Tag Archives: Billy Cunningham

Soak It Up

This is it. The final weekend of the 2015-16 college basketball season. No matter what happens in NRG Stadium, this will be the final time we will see this edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James will only pull on their Tar Heel #5, #11, and #42 jerseys once more, maybe (hopefully) twice more. As fans, we find it easy to get wrapped up in defining a season by the final game. Whether or not Carolina can win tomorrow against Syracuse and subsequently knock off Villanova or Oklahoma on Monday night, this will go down as one of my favorite (if not the favorite) teams of all time. So here’s what I want to say: before we get enraptured in the games this weekend, make sure to take time to stop, appreciate this team, and soak it up.

Make sure to think back on the careers and development of Paige, Johnson, and James.

 

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Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, & JP Tokoto with Coach Roy Williams for their freshman picture

 

The biggest thing I’ll remember from this year is the Marcus Paige emotional roller coaster. Here is my stream-of-consciousness thinking of Mr. Paige’s senior year thus far: “Marcus is finally healthy and primed for a huge All-American senior year; reminiscent of his sophomore campaign! He broke his hand. Oh no! Which hand??? His non-shooting hand? Okay. Whew. Dodged a bullet. When will he come back? How will the team play until then? 5-1 with an undesirable, but understandable loss in a true road game at Northern Iowa. How will he look when he finally suits up? 20 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 34 minutes at home against Maryland, an early contender for the national championship? We’ll take it. Marcus is ready to go. Then the slump. Poor Marcus. His shot looks so pretty, why won’t it go in? He’s not hitting his free throws either. Oh man he hit a couple 3s this game, he’s back!! Nope he’s not. Well the good news is Marcus is still doing everything else he should as a teammate. I just hate for his senior year to play out this way. Maybe, just maybe he’ll pick up in March. Yes – 4 of 7 from deep against Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals. Here we go. Marcus is on in March. Spoke to soon. 0-7 from deep against Virginia. But man did he do a number guarding Brogdon. 2 solid, but unspectacular, games to start the NCAA tournament. But then Indiana, ohhhhh the Indiana game. With each successive 3 to start the game, I jumped higher and yelled louder. 21 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers. That’s Marcus Paige. He’s back.” Marcus might score 30 points against Syracuse or he might score 0. The Tar Heels might win and the same stats are possible against Oklahoma/Villanova. Either way, Marcus Paige will be one of my five favorite Tar Heels of all time.

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 01 North Carolina at Louisville
February 1, 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks with North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) during the game against The Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina Tar Heels at The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY. Louisville defeated North Carolina 71-65. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Raise your hand if you thought Marcus Paige would have the struggles he’s had this year and yet, the Tar Heels would find themselves in the Final Four as the favorites to cut down the nets. The reason is because of two words: Brice Johnson. Let me use some numbers, so that we can try to wrap our heads around what a historical year he’s had. With his next rebound (just one), Johnson will have 400 for the season and will become the single-season rebounding leader in North Carolina Men’s Basketball history (and is on the doorstep of moving into the top 10 in ACC single season history). Just stop and think about that. For every rebounder that’s ever put on a UNC jersey, he has the most rebounds in any one season. And it’s not just this season. Brice is 1 of only 8 Tar Heels to have 1000 career rebounds. The others on the list are some gentlemen named Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, and Daugherty. Heard of any of them? He’s currently number 6 on that list and has a realistic shot to move past Antawn Jamison for 5th. And it’s not just the rebounds, it’s also the points. Brice has scored 648 points this year, good to tie him with NBA champion Harrison Barnes’ 2011-12 campaign for 18th in one season. He will definitely continue moving up this list; whether UNC plays 1 or 2 more games will determine exactly how much further. Along similar lines, Johnson has moved into 19th on the career scoring list, again with extremely realistic chances to continue moving up. This also means that this team boasts 2 of the top 20 scorers in Carolina history (Paige is currently at #12). The combination of scoring and rebounding a lot means that Johnson has accumulated 23 double-doubles this season, again the most in a single-season in UNC history. He currently is averaging 17.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg this year. Only 4 Tar Heels have averaged a double-double since 1975-76. Their names? Antawn Jamison, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, John Henson. Mr. Brice Johnson, we thank you for giving us one of the greatest single years any player has ever had in Chapel Hill. I think all that yelling Roy has done just might have made a difference.

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I will remember this year as the year that the “not tough” Tar Heels suffered 6 losses (to this point), but only by a combined 22 points. And they never lost by more than 6. And they had a lead at some point in EVERY GAME THEY PLAYED. In fact, the Heels also had a least a tie in the 2nd half of every game they played. Probably the most impressive of these stats is that, of Carolina’s 38 games to date, they’ve held a 2nd half lead in every game but one (@ Virginia).

I will remember the collapse at home to Duke. As that game wore on, and the Heels struggled to create separation, I thought, “there’s no way we lose this game”. However, there were images of Austin Rivers floating in the back of my head. I will readily admit that after that loss, I really wondered what this team would amount to come tournament time. But now we have answer. The Tar Heels of the 2016 ACC Tournament were a thing of beauty. This team is tough.

I will remember this as a Carolina team that returned almost completely intact (we miss you JP!) and added a couple nice pieces in Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. I will remember this as the year that a Carolina team with no “superstars” and possible NCAA sanctions looming moved past several years of uncertainty (early departures after 2011-12, the PJ Hairston debacle, Paige’s injury-riddled junior year, etc), joined together, and rose above it all to make the Final Four with as good a shot as you’re going to get at winning a national championship.

It’s been a great year. We still have 1, maybe 2, games left. So soak it up Tar Heel fans and let’s enjoy this epilogue.

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The Path To Houston, Part 4

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

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Elite Eight: Notre Dame

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

Previous 2015-16 ND / UNC Games

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

Game Notes

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

A couple records that might be broken tonight:

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

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

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

Notre Dame Key Reserves

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

The Numbers

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

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

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

Quick Hitters – Indiana (NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16)

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

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

 

 

 

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).

The Record Book

I love stats. Therefore I love records. Therefore I also love tracking the potential breaking of records. With the regular season wrapped up, and on the eve of the Tar Heels’ first ACC Tournament game, I thought it would be fun to open up the Carolina record book and see where current players stand in different Tar Heel stat categories.

We already know that Marcus Paige has set the Tar Heel record for made 3-pointers in a career (273 and counting – Incidentally, can you imagine what that number would be if he had been healthy all year and shot the ball around his normal 3-point percentage?). Let’s see where Marcus and Brice Johnson rank in some other stat categories (both career and single-season records) as they wrap up their time in Chapel Hill. We’ll also check in on the progress of some of their underclassmen teammates who are working their way into the Tar Heel record books.

Remember, Carolina could have as many 9 or as few as 2 games left. The ability for this group of Tar Heels to continue moving up the leaderboards depends on the number of games remaining.

Note: All stats (career & single-season) are updated through the end of the 2015-16 regular season.

Points (Career)

  1. Marcus Paige – 1718 (#16)
  2. Brice Johnson – 1559 (#25)
    • Needs 68 points to tie Eric Montross for #20
    • If he achieves this, there will be 2 of the top 20 UNC scorers of all time graduating together

Rebounds

  1. Brice Johnson
    • Career – 953 (#8)
      • 47 shy of 1000 for his career, which only 7 other Tar Heels have done. And it’s a prestigious list – Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, Daugherty
    • This year – 334 (#T-14)
      • Needs 65 rebounds to tie Tyler Hansbrough for the single season record.
      • It’s possible that Brice could become the first Tar Heel with 400 rebounds in a season.

FT% (Career)

  1. Marcus Paige – 330-389 – 84.8% (#2)
    • Marcus started the year #1 all time, and currently sits .1% behind Shammond Williams.
  2. Nate Britt – 146-176 – 83.0% (#11)
  3. Joel Berry – 100-122 – 82.0% (#14)
  • If this holds through the remaining seasons of Britt and Berry’s careers, this team would have 3 of the top 15 FT% shooters in Tar Heel history.

Career Field Goal % (Career)

  1. Brice Johnson – 655-1150 – 57.0% (#15)
  2. Kennedy Meeks – 375-670 – 56.0% (#T-17)
  3. Isaiah Hicks – 217-388 – 55.9% (#19)
  • If this holds through the remaining seasons of Meeks and Hicks’ careers, this team will have 3 of the top 20 in FG% in Tar Heel history.

Double-Doubles (Points/Rebounds) (Single Season)

  1. Brice Johnson
    • Has 19 this year. Single season record is 22.
    • Also, if current averages hold (16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg), Brice would become the first player since John Henson in 2010-11 to average a double-double for the year. He would be only the 4th player to do so in the 2000’s (Henson, Hansbrough, May) and only 5th since 1975-76 (add in Jamison in 97-98).

Assists (Career)

  1. Marcus Paige – 566 (#10)
    • This one is sad for me because he has a chance to pass Kendall Marshall (581, #8) who would have destroyed the Tar Heel record books in terms of assists if he had stuck around another couple years. That reminds me of how absolutely ridiculous Marshall was. If Marshall had stayed, he had a chance to surpass Ed Cota for 1st in Tar Heel career assists (who, by the way, is 3rd all time in NCAA history).

Blocks (Career)

  1. Brice Johnson – 141 (5 behind Brad Daugherty for #10)

Steals (Career)

  1. Marcus Paige – 193 (#5)

 

We’ll check in again with these records (and any others that have come to light in the remaining games) after the season is over.

Any records I’m missing? Any other stats or records you want to know about? Leave a comment or drop me an email (isaacschade@gmail.com).