Tag Archives: ACC Tournament

Worst-Case Scenarios & My Irrational Fears

I have a problem. As the events of a given day unfold, I often play them out to their worst possible ending point in my head. Here’s an example: One day in college, I was playing ultimate frisbee with some friends on campus. About 20 yards beyond one of the end zones that we had marked out with hats and tennis shoes, standing several feet out of the ground like a beacon of impending doom, was an old yellow fire hydrant. The terrible scene that played out vividly in my head? I saw myself streaking downfield to make a diving catch that Odell Beckham, Jr. would have been envious of. The problem was that as I came back down to earth, I impaled my face on the fire hydrant, shattering every bone on the front side of my skull. Gruesome, huh?

On another occasion, I was hiking up a mountain with some friends at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas. We came to a rocky overlook with beautiful surrounding scenery and asked some other hikers to take our picture near the edge. You can already guess where this is headed. The awful scenario that played out in my head this time? As we waited for the picture to be taken, a strong gust of wind pushed me over the edge where I hurtled to my death on the sharp rocks below.

This is my curse. The struggle is real.

Truth be told, I’m actually an optimistic, glass-half-full type of person. I look for the best in people and believe, perhaps naively, that the world is a good place.

My worst-case scenario, doomsday problem also plays itself out in the world of sports. Rather than being disappointed when my favorite college basketball team loses a national championship game on a buzzer-beating three-pointer (oh wait, that happened) or my favorite football team chokes a 25 point lead in the Super Bowl (oh wait, that happened too), I assume the worst – that the North Carolina Tar Heels will lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament or that the Atlanta Falcons won’t even make the playoffs.

With that said, we are coming down the stretch of the college basketball regular season. After every game, I like to play my “worst-case scenario” game with regard to where the Tar Heels could possibly end up in the ACC standings. Earlier this season, when they mathematically could not be passed by last place Boston College, I excitedly told myself, “Even if the Heels lose every game the rest of the season, the worst they can finish is 14th!”

After Carolina’s big win over Louisville on Wednesday night (and Syracuse’s upset of Duke a few hours earlier), I decided to investigate what the Tar Heels’ two game conference lead had earned them in terms of their worst possible seeding for the ACC Tournament.

I decided to investigate what the Tar Heels’ two game conference lead had earned them in terms of their worst possible seeding for the ACC Tournament.

First, some context: The main goal is obviously to win out, get the number one seed, and capture a convincing regular season conference championship. However, if the one seed can’t be had, teams want to achieve at least a top four seed. Doing so earns a double-bye to Thursday’s quarterfinal round.

Here is what my research uncovered: Every ACC team (except Syracuse, Wake Forest, and NC State) has three remaining games. The Tar Heels’ three games are at Pittsburgh, at Virginia, and home against Duke. For this worst-case scenario analysis, the assumption is that UNC loses all three games. Currently sitting at 12-3 in the conference, the worst North Carolina could finish is 12-6. This means that five other teams could potentially finish ahead of or tied with UNC. So we’ve solved it! That was simple. The worst UNC could finish in the ACC is 6th. Not too bad.

But wait, a closer look at the schedules reveals a different truth.

The five teams within striking distance of the Tar Heels are Louisville, Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Miami. The current tiebreaker scenarios concerning Carolina and those teams (ACC tiebreakers are first based on head-to-head matchups, which solves each of these):

  • North Carolina holds tiebreaker over Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame.
  • Miami holds tiebreaker over the Heels.
  • In this scenario, Duke beats Carolina on March 4 and therefore holds the tiebreaker over the Heels.

Below is the remaining schedule and current conference record for those five teams (and North Carolina):

North Carolina (12-3)

  • @ Pittsburgh
  • @ Virginia
  • Duke

Louisville (10-5)

  • Syracuse
  • @ Wake Forest
  • Notre Dame

Duke (10-5)

  • @ Miami
  • Florida State
  • @ North Carolina

Florida State (10-5)

  • @ Clemson
  • @ Duke
  • Miami

Notre Dame (10-5)

  • Georgia Tech
  • Boston College
  • @ Louisville

Miami (9-6)

  • Duke
  • @ Virginia Tech
  • @ Florida State

You might notice that Louisville and Notre Dame still have to play each other, meaning at least one of these teams has to finish with six losses and Carolina holds the tiebreaker over both. Therefore, the worst UNC could finish in the ACC is 5th! Solved!

Nope. Not quite yet. Let’s keep digging.

All three of Duke’s remaining games are against teams from this group – Miami, FSU, and UNC. Here is what happens depending on how Duke’s games play out (again, these scenarios assume UNC loses all three of their remaining games):

  • Duke beats Miami and FSU – Miami has at least 7 losses, FSU has at least 6 losses (UNC holds the tiebreaker), and Duke has 5 losses. The worst UNC could finish is 3rd, behind Duke and either Louisville or Notre Dame.
  • Duke beats Miami and loses to FSU – Miami has at least 7 losses, FSU has at least 5 losses, Duke has 6 losses (holds the tiebreaker over UNC). The worst UNC could finish is 4th, behind FSU, Duke, and either Louisville or Notre Dame.
  • Duke loses to Miami and beats FSU – Miami has at least 6 losses (holds the tiebreaker over UNC), FSU has at least 6 losses (UNC holds the tiebreaker), and Duke has 6 losses (holds the tiebreaker over UNC). The worst UNC could finish is 4th, behind, Miami, Duke, and either Louisville or Notre Dame.

To add one final wrinkle, Florida State and Miami also still play each other. Building on the Duke scenarios we just established:

  • Duke beats Miami and FSU; FSU beats Miami – Duke has 5 losses, Miami has at least 8 losses, FSU has at least 6 losses (UNC holds the tiebreaker). The worst UNC could finish is 3rd, behind Duke and either Louisville or Notre Dame
  • Duke beats Miami and FSU; Miami beats FSU – Duke has 5 losses, Miami has at least 7 losses, FSU has at least 7 losses. The worst UNC could finish is 3rd, behind Duke and either Louisville or Notre Dame
  • Duke beats Miami and loses to FSU; FSU beats Miami – Duke has 6 losses (holds tiebreaker over UNC), Miami has at least 8 losses, FSU has at least 5 losses. The worst UNC could finish is 4th, behind Duke, FSU, and either Louisville or Notre Dame.
  • Duke beats Miami and loses to FSU; Miami beats FSU – Duke has 6 losses (holds tiebreaker over UNC), Miami has at least 7 losses, FSU has at least 6 losses (UNC holds the tiebreaker). The worst UNC could finish is 3rd, behind Duke and either Louisville or Notre Dame.
  • Duke loses to Miami and beats FSU; FSU beats Miami – Duke has 6 losses (holds tiebreaker over UNC), Miami has at least 7 losses, FSU has at least 6 losses (UNC holds the tiebreaker). The worst UNC could finish is 3rd, behind Duke and either Louisville or Notre Dame.
  • Duke loses to Miami and beats FSU; Miami beats FSU – Duke has 6 losses (holds tiebreaker over UNC), Miami has at least 6 losses (holds tiebreaker over UNC), FSU has at least 7 losses. The worst UNC could finish is 4th, behind Duke, Miami, and either Louisville or Notre Dame.

So what does all this mumbo-jumbo mean? What’s the bottom line? Here it is:

UNC has already locked up a top-4 seed and an all-important double-bye in the ACC Tournament.

What a relief. The worst-case scenario is that North Carolina finishes fourth. And there are only two scenarios in which that becomes a reality. This is great news, but the work isn’t done. The Tar Heels are not going to sit idly by and take three losses.

If Carolina can win at least one of the three remaining games, they lock up at least a share of the ACC Regular Season Championship and at least the two seed in the ACC Tournament. Should the Tar Heels win at least two of their three remaining games, they will clinch the outright ACC Regular Season Championship and the one seed in the ACC Tournament. Also, don’t forget that the other five teams involved in these scenarios have other games they could possibly lose, which would help Carolina’s cause.

I can rest in peace knowing that, for once, the worst-case scenario isn’t all that bad.

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 – Virginia (ACC Championship Game)

Quick Hitters from Carolina’s 61-57 win over Virginia in the ACC Championship Game

  1. So is Carolina tough now? Can we agree on that? Okay thank you, moving on.
  2. The first possession for each team was indicative of the defense that would be played. Carolina had a turnover when Virginia doubled the post. Virginia had a shot clock violation when Carolina played 30 seconds of tight defense.
  3. Carolina plain and simple had too many turnovers (8) in the first 13.5 minutes of the game. After that there were only 2 more the entire game. So no turnovers in the last 7:26 of the 1st half and no turnovers in the last 17:53 of the 2nd
  4. It was these early turnovers and offensive rebounding (16-5 in favor of UVa) that kept Virginia in the game. In an interesting twist, Carolina did the work on the defensive end that allowed these lapses to be overcome. In the end, 51.1 FG% for UNC and 36.5 FG% for Virginia.
  5. Though it took him a couple minutes to get settled, Brice Johnson marvelously navigated the double teams from Virginia – ably deciphering when to score and when to pass. In fact, to go along with his pretty standard 12 point, 9 rebound night, Brice lead the team in assists with 5, against 2 turnovers. It felt similar, although not quite as prolific, to the first game against Syracuse in which Brice simply picked the Boeheim zone apart. Would love for Brice to get some more double-doubles to break the Carolina single-season record, but if sacrificing a couple points or rebounds means being able to get teammates involved, so be it.
  6. Not sure how Virginia plays as tough defensively as they consistently do without fouling (or getting caught at least), but they do, it’s impressive, and you have to be ready to respond to that. On this night, Carolina not only responded, but showed their own version of Virginia-defensive toughness without fouling. And because of the result, you might say that the Tar Heels out-Virginia-ed Virginia.
  7. On a similar note, the 1st half (and what a fun first half it was!) only had 6 fouls and 3 free throws between the two teams. There were only 20 total by the time the game was over. Marcus Paige took the first 1-and-1 free throws of the game with 7.9 seconds left as Virginia was fouling to extend the game.
  8. The single most important factor in Carolina’s win: Marcus Paige’s defense on Malcolm Brogdon. Paige (6-2, 175), while giving up several inches and pounds (6-5, 215), did about as good a job as you could guarding the ACC Player of the Year. While Brogdon did score 15, it took him 22 shots to get there. Any coach can live with that. Expanding to the whole backcourt, Brogdon and Perrantes shot a combined 9 of 36. I’ll take those numbers any day of the week. Yes they missed some shots they often hit, but Coach Bennett said a lot of that should be contributed to Carolina’s consistent defensive pressure.
  9. On the offensive side of the ball for Paige, he was 0-7 from deep, including two ill-advised early shot clock 3s. However, by and large he did an incredible job aggressively driving to the hoop (AND finishing). Love seeing him find huge ways to contribute on O and D, even when the outside shots aren’t falling.
  10. Getting back to defense on Brodgon, Paige wasn’t the only one who did a solid job on him. Insert Mr. Kenny Williams. He came in at the 15:11 mark of the 2nd His assignment, starting at the 14:21 mark? Guard the ACC Player of the year. When Williams went back out the 9:11 mark after playing 6 minutes, he had played 5 possessions of defense on Brodgon. During that stretch Brogdon was 0-2 with a turnover. Well done young man.
  11. Virginia’s shot fakes were highly effective in this game.
  12. What a great move and finish for Isaiah Hicks with 30 seconds left on what might have been the biggest offensive possession of the game. Miss that shot and Virginia can hold for one shot and a 3 to tie the game. Make it and you just have to hit your free throws.
  13. In case you were wondering just exactly how dialed in the Tar Heels are defensively right now: Virginia did not score a field goal from 9:51-1:38 of the 2nd half.

Quick Hitters – Notre Dame (ACC Tournament Semifinal)

Quick hitters from last night’s 78-47 ACC Tournament semifinal victory over Notre Dame:

  1. The last 2 two times these teams met, the Tar Heels should have won. They didn’t. The first was last year’s ACC Championship game in which Carolina had a 9-point lead with 9:59 to go and ran out of gas down the stretch after playing 4 days in a row. The second was this year’s only regular season match-up (in South Bend) in which Carolina had as much as a 15-point lead, lead by 9 at the half, and were ahead as late as 6:36 left in the game. Last night, the Tar Heels should have won again. And they did. Handily.
  2. Oh, hello there, Marcus. Mr. Paige, just as in Thursday’s quarterfinal, hit his first 3 of the game. The difference is that against Notre Dame he then continued to play like Marcus Paige. He was both aggressive and decisive. He led all scorers with 16, shot 4-7 from 3, had 7 assists, 2 steals, 3 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. On the defensive end, he put a dog collar on Steve Vasturia – drawing a charge and holding him to 0 points. Most college basketball writers and commentators have been saying, “If Marcus Paige gets back to being Marcus Paige, this is a national championship team. If he doesn’t, they’re still really good, but don’t have a chance at a championship.” Here’s an example from Jeff Goodman: Tar Heels Need A Better Marcus Paige. If last night was an example of things to come, look out America.
  3. It’s been well chronicled that Roy constantly reminds his team of the defense it takes to win a championship (conference or national) – in particular how successful the ’05 and ’09 national championship teams were when they bought in on that end of the floor. Against Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Tar Heels were more locked in defensively. But last night against Notre Dame was another level. Carolina bigs were able to break contact on multiple occasions to get around and deflect entry passes. There were active feet, active hands, help defense. You might say the Tar Heels were flying around making plays, which is an accolade usually attributed to a defensive unit in football. Will it happen against tonight against Virginia? Is that swarming defense sustainable for 6 games across three weekends? I sure hope so.
  4. Here are some statistical examples of last night’s defense:
    • ND didn’t SCORE in the final 6:10 of the 1st half
    • ND didn’t record a FG until 14:52 of the 2nd
    • Combined, that’s an 11:18 drought without a FG.
    • ND shot 33.3% in the 1st half, 26.9% in the 2nd half, and 30% for the game. For the Irish, the 2nd half percentage was the lowest for a 2nd half and 2nd lowest in any half on the year. The overall percentage was the lowest in a game for the season.
    • ND scored 47 points – the only time this year they didn’t hit 50.
    • According to Pomeroy rankings, ND is the 10th most efficient offense in the country, EVEN AFTER this performance.
  1. During Notre Dame’s scoring drought, the Tar Heels had another big run. 18-0 over the course of the final 6:10 of the 1st Extended to 24-0 to start 2nd half.
  2. Something else about the run to end the first half: Brice Johnson & Kennedy Meeks were on the bench. Both left the court with 2 fouls and 6:30 to go in the first half (the 18-0 run started at 6:10). When that happened, I, along with probably all Tar Heel fans, was nervous. The score was 23-20. Neither player came back in in the 1st The halftime score? 41-22.
  3. Let’s see, how do I put this? Ah yes: Joel Berry is strong.
  4. To think that Carolina was this dominant on a night when Brice Johnson was saddled with foul trouble (only played 15 minutes) and “only” (by his normal standard) had 12 points and 7 rebounds is scary for the rest of the country. This also meant no double-double for Brice.
  5. Part of the reason UNC didn’t need a huge performance from Johnson is that Isaiah Hicks recorded his first career double-double (11 points and 15 rebounds) to go along with an assist, a steal, and two blocks in 23 minutes of action. He continues to be very efficient. A good sign of things to come next year.
  6. The offensive percentages were somewhat down: 43.5% FG and 63.2% FT for the game. The Tar Heels missed several bunnies right around the rim. And yet, this was a dominant performance. This exemplifies the importance of the defensive effort.
  7. Once again, Carolina did the work of putting the game away early so that they didn’t have to fret down the stretch. 20+ point lead for all but the first minute of the 2nd
  8. Tonight will be Carolina’s 5th ACC Championship game in 6 years. Of course, as we know, they haven’t won any of the previous 4. Tonight could be the night. And another great opportunity to buckle down and get a tough win against Virginia.
  9. Interestingly, after the wins against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, I now hear commentators and writers using words like “attitude”, “edge”, “hard”, “pit-bull mentality”, “committed”, “chip”, and “personality” to describe this “soft” team.

Bonus: If you are a college basketball fan, today was a fun day. A classic UConn/Cincinnati 4OT game, including a deeper-than-half-court-game-tying-buzzer-beater. A game-winning half-court buzzer-beater from Buddy Hield that was no good because he didn’t get it off in time. Michigan fighting for their life and upsetting the #1 seed Indiana. The list goes on. Let’s not kid ourselves: March Madness has already started.

 

 

 

Quick Hitters – Pittsburgh (ACC Tournament Quarterfinal)

Here are quick hitters from today’s ACC Tournament Quarterfinal win over Pittsburgh:

  1. Pitt jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 90 or so seconds (all 8 points from Jamel Artis). The Heels were 1-7 from the floor until Marcus Paige hit a 3 to make the score 10-7. After settling in, Carolina took its first lead at 15-14 with 12:07 to go in the 1st half on Nate Britt’s lay-up (after penetrating Pitt’s 2-3 zone, which was a nice sight to see).
  2. Joel Berry was 6-6 with 13 points in the first 20 minutes. Have a 1st half young man! He ended the game with 20 points and was the high scorer. I’m not saying he’s Ty Lawson, but Joel has put the team on his back in very similar ways at times this year.
  3. Neither team reached the bonus in the 1st That just doesn’t happen in today’s college basketball climate.
  4. The game went to the last media timeout of the 1st half at 3:21 with Pitt up 35-29. By the time the teams went to the locker room, the Heels had gone on a 10-0 run and were up 39-35.
  5. Speaking of runs, Carolina had 2 big ones on the day. The aforementioned 10-0 run grew to 12-0 after halftime. There was also an 11-0 run midway through the 2nd half; which effectively put the game out of reach.
  6. Kenny Williams came into the day 0-12 from behind the arc in his freshman campaign. The first 3 of his Tar Heel career (and there will be many more – that’s a pretty stroke) could not have come at a better time. The shot came as part of the 11-0 2nd half run and pushed the lead to double digits for the first time at 66-55 with 8:28 to go. That lead would never shrink back to single digits.
  7. Speaking of Kenny Williams, he played critical minutes in the heart of the 2nd Obviously, I’m not Roy Williams, but if I had to guess – he wasn’t thinking solely about today, but rather doing everything he can to use the Tar Heels’ depth to his advantage as this tournament goes on. At the same time, good to see that Kenny has his coach’s trust enough to insert him at a critical juncture in the game. Kenny received a nice round of applause from the crowd as he came back to the bench with 7:05 left in the game.
  8. Brice Johnson, with his 19 points and 10 rebounds, notched his 20th double-double of the season. Of the power 5 conferences, only Ben Simmons has more (22) on the season. With an eye toward the UNC record books: 20 double-doubles on the season ties Johnson with Mitch Kupchak (‘74-‘75), Billy Cunningham (‘62-‘63), and Doug Moe (‘60-‘61). John Henson (‘10-‘11) and Antawn Jamison (‘97-‘98) had 21. Billy Cunningham (’63-’64) has the most Carolina double-doubles in a single season with 22. Carolina will play at least 2 more games, so Johnson should have a chance to tie (and possibly even break) the record.
  9. This was a game in which the Tar Heels demonstrated a high level of closeability. In a tight game, Carolina used the 2nd half 11-0 run to extend to a double-digit lead. In the previous 2 games (Syracuse & Duke), Carolina had shown closeability in that they made tough plays down the stretch to win close games. In this win, they did the work of closing earlier so that outcome was not in doubt in the waning moments. This is a good sign moving forward.
  10. With free throw shooting being an Achilles (ahem) heel the past couple of years, this year has been a breath of fresh air (74% as a team). Today’s 89% (16-18) is always welcome. It helps to have Marcus Paige, Joel Berry, and Nate Britt who are each top 14 in career FT% at UNC.
  11. The Tar Heels have shot extremely well against Pitt this year. Today, they had their highest 1st half FG% of the year (56.7%), their 4th highest 2nd half FG% (61.5% – also the 4th highest in any half), and their 2nd highest FG% for the whole game (58.9%). Last time the Heels played Pitt, the numbers were similar. 55.6% in the 1st half (2nd highest in the 1st half), 63.0% in the 2nd half (3rd highest in the 2nd half or any half), and 59.3% for the game (the highest for a game).