left in the game after stealing an Elon pass and finding himself alone on the break. Little is beautifully not forcing anything at this point, just playing within the flow of the team. He is very “North Carolina”.

Roy Williams post-game press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is Carolina’s home opener against Stanford on Monday, November 12. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.

Does Duke Dominate the ACC?

As I sat in the discouraging aftermath of Villanova’s 2016 National Championship, not only was the loss hard, but the impending personnel loss weighed heavy as well. This was the end of an era. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the players responsible for 35 of Carolina’s 74 points that night, including the final 10, would never again don a University of North Carolina Tar Heel uniform.

As the offseason unfolded, things got worse as I realized how loaded Duke’s roster would be in the 2016-17 season. Just days after Marcus Paige’s miraculous three-pointer, Grayson Allen announced he was coming back to school for his junior year. A few weeks later, big man Amile Jefferson was granted another year of eligibility after a foot injury held him out most of the 2015-16 season. Duke had already signed three of the top 10 recruits in the class (depending on which recruiting site you go by), but then another top 20 recruit (Marques Bolden) picked the Blue Devils over Kentucky. Once again, Duke was picked to run away with not only the ACC Championship, but also the National Championship.

I realized I was beginning to have this fear that Duke was dominating the ACC year after year after year and that no one else could keep up with their talent, recruiting, and on-court victories. My perception was that the Blue Devils were in a class of their own of late, winning all sorts of regular season and conference championships.

So I decided to actually look at the results to help confirm my suspicions.

This is Roy Williams’ 14th season coaching the Tar Heels. Here are the ACC regular season conference champions during that span:

  • 2004 – Duke
  • 2005 – North Carolina
  • 2006 – Duke
  • *2007 – North Carolina, Virginia
  • 2008 – North Carolina
  • 2009 – North Carolina
  • *2010 – Duke, Maryland
  • 2011 – North Carolina
  • 2012 – North Carolina
  • 2013 – Miami
  • 2014 – Virginia
  • 2015 – Virginia
  • 2016 – North Carolina
  • *2017 – North Carolina (Notre Dame can share the championship if they win and North Carolina loses today)

*the ACC allows co-champions when teams tie, regardless of head-to-head results. Notre Dame can tie North Carolina this year if the Irish beat Louisville today AND the Heels lose to Duke.

Looking at the results, North Carolina actually has eight regular season championships, compared to Duke’s three. Virginia also has three, but no other school has more than one. Okay, I guess I can breathe a little easier.

If it isn’t regular season championships, perhaps my feelings of Duke’s domination of the ACC are based on ACC Tournament championships. Here are the results of the championship game for the past ten years:

  • 2007 – North Carolina 89 – NC State 80
  • 2008 – North Carolina 86 – Clemson 81
  • 2009 – Duke 79 – Florida State 69
  • 2010 – Duke 65 – Georgia Tech 61
  • 2011 – Duke 75 – North Carolina 58
  • 2012 – Florida State 85 – North Carolina 82
  • 2013 – Miami 87 – North Carolina 77
  • 2014 – Virginia 72 – Duke 63
  • 2015 – Notre Dame 90 – North Carolina 82
  • 2016 – North Carolina 61 – Virginia 57

So that’s not it either. North Carolina and Duke have each won three ACC Tournament championships in the past ten years. In fact, during that ten-year span, the Tar Heels have made the ACC Championship game seven times while the Blue Devils have only advanced to the final four times. Interestingly, a different team has won the ACC Tournament each of the past six years.

Taking a deeper look, Duke has actually not won an ACC regular season or tournament championship since the conference expanded to 15 teams in the 2013-14 season.

Maybe if we expand the scope further, we can uncover my fears of Duke supremacy. Perhaps my worries are due to the fact that Duke has had more success that Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Here are the NCAA Tournament results for both teams in the Roy Williams era:

  • 2004 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Final Four
  • 2005 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2007 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2008 – UNC: Final Four; Duke: Second Round
  • 2009 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2010 – UNC: NIT Finalist; Duke: National Champions
  • 2011 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2012 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2013 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Elite Eight
  • 2014 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: First Round
  • 2015 – UNC: Sweet Sixteen; Duke: National Champions
  • 2016 – UNC: Finalist; Duke: Sweet Sixteen

North Carolina:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 1
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eights – 3
  • Sweet Sixteen – 1
  • Second Round – 4
  • First Round – 0
  • NIT Finalist – 1

Duke:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 0
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eight – 1
  • Sweet Sixteen – 5
  • Second Round – 1
  • First Round – 3
  • NIT – 0

These results don’t point to Duke dominance either. In the 13 NCAA Tournaments of the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, both teams have two National Championships to their name. The Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT the year after the 2009 championship, while the Blue Devils have made the NCAA Tournament each year. Carolina has never lost in the first round (the REAL first round) of the NCAA Tournament in the Williams era, while Duke has been knocked out three times at that level. Carolina’s biggest advantage in NCAA Tournament success is that they have made it to the Elite Eight or beyond in seven of the 13 years, while Duke has advanced that far four times. Needless to say, NCAA Tournament results also do not explain my fear of Duke dominance.

Perhaps my worries are unfounded? Maybe my fears are irrational and Duke hasn’t actually dominated the ACC?

Then it hit me. I needed to narrow my scope, not broaden it. Here is Carolina’s record against Duke each year of the Roy Williams era:

  • 2003-04 – 0-2
  • 2004-05 – 1-1
  • 2005-06 – 1-1
  • 2006-07 – 2-0
  • 2007-08 – 1-1
  • 2008-09 – 2-0
  • 2009-10 – 0-2
  • 2010-11 – 1-2
  • 2011-12 – 1-1
  • 2012-13 – 0-2
  • 2013-14 – 1-1
  • 2014-15 – 0-2
  • 2015-16 – 1-1
  • 2016-17 – 0-1

In the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have a total record of 11-17 against Duke. Duke holds a comfortable lead in the series during this time span, but since Carolina’s 2009 championship, the Blue Devils have absolutely dominated. From the 2010-11 season through the present, the Tar Heels have a 4-12 record against Duke.

Mystery solved. My fears of Duke ACC dominance are actually based on the fact that they have absolutely owned North Carolina head-to-head in the Roy Williams era. It is always nice to beat your rival, but, at the end of the day, give me the championships every time!

 

 

Will tonight’s regular season finale be a turning point in the series for the Tar Heels? Or will it be a step in the right direction for a Duke team that was supposed to run away with the 2016-17 season?

2016-17 Conference Schedule Primer

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

  1. #20 Florida State (13-1, 1-0)
  2. #12 Virginia (12-1, 1-0)
  3. #5 Duke (12-1, 0-0)
  4. Virginia Tech (11-1, 0-0)
  5. #9 North Carolina (12-2, 0-0)
  6. Pittsburgh (12-2, 0-0)
  7. NC State (11-2, 0-0)
  8. #24 Notre Dame (11-1, 0-0)
  9. Clemson (10-2, 0-0)
  10. Miami (10-2, 0-0)
  11. Georgia Tech (8-4, 0-0)
  12. Syracuse (8-5, 0-0)
  13. Boston College (7-6, 0-0)
  14. #6 Louisville (12-2, 0-1)
  15. 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

  1. @ GT (12/31)
  2. @ Clemson (1/3)
  3. NC St (1/7)
  4. @ Wake (1/11)
  5. FSU (1/14)
  6. Syracuse (1/16)
  7. @ BC (1/21)
  8. VT (1/26)
  9. @Miami (1/28)
  10. Pitt (1/31)
  11. ND (2/4)
  12. @Duke (2/9)
  13. @NC St (2/15)
  14. Virginia (2/18)
  15. Louisville (2/22)
  16. @ Pitt (2/25)
  17. @ Virginia (2/27)
  18. Duke (3/4)
  • 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):

  1. @ GT (8-4)
  2. @ Clemson (10-2)
  3. @ Wake (9-4)
  4. #20 FSU (13-1)
  5. Syracuse (8-5)
  6. @ BC (7-6)
  7. VT (11-1)
  8. @Miami (10-2)
  9. #24 ND (11-2)
  10. #6 Louisville (11-2)

2 games (home and home) against:

  1. #5 Duke (12-1)
  2. NC State (11-2)
  3. Pittsburgh (11-2)
  4. #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.