Tag Archives: Brice Johnson

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Washington (NCAA Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-59 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • The Tar Heels advance to the Sweet 16 for the 29th time in program history; the most all-time. While a Sweet 16 appearance is not the ultimate goal, let’s keep it in perspective: There are only 16 of the 353 D1 men’s basketball teams still playing and Carolina is one of them. That never gets old. See for yourself:
  • Cameron Johnson made three more three-pointers to run his season total to 94. That ties him with Marcus Paige (2014-15) for the third most in a single season in Carolina history. In second place is Shammond Williams with 95.
  • Luke Maye just keeps piling up career accolades. Against Washington, Maye set NCAA Tournament career highs in both points (20) and rebounds (14). His 20 points move him into 40th on the all-time Carolina scoring list (1379). His 14 rebounds move him into 11th on the all-time Carolina rebounding list (935). If Maye grabs seven rebounds against Auburn, he’ll move past Eric Montross into 10th.
  • Wrap your brain around this: Luke Maye is the only person in program history to have two entries on the Carolina single season top ten rebounding list. Maye now has 370 rebounds this season; ninth-most in a single season for a Tar Heel. The next person Maye would pass on that list is…himself from last season. Depending on how far the Heels go in the NCAA Tournament, Maye has a shot at recording just the second 400 rebound season in Carolina history (Brice Johnson – 416 in 2015-16).
  • The Tar Heels have been dominant on the boards thus far in the NCAA Tournament. Iona? Doubled them up (52-26). Washington? Doubled them up as well (48-24). That’s a total of 100 rebounds for Carolina vs. just 50 for their opponents.
  • A couple scary injury moments in this one. Garrison Brooks took an elbow to the mouth in the first half, which damaged two of his teeth and required stitches. Brooks missed the rest of the first half while being attended to, but came back out and had a solid second half. Not coincidentally, thanks to Brooks’ steady defense, his first half absence was the only point at which it seemed like Washington could potentially make a run.

  • The other injury occurred in the opening moments of the second half when Kenny Williams got a steal on Washington’s first possession. Unfortunately, he appeared to tweak his left hamstring. After being evaluated, Williams eventually returned to the game. Thankfully he has several days to recover before playing Auburn on Friday night.
  • Don’t look now, but Nassir Little is rising (#NassirRising). With 19 points against Iona and 20 against Washington, he has his highest two game scoring output of his Tar Heel career. There was a stretch in the second half when he scored 11 straight for Carolina, including a monster block.
  • Coby White broke out of his shooting slump early and often. He hit 4-for-5 from three in the first 11 minutes of the game. White finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and several drives to the hoop against a defense geared at “stopping three-pointers and layups”.
  • White wasn’t the only player to shoot better from deep. As a team the Tar Heels shot 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from three, the best percentage since playing Wake Forest on February 16.
  • As per usual, Carolina played great zone offense, sharing the ball and operating out of the opening at the free throw line. Quietly, Cam Johnson had seven assists and zero turnovers. This was the most assists he’s had as a Tar Heel and tied his career high.
  • Once or twice a game, Carolina will execute a picture-perfect fast break. With 11:20 to go before halftime, Nassir Little grabbed a rebound, threw a long outlet pass to Cameron Johnson, who hit Brandon Robinson for the lay-up.
  • This Tar Heel team is really difficult to guard because the scoring comes from so many different players and in so many different ways. In five of the last six games, at least four Tar Heels scored in double figures.
  • Washington scored the first bucket of the second half to cut the Carolina lead to five. From there, the Heels went on a 13-0 run over the next 4:30 to push the lead to 18. Washington would never again get within single digits. That is how an experienced team closes an NCAA Tournament game.

Roy Williams, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament against Auburn on Friday, March 29. Tip is at 7:29ET on TBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Syracuse

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 93-85 home win over Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Highlights:

  • What a three game stretch. In the span of a week, the Heels have beaten three of the top six teams in the ACC by a combined 42 points and have guaranteed themselves a top three spot in the league with still three games to play. With Duke losing tonight, the Heels have a one-game lead over the Blue Devils and a half game lead over Virginia, who has played one fewer league game.
  • If Carolina wins out, they are assured of at least sharing the regular season title. However, due to the loss to Virginia a few weeks ago, should Virginia also win out, the Heels would be the two seed in the ACC Tournament.
  • On a poor shooting night for several players (Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams and Nassir Little were a combined 10-for-39), it was the free throw line that helped put the Heels over the edge. Those same four players were a combined 22-for-25 on freebies. As a team, Carolina shot 34-for-37 (91.9 percent). This season for the Heels, that is the most made free throws, the highest percentage on free throw shooting and tied for the most attempted free throws.
  • Meanwhile, Syracuse put on a three-point shooting clinic in the first half, including five from Elijah Hughes. However, Carolina did a much better job identifying him in the second half and not only held Hughes scoreless but limited him to two shots.
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Coby White is apparently back. After a couple sub-par games White turned in a career high 34 points, including 6-for-11 from beyond the arc and 10-for-10 at the free throw line.

  • A nit-pick on an otherwise incredible night for the superb freshman – White needs to cut down on turnovers. On a night where Carolina as a team only turned the ball over nine times, he was responsible for four of those. In fact, White has committed multiple turnovers in every ACC game this season and is yet to record a turnover-less game in his young college career.
  • If I’m going to nit-pick I also need to heap praise: Coby White is the only (ONLY!!) freshman in the history of North Carolina men’s basketball to record three games of 30+ points. Please stop whatever it is that you’re currently doing, re-read that statement, think about the history of it, let it sink in, and then you may continue reading Quick Hitters.
  • While Luke Maye didn’t have a great shooting night, he did record 12 rebounds (now 16th on the all-time Carolina list with 844) and dish out a career high six assists while operating from what I’ll call the “Brice-Johnson-honorary-2-3-zone soft spot” near the free throw line. He did all that while only surrendering one turnover. Kenny Williams joined him in the “I’m-not-shooting-well-tonight-so-I’ll-do-other-stuff” club, recording five assists, just one turnover and hauling in six rebounds.
  • The contributions of Maye and Williams, amongst others, led to UNC assisting on 19 of 25 made baskets. The Syracuse zone certainly boggles a lot of teams, but Coach Williams seems to always have his team prepared to carve it up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
  • As is also usually the case against the Orange zone, the Tar Heels enjoyed a sizable lead in the rebounding battle. Carolina outrebounded Syracuse 46-25 and finished with more offensive rebounds (18) than Syracuse had defensive rebounds (17). For frame of reference, the Heels missed a total of 37 shots and rebounded 18 of them.
  • Syracuse got off to a hot start (and truthfully played a great game), shooting 6-for-7 to build a 15-6 lead. The Heels responded with an 8-0 run over 46 seconds to cut the lead to one. After that, the game was played very closely with neither team capable of building a double-digit lead until Carolina momentarily did so with 4:32 remaining and again in the last 30 seconds of the game.

  • As you can imagine, with Carolina shooting 37 free throws, Syracuse found themselves in a good deal of foul trouble. Paschal Chukwu, the big man in the middle, picked up two quick fouls in the first half and only played a total of 18 minutes. Additionally, the Heels fouled out two Syracuse players (Elijah Hughes and Marek Dolezaj) in the second half.
  • When Nassir Little decides to attack, he draws so many fouls. There were at least three in the first half. This version of the freakishly athletic freshman makes Carolina a very difficult team to contend with. Little did receive a pretty serious eye-poke in the closing moments of the game. Hopefully it won’t cause any lasting issues and he’ll be ready to go for Saturday’s game at Clemson.
  • Remember earlier in ACC play when Seventh Woods came in the game and didn’t play very well? It seems he’s turned a corner over the past couple weeks as Coby White has had some struggles. Tonight Woods had three assists, zero turnovers and just two points. But the two points gave Carolina a six-point lead just as Syracuse had made a run to close the gap. Two of the three assists then happened in just over the next minute of game time.

  • While the Heels lived at the free throw line, they did a good job of not fouling Syracuse in the first half. They committed only one through the first twelve minutes of game time. The free throw discrepancy in the first half was 19-for-21 for Carolina versus 2-for-5 for Syracuse.
  • The closing of halves has been important in multiple games lately. Tonight was the same. Syracuse held an eight-point lead with 90 seconds to go before halftime. Carolina cut the lead to three and even had a decent look at a three to tie at the buzzer. From there, the Heels went on a 15-3 run to start the second half and build a 58-49 lead.
  • Just because you need it in your life, here’s an absurd dunk from Caleb Ellis during tonight’s pre-game:

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 Clemson on Saturday, March 2. Tip is at 6:00ET on ESPN.

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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?

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

With a 65-41 win at home on over Virginia, UNC stays undefeated at home on the season, and, more importantly, atop the ACC standings with an 11-3 conference record. With a brutal end of the regular season stretch, Carolina HAD to hold court at home, and they did. Here are Quick Hitters from the match-up:

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Defense like this from Nate Britt was the key to the 65-41 victory over Virginia on 2/18/17. Photo Credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati
  1. This was a special night for North Carolina as both Brice Jackson and Marcus Paige were on hand to be honored at halftime for having their jerseys hung in the rafters.
  2. Congrats to Kennedy Meeks. His seven rebounds in the game give him 929 for his career, good enough to tie him with Rusty Clark for 10th all-time in Carolina basketball history.
  3. An important development early: Jack Salt, Virginia’s starting center, picked up his second foul with 16:35 left in the first half. He eventually picked up his third before halftime, opening the inside for the Tar Heels.
  4. Justin Jackson was absolutely on fire in the first half, including shooting 4-6 from three. In fact, he nearly outscored Virginia in the first 20 minutes: Virginia 22, Justin Jackson – 18.
  5. It feels like London Perrantes has been in school forever. He’s an opponent who you can’t help but have a lot of respect for. He plays the game right, doesn’t showboat, and is the consummate teammate.
  6. I get scared every time I see Virginia on the schedule, and today was no different. That’s the Tony Bennett effect. That said, this was just a bad night for the Cavaliers; one of those days where the shots just don’t fall. On the Carolina side of things, the Tar Heels played with the patient discipline needed in order to beat Virginia. They minimized their fouls on the defensive end and were (mostly) patient on the offensive side.
  7. Virginia started off 0-17 from three. In fact, their first connection from deep came with 5:32 left in the game. The Cavs finished 2-20 for the game.
  8. Virginia shot 27.8% for the game – the first time this year Carolina had held a team under 30% shooting.
  9. Virginia’s 19 second-half points were the second fewest points Carolina has allowed in a half this year.
  10. I appreciate Jay Bilas’ ability to love the game, but still call officials, the NCAA, and programs to higher standards. The prime example tonight was late in the first half when the officials called a double foul. Bilas, who was doing commentary for ESPN, spoke about the use of the double foul as a cop-out. He said that someone committed the first foul and it needs to be called as such.

Quick Hitters – UNC @ Tulane (11/11/16)

 

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Kennedy Meeks (#3) and the Tar Heels opened the 2016-17 season with a 95-75 victory over Tulane in New Orleans. Photo Credit: J.D. Lyon Jr.

 

  1. It took me until two weeks ago to finally re-watch the National Championship game. I was proud of myself – I even watched the final 4.7 seconds. What a wild ride and fun season 2015-16 was. That said, I’m really glad a new season is underway so I can put some new images of Tar Heel basketball in my head.
  2. When you lose players the caliber of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, other guys have to step up. It was an encouraging sign that both Joel Berry and Justin Jackson recorded career highs in scoring (23 and 27 respectively), while Kennedy Meeks had a career high in rebounds (15).
  3. A big part of the reason Jackson had such a big night is because he shot 4-5 from three point range. He clearly put the time in during the off-season.
  4. As a team, the Heels shot 9-20 from deep (45%). Although it’s only the first game of the season, this is an encouraging sign.
  5. One of the main storylines this season is Isaiah Hicks’ ability to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. In the first half, he had no fouls and even took a charge. Hicks did, however, have three fouls in the second half. He played 25 minutes which is good news.
  6. After committing a turnover at the 9:00 mark of the first half (the ball inadvertently went off his foot), Joel Berry had a dominant stretch that you hope to see out of your leader: He had an assist on the next offensive possession, then a steal, then another assist, then a 3-pointer, then hit 1-2 at the free throw line. In that stretch of 4 offensive possessions, he had 2 assists, a steal, and 4 points. Prior to this stretch, Tulane had cut the Carolina lead to one. Berry’s stat line for the whole game: 23 pts on 6-11 shooting, 7-9 FT (he missed two?), 6 reb, 4 ast, 2 steals, only 1 TO.
  7. Freshman Tony Bradley (surprise, surprise, another athletic big for the Heels!) had a nice run of his own early in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions. He established good post position and scored off an entry pass from Justin Jackson, had a nice little running hook shot in the lane, then scored on a put-back off a Justin Jackson miss.
  8. The most glaring area of deficiency after the exhibition game and first regular season game: Allowing offensive rebounds to the opposing team. UNC-Pembroke had 30 and Tulane had 18.
  9. Kennedy Meeks struggled shooting the ball (4-13 shooting), but clearly looks more athletic and ready to run than he ever has. He dunked a ball mid-way through the second half that he previously would have laid up. The aforementioned 15 rebounds were much needed with the void left by Brice Johnson.
  10. Tony Bradley was the most consistent of the freshmen, but Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson both had some nice moments. Both players will get minutes and valuable experience while the Heels wait for Theo Pinson to return from injury.

The Wait

Today is May 4. We are exactly a month into “The Wait”.

The wait comes every year. The wait is never fun. The wait is hard. You might even call it excruciating.

A month ago today, the Tar Heels lost what is, for me, the most excruciating Carolina loss of my 32 years on Earth. What an incredibly fun season the 2015-16 Tar Heels had; but that ending though. I shudder thinking about it. Sometimes I still punch my pillow when I wake up in the morning because they were sooooooooo close. But win or lose your last game of the season, the wait still comes.

What is this wait I speak of?

Every year we wait for the decisions of underclassmen. Will they come back to Chapel Hill? Or will they declare for the NBA draft? And if they declare, will they hire an agent (meaning they forfeit any remaining eligibility) or won’t they (meaning they maintain eligibility and could return)?

Sometimes a player will spare us the wait and rather quickly declare their intention to return. Sometimes a player will spare us the agony in a less favorable way by declaring for the draft and hiring an agent. Sometimes players we think are gone will surprise us and come back. Sometimes players we think should stay will decide to leave. Sometimes players wait a long time before deciding to come back. There are so many possibilities.

The good news for this year is that the wait is almost over. We have come to grips with the fact (or at least tried to) that Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James have to leave due to graduation. Just today, Kennedy Meeks announced that he would return to Chapel Hill for his senior season:

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The only remaining decision is Justin Jackson. He has declared for the draft, but did not hire an agent. Based on his somewhat disappointing sophomore season, it seems logical that he would return, but crazier things have happened. So we wait.

We all hope Jackson will come back, but even if he doesn’t, we’re looking at a possible starting lineup of Joel Berry, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks. Not too shabby considering the departure the Tar Heels have experienced after other extremely successful Carolina teams of recent history (think the 08-09 and 11-12 teams).

The wait, this year, is amplified. Why? Because this year, the wait has the added dimension of potential NCAA sanctions. We all breathed a sigh of (at least temporary) relief when the most recent allegation notice came out and did not mention men’s basketball. There is some hope that the men’s basketball team will be exonerated and not face loss of scholarships or national championships or even more recruits.

The wait is only a month in and we still have about 5 more months to go before Late Night With Roy. We might see Justin Jackson that night, we might not. By that night, we might know more about the NCAA sanctions or (more likely based on the tortoise pace the NCAA is exhibiting) we might not. Regardless, that night can’t come soon enough so we can see the 2016-17 Tar Heels in action and can begin to erase the memory of Kris Jenkins’ rising up and unleashing an incredibly (and unfortunately) beautiful shot that broke all our hearts.

The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 6

We made it to “Part 6” of this column, and that’s great news because it means the Tar Heels are in the national championship game! Standing between Carolina and a sixth national championship are Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats. What do you need to know heading into the game? Read on to find out.

National Championship: Villanova

  • 34-5 (16-2)
  • 1st in the Big East
  • Stat Leaders (of contributing players)
    • Points: Josh Hart – 15.5
    • Assists: Ryan Arcidiacono – 4.3
    • FG% (min. 100 attempts): Daniel Ochefu – 62.3
    • Rebounds: Daniel Ochefu – 7.6
    • Steals: Ryan Arcidiacono – 1.36
    • Blocks: Daniel Ochefu – 1.53
    • Minutes: Ryan Arcidiacono – 31.9

Previous NCAA Tournament Meetings Games

The 2016 National Championship game will mark the 7th time UNC and Villanova have played in the NCAA Tournament. In the previous 6, Carolina is 5-1, only losing in the 1985 Elite 8. Here are all the previous games, rounds, and results:

  1. 1982, Elite 8, UNC 70 – Villanova 60
  2. 1985, Elite 8, Villanova 56 – UNC 44
  3. 1991, 2nd Round, UNC 84 – Villanova 69
  4. 2005, Sweet 16, UNC 67 – Villanova 66
  5. 2009, Final Four, UNC 83 – Villanova 69
  6. 2013, 1st Round, UNC 78 – Villanova 71
  7. 2016, National Championship, ???

Though these games are listed in chronological order, upon closer inspection, you might notice an interesting tidbit: UNC has beaten Villanova in every round of the NCAA Tournament. Every round but one. The National Championship. Time to rectify that omission.

Game Notes

  • This game has all the makings of an incredible title clash. Villanova and North Carolina come into the game ranked number one and two respectively in the KenPom Rankings. They also are number one and two in adjusted offensive efficiency, with the Tar Heels leading in this category.
  • As you mentally prepare for this game, the UNC opponent to most similarly compare Villanova to would have to be Virginia, who was also top 10 this season in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • Carolina’s overwhelming advantage should be on the backboards where the Tar Heels have a 40.6% offensive rebounding rate and a 69.8% defensive rebounding rate to Villanova’s 28.6% and 29.0%.
  • Hard to believe, but Roy Williams would surpass Dean Smith in number of national championships with a win (3 for Roy, 2 for Dean).
  • Despite being undersized, Villanova has limited the productivity of their opponent’s big men. Perry Ellis of Kansas, for example, was held to 4 points in the Elite 8. As we know the Tar Heel inside attack should prove a more formidable adversary. It will be interesting to see if and how Villanova can slow down Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks.
  • Kris Jenkins connection. 2 Tar Heels have connections to Villanova 4-man Kris Jenkins. Brice Johnson played on a youth team with Jenkins in a picture that has been circulating this past week:

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The other connection is an even deeper level. Nate Britt and Jenkins are legally brothers because the Britt family became Jenkins’ legal guardian in 2007 after some family changes for the Jenkins family. Britt’s parents and sister will be at Monday’s national championship game and have vowed to remain neutral, knowing that, regardless of the outcome, they will have a son who ends the night as national champion and one who ends the night coming up just short.

The Record Book

  • Brice Johnson currently has 408 rebounds this season – a Tar Heel single season record. With 5 rebounds in the national championship game he would move into 10th place on the ACC single season rebounds leaderboard. Interestingly, he would be the only player in the 2000s to land on this list. In fact, other than Tim Duncan’s 457 rebounds in 1997, the other most recent entry in the top 10 is from 1974 (Len Elmore with 412).
  • With 1 more rebound, Brice Johnson will be the #5 career rebounder in Tar Heel history. He is currently tied with Antawn Jamison.
  • Donald Williams holds the current UNC career record for made 3s in the NCAA Tournament with 38. Marcus Paige currently sits at 35.
  • Also, on the Marcus Paige made 3 pointers front – he is already #1 in career made 3 pointers for UNC with 295. With a big night in his final college game, Paige could be the first Tar Heel to ever have 300 for his career.

Villanova Starters

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Jalen Brunson 6’2.5” 199 24.0 9.7 1.8 2.6 45.5 38.1 77.9 1.85 0.72 0.0
Ryan Arcidiacono 6’3” 195 31.9 12.4 2.9 4.3 43.9 38.9 83.3 1.51 1.36 0.03
Josh Hart 6’5” 205 31.2 15.5 6.7 1.9 51.5 35.8 75.2 1.64 1.15 0.23
Kris Jenkins 6’6” 240 28.5 13.6 3.9 2.2 45.6 38.4 85.3 1.26 0.77 0.41
Daniel Ochefu 6’11” 245 23.1 10.1 7.6 1.7 62.3 0.0 68.8 1.33 0.81 1.53

Villanova Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Phil Booth 6’3” 185 21.8 6.7 2.1 2.2 35.3 30.6 86.6 1.44 0.74 0.10
Mikal Bridges 6’7” 191 20.5 6.5 3.2 0.9 51.8 29.9 78.7 0.62 1.08 0.64
Darryl Reynolds 6’8” 225 17.3 3.7 4.6 0.4 64.9 0.0 72.3 0.72 0.41 0.54

The Numbers

  North Carolina Villanova
KenPom Rank 2 1
Points per game 83.0 70.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 123.7 (1st) 122.0 (2nd)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 95.2 (23rd) 91.9 (6th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.3 (64th) 66.7 (284th)
Field Goal% 48.2 42.6
2P FG% 54.4 57.3
3P FG% 31.9 35.9
3PA% 26.7 43.0
FT% 74.8 78.2
FT Rate 32.5% 34.1%
RPG 40.7 35.2
Offensive Reb Rate 40.6% 28.6%
Defensive Reb Rate 69.8% 29.0%
APG 17.8 16.2
BPG 4.5 3.3
SPG 6.8 6.7
TPG 10.8 12.2
TO Rate 15.3% 16.3%

3 X-Factors:

  1. The backcourt (Berry, Paige, Jackson, Pinson, Britt) has done a marvelous job taking care of the ball in the tournament. Can they continue to do so against Villanova’s swarming defense. This will be all-important because the advantage on the interior is not an advantage if the guards can’t make entry passes.
  2. Isaiah Hicks’ foul trouble. With Villanova employing the use of a stretch 4, Hicks’ mobility will be important. If he can stay out of foul trouble (and therefore on the court), he could have an incredibly productive game.
  3. UNC’s backcourt & Nova’s frontcourt. All the national media attention for Villanova is on their backcourt and for North Carolina is on their frontcourt. This shapes up very similarly to the sweet 16 against Indiana. While UNC’s 3 point shooting is a statistical weakness, any combination of Paige, Berry, Britt, and Jackson could have a solid night from deep. You might recall Paige’s 3 point barrage to start the Indiana game. Similarly, don’t sleep on Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu (similar to Indiana’s Thomas Bryant). While the lone inside scoring threat, Ochefu could have a big game inside, although he has been hampered by a bum ankle.

Main Key to the Game for the Tar Heels:

You guessed it: exploit the size advantage in the paint. As has been the case all tournament long, UNC will have a decided frontcourt size advantage. On offense this means pounding the ball into the paint and continuing to offensively rebound around 50% of the misses. On the defensive end, this means playing tight defense without fouling and rebounding at the normal clip.

 

Quick Hitters – Syracuse (NCAA Tournament – Final 4)

Quick Hitters from tonight’s 83-66 win over Syracuse in the Final Four:

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  1. First off – congrats to Brice Johnson. First Tar Heel to ever have 400 rebounds in one season. Broke Tyler Hansbrough’s record of 399. He has 408 for the season.
  2. Carolina has won every game in this NCAA Tournament by at least 14 points. Tonight’s 17 point margin was the biggest for the Tar Heels in a Final Four.
  3. The Heels had trouble getting the ball to the high post in first half. Interestingly, the guards (Joel Berry in particular) had great success penetrating the zone with dribble penetration.
  4. 3 pointers? We don’t need no stinking 3 pointers. 0-10 from 3 in the 1st half, while shooting 17-25 from 2. The team did end up hitting 4 (3 from Paige, 1 from Pinson) during a critical stretch of the 2nd That first 3 from Paige could not have come at a better time as Syracuse had cut the lead to 7. The 3 point shooting was offset by a 50-32 advantage in the paint and a 43-31 rebounding advantage.
  5. Brice Johnson picked up his 2nd foul with 9:05 left in the 1st half and the score tied at 16. As per usual, he sat the rest of the half. This was scary – one of those things that causes you to lose in the Final Four. The Heels not only survived this stretch but pushed out to and 11 point lead by halftime.
  6. In the tournament, it’s always fun to see an unexpected player step up. With Isaiah Hicks mired in foul trouble, Joel James had 6 quality minutes. He had 4 points, including a zone-friendly 15-footer from the free throw line. He had 3 rebounds, one of which was a huge defensive rebound.
  7. With a minute to go in the first half, Grant Hill talked about Syracuse being worn down by the “physical play of the Tar Heels”. These guys are tough! And someone in the media thinks so!
  8. Syracuse shot abysmally from the free throw line (4-13).
  9. Syracuse rolled out the full-court pressure that keyed the comeback against Virginia. The first time this happened, UNC scored in about 4 seconds. Carolina did have a couple turnovers on the pressure later in the game, but handled it really well for the most part.
  10. Joel Berry continues to display a keen knack for when to distribute and when to get to the rack and score. Despite an unusual 0-4 from deep, Joel quietly had a really nice game – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, and only 1 turnover, in 34 minutes.
  11. Marcus Paige had one of the prettiest touch passes I’ve ever seen at the 14:11 mark of the 2nd
  12. There were at least 3 made 3-pointers in this game that bounced on the rim multiple times before falling in.
  13. Another great job getting key players in foul trouble. Gbinije and Richardson (the two leading scorers) both had 4 with 4:02 to go.
  14. Syracuse was visibly fatigued in this game. By the time they went consistently to the full court press, there just wasn’t anything left in the tank. We understand experiencing that in the Final Four – 2008 against Kansas. It’s going to be hard for any team to have the energy to stay with Carolina. Especially this Syracuse team who only played 7 guys; one of which had 5 minutes, one had 19, and the other 5 players had 30 minutes or more.
  15. The Tar Heels experienced a brain lapse midway through the 2nd It will have to be a complete 40 minute game on Monday night. Villanova will make us pay for a lull of that nature.
  16. Syracuse made the Final Four on the strength of their defense. In their first 4 NCAA Tournament games, they had allowed 51, 50, 60, and 62 points, for an average of 55.75 points. The Heels scored 83 points tonight. In those same first 4 games, Syracuse allowed field goal percentages of 39.6, 29.7 43.6, and 41.5. The Heels shot 53.8% tonight.
  17. Don’t look now, but Kennedy Meeks has strung together 3 strong games in a row. Tonight he had 15 points and 8 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive.

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The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5

Well, we can’t call this column “The Path To Houston” anymore. Why? Because the Tar Heels have made it to the Final Four! So today (and Monday if all goes well), we’ll now call this column “The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5”. For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels will match up for the third time this season with an ACC foe: the 10th-seeded Syracuse Orange. At this point, however, you can throw the seeds out the window because there are only 4 teams left playing, and they are all playing at an extremely high level. Here’s what you need to know for Saturday night’s match-up.

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Final Four: Syracuse

  • 23-13 (9-9)
  • 10th in ACC
  • Stat Leaders (of contributing players)
    • Points: Michael Gbinije – 17.6
    • Assists: Michael Gbinije – 4.4
    • FG%: DaJuan Coleman – 54.1
    • Rebounds: Tyler Roberson – 8.4
    • Steals: Michael Gbinije – 2.0
    • Blocks: Tyler Lydon – 1.8
    • Minutes: Michael Gbinije – 37.9

Previous 2015-16 Games

  • Game 1 – January 9. @ Syracuse. 84-73 UNC. This was Boeheim’s first game back from suspension, was a home game for the Orange, and the Tar Heels had never gone 4-0 under Coach Williams to start ACC play. It had all the makings of the Saints first game back in the SuperDome after Hurricane Katrina, in which the Falcons didn’t stand a chance. The game was tied at 58 with 6:31 to go, and was only a 2-point game (66-64) with 3:19 to go. The Tar Heels then went on a 18-9 over those final minutes to win by 11. The key was not shooting over the vaunted Orange zone(18.8 3PT%), but attacking it from the inside. Brice Johnson had a career-high 8 assists (Paige also had 8 assists), 5 of which came in the final 8:13 of the game as he picked apart the zone from the high post. 7 of the 8 were for dunks or layups. 4 went to Isaiah Hicks who finished the night with 21 points.
  • Game 2 – Febrauary 29. Senior Night. @ North Carolina. 75-70 UNC. On this night, Syracuse showed a more determined effort to stop the ball from getting into the middle of the zone. Marcus Paige once again had 8 assists against the Orange. Brice Johnson had 14 & 10 for just another, ho-hum *yawn* double-double. Tar Heels led by as many as 13 in the 2nd They never trailed, but Syracuse cut the lead to 3 several times within the last 7 minutes, including :07 to go. It was Joel Berry who sent his senior teammates to a senior night victory with two free throws to ice it.

Game Notes

  • Depth – Syracuse’s doesn’t have much. Their depth is very similar to that of Duke. 5 players average 30+ minutes a game with 2 other players averaging 17 and 10 minutes a game. Despite the lack of depth, the zone helps the Orange stay out of foul trouble. At the same time, UNC’s depth and pace should wear out the thin Syracuse bench.
  • 337 – Syracuse’s rank in defensive rebounding percentage. 3 – North Carolina’s rank in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tar Heels must exploit this advantage.
  • In the last 6 NCAA Tournament games as NRG Stadium in Houston (Where the Final Four will be played), the competing teams shot a combined 27.6% from 3. Guess who relies on that shot? Syracuse, Oklahoma, and Villanova. Guess who doesn’t rely on that shot? The North Carolina men’s basketball team. Advantage Tar Heels.

The Record Book

  • Brice Johnson needs 1 rebound to set the Carolina record for most rebounds in a season. He currently has 399 and is tied with Tyler Hansbrough. This would also make Brice the only player in program history with 400 rebounds in a season.
  • Marcus Paige has made 292 3-pointers in his career. He is already #1, but could be the first Tar Heel to hit 300.

Syracuse Starters

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Trevor Cooney 6’4” 195 36.3 12.7 2.5 2.4 34.1 34.9 80.6 1.53 1.58 0.17
Malachi Richardson 6’6” 205 34.3 13.3 4.3 2.1 36.4 35.2 72.7 2.14 1.17 0.28
Michael Gbinije 6’7” 200 37.9 17.6 4.1 4.4 46.8 39.9 66.2 2.81 1.97 0.36
Tyler Roberson 6’8” 226 30.8 9.0 8.4 1.4 48.4 0.00 58.8 1.56 0.78 0.67
DaJuan Coleman 6’9” 268 17.5 4.9 4.7 0.4 54.1 0.00 66.2 1.14 0.69 0.86

Syracuse Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Tyler Lydon 6’8” 210 30.3 10.2 6.3 1.1 48.4 40.9 78.3 1.28 1.08 1.81
Franklin Howard 6’4” 190 10.6 1.7 1.4 1.8 29.5 11.1 53.8 0.87 0.55 0.13

The Numbers

  North Carolina Syracuse
KenPom Rank 2 22
Points per game 83.0 70.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 123.1 (1st) 111.1 (50th)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 95.3 (22nd) 94.3 (16th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.4 (62nd) 65.7 (319th)
Field Goal% 48.2 42.6
2P FG% 54.1 47.2
3P FG% 32.1 36.1
3PA% 26.8 42.2
FT% 74.7 69.4
FT Rate 33.0% 35.9
RPG 40.7 35.9
Offensive Reb Rate 40.3% 33.4%
Defensive Reb Rate 70.0% 65.1%
APG 17.8 13.7
BPG 4.4 4.4
SPG 6.8 8.1
TPG 10.7 11.9
TO Rate 15.3% 18.2%

2 X-Factors:

  1. Carolina’s 3 point shooting. In the first two games against Syracuse, the Tar Heels shot 18.8% and 24.0% from downtown. So far in the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels, as a team have shot 38.2% (26-68) on 3-pointers. Though they’ve done a good job getting to the middle of the Syracuse zone this year, if Carolina can hit 3s and extend the zone, this game could get ugly.
  2. How do Syracuse’s freshmen handle the Final Four stage? From a Syracuse standpoint, it will be interesting to see how freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon (who have both been playing well) respond to playing in this Final Four atmosphere. Will the lights overwhelm them, or are they too young to know any better? Richardson, while inefficient, has been a big time scorer. Lydon has really come on of late, especially on the defensive end. Although he comes off the bench, Lydon is getting starter’s minutes.

Main Key to the Game:

Though Carolina has been shooting the 3 ball better, the most important piece of this game will be getting Brice Johnson the ball early and often at the free throw line. From there he can take (and make) that 15-footer all day or pick the zone apart. Carolina’s ability (or inability) to get the ball to the middle of the zone most likely determines which of these teams will be playing for the national championship on Monday night.

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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