Tag Archives: Clemson Tigers

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 98-96 home overtime loss to Duke on Saturday night.

Condensed Game:




  • I sit here on my couch five hours after the game ended and I am still numb. I am still confused. I am still heartbroken. None of that compares to how the players and coaches must be feeling.
  • Bottom line: if you hit your free throws you win this game. Overall, Carolina went 21-for-38 (55.3 percent) at the free throw line. The most painful thing is that the Heels made just five of 10 in the final 1:11 of regulation. If the Heels make any of those five misses, Tre Jones is never in the position to potentially send the game to overtime.
  • Speaking of that end-of-regulation scenario, how (painfully) ironic that it was nearly identical to the end of the Clemson game? Against Clemson, Carolina forgot to foul up three in the waning seconds and gave up the game-tying three. Against Duke, Carolina did foul (maybe a little too quickly) and everything went the Blue Devils’ way to force overtime.
  • Sticking with free throws, you really have to feel for Garrison Brooks. He went 0-for-7 against Boston College. If he makes any of those, Carolina wins. Tonight he went 0-for-5 (including missing the front end of a 1-and-1. If he makes any of those, Carolina wins. Outside of the missed free throws and five turnovers, Brooks played a really strong game. He shot efficiently (9-for-12 for 18 points) and played solid defense on Player of the Year candidate Vernon Carey.
  • Guess how many shots Garrison Brooks took over the final 8:50 of regulation and the 5:00 of overtime? TWO (And both were off broken plays. On the first, Pierce randomly found Brooks in the lane when he got trapped on the baseline. On the second, Brooks received the ball in a late shot clock situation and had to hoist a shot. There were ZERO times when he received an intentional post feed in a scoring position, which had worked so well earlier in the game.
  • How many times has it happened this year? Carolina builds up a double-digit lead, only to fumble it away at the line or with late turnovers. Tonight, the Heels led by 13 with 3:55 left, 10 with 2:10 left, seven with 1:11 left and five points with 20 seconds left in overtime. It’s like there’s this one missing piece, this one play and if Carolina could just get that they would come out on top.
  • Okay, let’s talk about some positive things. We must turn the tide. Christian Keeling is having his best stretch as a Tar Heel. Against Florida State and Duke, two of the best three teams in the ACC, he has scored double digits back-to-back for the first time all season. In those two games he has hit 10 of his 17 shots, two of three three-pointers, and all five of his free throws.
  • Fellow grad transfer Justin Pierce also had a good night, scoring 11 points. The two combined for 24 points in their first ever Duke game.
  • Pierce scored five straight points for Carolina in what looked like it would be the most important stretch and turning point of the game prior to the outcome being what it was. With 1:51 left before halftime and Carolina clinging to a four point lead, Armando Bacot picked up his second foul and went to the bench to join Garrison Brooks and Leaky Black in the two-foul club. Seldom used Walker Miller came in to guard Vernon Carey, who already had amassed 16 points. In those 111 seconds, Carolina stretched the lead to nine (plus-five in this span) with a line-up of Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Andrew Platek, and Walker Miller. Each team had three possessions. Duke missed a three, hit two free throws (Carey), and had a turnover. Carolina had a Pierce lay-up, a Pierce three, and a Platek (incredibly athletic double-pump) lay-up. Holding off Duke in this stretch to close out the front half (and instead expanding the lead) should have been a huge deal, but instead it will be shelved right alongside Marcus Paige’s three in the 2016 National Championship game. Here’s Platek’s lay-up:


  • Also lost to history will be Brooks’ block on Cassius Stanley with seven seconds remaining in regulation to stop Stanley from tying the game. In the moment, it felt like a game-saving play. Sadly it will just be a footnote.
  • Despite all three of Brooks, Bacot, and Black having two first half fouls, the Heels managed the foul trouble (mostly) wisely and none fouled out in regulation (although Bacot and Black both did in overtime). In his postgame comments, Bacot lamented that he could have secured one of the free throw rebounds had he been in the game. Roy Williams pointed out that Leaky’s defense on Tre Jones would have been beneficial when Jones put the Duke team on his back.
  • Let’s go back to Walker Miller. What must have been going through his head when Bacot fouled out, Brooks was back in the locker room with an injury and he had to step to the free throw line in a tie, overtime situation against Duke? Miller made one of two (although the first nearly dropped as well) to give the Heels a one-point lead which would not be relinquished until the final six seconds of overtime.
  • Duke landed the first punches in overtime, taking a five-point lead just one minute into the extra session. While it appeared the Heels might be out of gas, they responded with an 11-1 run to take a five point lead with 20 seconds left. Unfortunately they never scored again and the Blue Devils reeled off seven straight for the final 98-96 tally.
  • You never want to blame the refs (especially when you miss 17 free throws), however the previously mentioned Duke 7-0 run was helped by an egregious no-call with 12 seconds left and Carolina up one. Brooks inbounded the ball to Platek, who was bumped, resulting in the ball going out of bounds and being awarded to Duke. So rather than shooting two free throws with 12 seconds left and leading by one (with a chance to go up by three), Carolina had to defend, which lead to the game-winning play. Here’s the no-call:


  • Andrew Platek will be quite frustrated with himself for shooting 1-for-4 from the free throw line at the end of regulation and feel like he cost the team the game, but he did some great things. Earlier in the second half, he hit both parts of a one-and-one. On two important plays in the second half, he doubled on Carey, who spun right into the waiting Platek. The first occurrence resulted in a Duke turnover. The second time Carey bulldozed Platek and picked up his fifth foul.
  • As strange as it sounds, Vernon Carey fouling out was a blessing in disguise for Duke. The freshman big man scored 18 in the first half, but had as many points as I did in the second half (zero). He fouled out with Carolina up 13 (77-64) and over the course of the final four minutes of regulation, Duke outscored the Heels 20-7. Carey’s absence opened up the floor for Duke to attack off the dribble, which they did at will.
  • So many good things to be said about what happened in the first 37-38 minutes of the game. Carolina played with intensity. They moved the ball well: assists on 10 of the first 14 field goals. They had a balanced scoring attack: seven Tar Heels scored multiple baskets in the first half and five finished in double-figures. They gang rebounded: seven players had four or more rebounds. Every time Duke punched or threatened, Carolina answered. They were disruptive on defense. Bacot ran the floor really well. On more than one occasion, I uttered: “That’s a Carolina fast break!” Here’s a great example of one of those fast breaks (Kendall Marshall pitch-ahead style):

  • Cole Anthony felt like he was more in the flow of the offense tonight. There was more cohesion. He took fewer shots, made a higher percentage of those shots, got more teammates involved, grabbed 11 rebounds, and hit nine of his 10 free throws. Of course he’s only played 12 college basketball games, so he still made some freshman mistakes. One in particular came with 2:00 left in regulation. Carolina was up nine and Duke applied pressure. Anthony got sped up and didn’t pull the ball back out when he got across the timeline to run some clock, but rather pushed on towards the basket for a difficult and contested lay-up. Duke quickly converted the miss into a three-pointer. Down to a six-point lead with 1:45 to go. From there the game turned into the parade to the free throw line, which we already know how that turned out.
  • As has happened seldom this year, the Tar Heels both hit the 80-point plateau (and in fact scored a season high 96) and achieved a 50 percent field goal success rate. In fact, the first half Carolina shot 59 percent and scored 44 points (the most Duke had given up in a first half this season).
  • Leaky Black played a solid and diverse game before fouling out. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and a career-high nine assists; just a few plays shy of a double-double. Black also seems to have a knack for hitting the first shot of the game. He’s done so multiple times this season, and did so again tonight.
  • Something to keep an eye on: Tonight we saw Leaky Black play some point guard, and Cole Anthony slide over to shooting guard. Not sure if it will be a look Coach Williams employs more, but could be a good wrinkle in the offense.
  • A painful number to see: Carolina led the game for 41:50. Duke led for just 1:47. The game was also tied for 1:23.
  • Just to say it again: Carolina had a double-digit lead as late as 2:07. Very (very) eerily similar to the Clemson loss.
  • Joel Berry was honored at halftime tonight and his jersey hung in the rafters. Great to have him in the house for a game where his late-game sure-handedness and clutch free throw making ability would have come in handy. Here’s video of the halftime ceremony:


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 Wake Forest on Tuesday, February 11. Tip is at 8:00pm ET on ACC Network.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Boston College

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 71-70 home loss to Boston College on Saturday evening.

Condensed Game:


  • If there was any remaining hope for an NCAA Tournament birth, this loss was likely the last nail in that coffin. The goals now for this team are to continue to get better throughout the remaining 10 conference games, look to make an ACC Tournament run, and the hopefully play in some type of postseason tournament.
  • In the recent games that have come down to one possession at the end (Clemson, Virginia Tech, and today), the Tar Heels just haven’t been able to make a final winning play. That said, in each instance there were multiple plays and scenarios earlier in the game that could have mitigated the necessity for a game-winning shot.
  • As was much publicized over the past couple days, Cole Anthony returned to action today. He didn’t start, but did play 25 minutes. Anthony was clearly rusty coming out of the gate and out of sync with his teammates on multiple occasions. The star freshman shot a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line, had 26 total points, five rebounds, three assists, and just one turnover.
  • One question coming into the game was, “How will the starting line-up be affected by Cole Anthony’s return?” Today’s answer: “It wasn’t.” Anthony will certainly be back in the starting rotation sooner than later, but not in this first game back. Leaky Black, Andrew Platek, Brandon Robinson, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot, who have started the last several games together, did so again today.
  • Jeremiah Francis was also able to return to action today, however he played just 2:39 and only in the first half. The coaching staff is clearly taking a cautious approach to his health.
  • A Tar Heel who was not quite as fortunate today on the injury front was senior Brandon Robinson. With Carolina clinging to a one-point lead and 17 seconds remaining, Robinson fouled Jared Hamilton on a three-point shot. When the players came to the ground Robinson once again sprained his right ankle (in addition to fouling out). No determination yet on his timetable to return. P.S. So as to avoid a fine, we’ll stay away from decrying the foul call on this play:

  • Carolina got Boston College’s starting backcourt into some serious foul trouble (thanks mostly to Cole Anthony’s attacking of the rim), but could not finish the job of fouling out either player. Duke transfer Derryk Thornton, in particular, was (ahem…forgive me for the upcoming cheesy dad joke) a thorn in Carolina’s side. After he picked up his fourth foul with 10:06 left in the game, Thornton scored or assisted on 20 of Boston College’s remaining 23 points.

  • Despite a hot start to the game and another double-double (his eighth in the last nine games), what Garrison Brooks will likely remember most from this one (and be most frustrated by) is his 0-for-7 mark at the free throw line (all in the second half). While the missed free throws didn’t lose the game, it will be hard for Brooks to reconcile that making just two of those shots would have won the game.
  • Even with picking up his fourth foul with 8:32 remaining, freshman big man Armando Bacot also secured a double-double (his third in a row and fourth in the last five games), finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Bacot continued his improved free throw shooting, achieving a 7-for-8 mark.
  • Brooks and Bacot once again dominated from the tip, scoring or assisting on Carolina’s first 10 points. However, Cole Anthony checked in right around this time and took six of Carolina’s next 10 shots. Anthony will need to find a way to mix his ball-dominant style of play with the pound-the-ball-inside approach that has given Carolina success of late.
  • The Tar Heels won the rebounding battle, 42-35 and dominated the offensive glass 16 to seven. Despite that dominant advantage, Carolina held just a nine to eight lead in second chance points. The offensive rebounding advantage only translates to a full advantage when Carolina converts second chance points at a high rate.
  • Assist numbers were way down today. The Heels managed just nine on 22 made baskets. In fact, the team committed more turnovers (12) than they dished out assists (nine).
  • With Anthony and Francis back in the line-up, Carolina now has the capability to comfortably go nine-deep into the bench. Unfortunately, with Robinson’s injury and unknown return, that depth may once again be in jeopardy.
  • Sterling Manley and Anthony Harris were both on the bench in suits today. It was encouraging to get to see both players able to sit with their team during the game. Hopefully, they will be able to push each other as they work diligently on their respective recoveries from leg injuries.
  • Boston College built a ten-point lead (48-38) with 12:12 remaining in the game. Carolina responded with an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to get back in the game. The game was back and forth the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than three over the final 5:00.
  • There was an eerily similar to the end of the Clemson game feeling that took place at the 3:00 minute mark. Hanging onto a three-point lead, Carolina gave up a jumper and promptly turned the ball over on the inbounds pass. The Heels forced a missed shot but couldn’t secure the rebound and wound up surrendering another basket and the lead. At that moment there was a twinge of “Oh no, not again!” in my head. Here’s the first part of that sequence:

  • Despite not pulling out the win, there were several strong plays down the stretch. Justin Pierce had an incredible tip-in off a Cole Anthony miss. A couple of possessions later, Brandon Robinson had a nice drive and lay-up to grab a one-point lead. On the next possession, Bacot found Brooks for a lay-up plus the foul. Brooks missed the foul shot, but Carolina got the offensive rebound, resulting in two of Cole Anthony’s 14 free throws. Here’s video of the Pierce tip-in:

  • The inexperience of working a player back in reared its ugly head in the final three Tar Heel possessions. In each of those, Boston College went to a zone defense. On two of the three possessions (including the final shot), Cole Anthony took a contested late shot clock three that missed. On the other possession Cole Anthony split the defense for a runner in the lane. Not once in those three possessions did Brooks or Bacot have an opportunity to make a winning play inside. Here’s the final play:

  • Back to the drawing board. The Tar Heels have a tough week ahead of them. They face a quick turnaround in Tallahassee on Monday night against Florida State before hosting Duke in the Dean Dome on Saturday.

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 Florida State on Monday, February 3. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 75-65 road win over NC State on Monday night.

Condensed Game:


  • How exactly did Carolina follow-up their success from Saturday’s win over Miami when they went on the road to play a potential NCAA Tournament-caliber opponent in NC State? They follow it up with another win. This has to be a great feeling for those young men and coaches who have continued to work tirelessly to get better.
  • As has often been true this season, Garrison Brooks deserves the statistical accolades and top billing, but tonight we must start with Brandon Robinson. This poor guy has had a rough go of it in the 2019-20 basketball season. A sprained ankle in the exhibition game kept him out of the first four games of the year. He missed another just last week recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident. He’s hobbled off the court in multiple other games to get ankles re-taped. Tonight he fought through tweaking his right ankle and some sort of rib injury. On three different occasions he left the court for medical attention. But he just kept coming back, and in total played 29:32. Despite his aching midsection, Robinson secured an important offensive rebound in the closing minutes and, as you undoubtedly saw, nailed four straight free throws to close the game (after his teammates had just missed five straight). Robinson definitely wins tonight’s “tough little nut” award.
  • Okay, now it’s your turn Mr. Brooks. Brooks was an absolute beast out of the gate. He scored the first two Carolina points with 17:10 left in the first half and by the time the clock showed 14:24 he was up to 10 points. Just to make sure you get what a big deal that is – Carolina as a team has rarely scored 10 points in a three-minute span this season and here Garrison Brooks was doing that all by himself. He got back on the double-double train (seven in the last eight games) by finishing with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. What a season this guy is having. Here are some of Brooks’ highlights from tonight:
  • Carolina has been at their strongest when both big men contribute in big ways. Tonight was no different. Armando Bacot had 11 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. He was a steady 7-for-11 from the free throw line. Bacot’s most impressive stretch was two and-one potential plays just before halftime. He completed the first free throw, but missed the second. But as you might guess (because this is what he always does apparently), Brooks was there for the offensive rebound and putback. Here’s the first of the two plays before halftime:
  • The Heels were one made field goal and five points away from back-to-back games of 50% field goal shooting and reaching 80 points. They shot 49.1% (28-for-57) from the field. Making one extra of those shots would have put the team over 50%.
  • Andrew Platek’s assist-to-turnover numbers were negative (1:2) for the first time since he’s been in the starting line-up, but he contributed in multiple other ways. He played solid defense and contributed eight points (on 4-for-5 shooting). The biggest of those buckets helped push the Carolina lead back to 10 after an NC State surge. The Wolfpack had cut the lead to four with 6:36 left. Platek and Leaky Black both scored and with 3:47 remaining Platek received an outlet pass from Garrison Brooks, found NC State’s transition defense in a state of disarray (even though four of them were back on defense) and promptly drove for an easy lay-up. The Heels never led by fewer than eight points the rest of the way. Here’s video of Platek’s lay-up:

  • Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling didn’t have overwhelming nights, but did contribute seven straight Carolina points midway through the second half to push a three-point lead back to eight.
  • Injury watch: Jeremiah Francis sat out again. Today marked the six-week point for Cole Anthony following his surgery. You have to think he’ll be back sooner rather than later.
  • As I’ve documented, Carolina has pushed to double-digit leads in multiple ACC games that they’ve lost this year. Thankfully, in this one they were able to maintain their lead. Had the Heels held on against Clemson and Virginia Tech, they would be 5-4 in the ACC and tied for fifth, rather than sitting alone in 12th.
  • The possibility of a loss similar to Clemson was present in the closing minutes. Carolina was up 10 with 2:00 to go. Rather than standard turnovers, they missed five straight free throws (three of which were the front end of one-and-ones), which might as well have been turnovers. Unlike Clemson though, NC State couldn’t capitalize and Brandon Robinson sealed the deal. The most glaring difference tonight (at least Roy Williams would say so) is that Carolina had three timeouts for those final minutes.
  • Carolina showed strong road resilience tonight. NC State jumped out to a 7-0 and 9-2 lead. However, the Heels employed traps and quickly tied the game at 12 behind the Garrison Brooks barrage. The basket that tied the game at 12 featured multiple misses and offensive rebounds right at the rim for Carolina before Brooks finally got the tip-in. My family was watching the game at a restaurant and my four-year-old said “miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, HE DID IT!”
  • The Tar Heel resilience allowed the team to grab its first lead at 16-14. They eventually took a 39-35 advantage to the locker room and never trailed in the second half.
  • NC State made a lay-up with 6:36 remaining and didn’t score again until 1:35 remained in the game. Tough to win with a 5:00 scoring drought to essentially close out the game.
  • Despite Brooks’ gaudy scoring numbers, three other Tar Heels reached double figures in the scoring column (Bacot, Robinson, and Black each had 11).

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Boston College on Saturday, February 1. Tip is at 6:00pm ET on ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 66-52 road loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:


  • Carolina has now dropped four straight to start the main body of ACC play. After losing 10 days ago to Pitt in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels once again fell victim to the Panthers and Coach Williams stays frozen at 879 victories.
  • Garrison Brooks is doing everything he can to put Carolina on his back. He now has five straight double-doubles (16 points, 13 rebounds in this one). On the season, Brooks is close to averaging a double-double: 14.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.
  • Holding it down with Brooks in the front court, Armando Bacot also turned in a strong performance today. He totaled 12 points and 11 assists.
  • Two glaring statistical issues tell the story of the day; the first of which is turnovers. In the first half, the Heels committed 11 turnovers while making just eight field goals in the same time frame. Five of those turnovers came on five straight possessions midway through the first half. For the game, Carolina had more turnovers (16) than assists (11).
  • The second statistical issue is not a new story: free throw shooting. While difficult to believe, it’s true, Carolina shot UNDER 50 percent from the free throw line today (10-for-21, 47.6 percent). In a season where the team struggles offensively, leaving free points at the free throw line makes it even more difficult to win. Even Garrison Brooks fell victim, shooting just 2-for-8 from the charity stripe.
  • Andrew Platek has now started the past two games and has shown a real penchant for putting his teammates in position to succeed. In the two games he has totaled 10 assists versus just two turnovers, good for an absurd 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • An already depleted team had to finish without Brandon Robinson and Armando Bacot, who both fouled out.
  • The highlight of the day came just over a minute into the game. It was an unbelievably athletic play from Garrison Brooks for Carolina’s first bucket. He contorted his body to lay in an alley-oop from Andrew Platek while someone was undercutting him. Brooks missed free throw but Bacot tipped out the rebound. The ball came back to Bacot who found a wide-open Leaky Black for a three. The gave the Tar Heels a 5-2 lead (the only lead of the day).

  • The good news is that Carolina never stopped fighting and was able to cut Pitt’s lead to 10 with 1:49 left in the game. As we know all-too-well from the Clemson game last Saturday, 10 points in that amount of time can be overcome. Unfortunately, Garrison Brooks missed a wide-open lay-up which would have cut the lead to eight and Pittsburgh pushed the lead back to the final 14 point margin.
  • Some more potential injury concern: Justin Pierce limped off the court with some type of lower leg injury.
  • On the positive side of the injury epidemic: Brandon Robinson was able to start and play 32 minutes despite being involved in a car accident a week ago (although he missed the final 5:55 after fouling out). Jeremiah Francis, who missed the last game, didn’t start but was able to play 15 minutes. Here’s Robinson talking more about his accident:
  • Pittsburgh curiously piled up five fouls in the first 4:40 of the second half. However, even when the Heels got to the bonus, as you know from the previously mentioned free throw statistics, they couldn’t take advantage
  • Pittsburgh shot terribly in the second half: 22.7 percent on field goals and 10 percent on three pointers. Over the final 15 minutes of the game, the Panthers made precisely ONE field goal. Despite all of this ugly shooting, Carolina still only outscored Pitt by six in those 20 minutes.
  • Carolina shot 31.7 percent for the game. That now makes 17 straight games to start the season without shooting 50 percent for an entire game.
  • Curiously, KJ Smith didn’t play. He was in uniform and on the bench. He’s played in literally ever contest this year other than the season opener when he was sidelined with an injury. Is he suffering from an injury? Was it a conscious decision by Coach Williams to cut his minutes?

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 Virginia Tech on Wednesday, January 22. Tip is at 8:00ET on ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Clemson

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-76 overtime home loss to Clemson on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:


  • An absolute soul-crushing disappointment in Chapel Hill today. The Tar Heels led by 10 points with 2:00 remaining, but managed to lose the game. The heartbreaking thing is that for 38 minutes, Carolina played tough, they were aggressive, they shared the ball, the defense looked a lot better, and everything seemed to be pointing to a historic win, but it was not meant to be. In a season full of low points, perhaps we have reached the bottom.
  • Unfortunately, this loss means that not only has Coach Williams still not passed Coach Smith for fourth place on the all-time Division 1 wins list, but that the unbelievable win streak in Chapel Hill against Clemson ends at 59.
  • In any game that goes to overtime (especially one in which you led by 10 points with 2:00 remaining), you will inevitably play the “what-if” game. Here are a few big ones:
    • With just seconds remaining before halftime, Armando Bacot tipped out a rebound in an effort to run out the clock, but the ball went straight to a Clemson Tiger who buried a three-pointer to cut the Tar Heel lead to 10. Without that shot, Carolina wins.
    • With 10:00 left in regulation, Armando Bacot got a steal leading to a monstrous fast break dunk to put Carolina up eight. Roy Williams was incensed, believing that a foul should have been called. Meanwhile, Clemson abruptly went to the other end and buried a three to pull the game back within five. If that foul is called (and Bacot hits the free throw), Carolina is up nine instead of five.
    • Up three points with 12 seconds remaining in overtime, the Tar Heels elected not to foul, which resulted in Clemson burying the game-tying three-pointer. According to Coach Williams in the post-game press conference, he forgot to remind the team to do so in the timeout before that play.
  • The injuries just keep mounting: Today, Jeremiah Francis was in street clothes due to concerns over knee soreness. Carolina has paid enough injury dues this season to last them the entire 2020-2029 decade.
  • Carolina’s turnover numbers weren’t all that glaring – 10. Curiously, they had committed just six with 2:00 remaining in the game, but coughed up three during those final two minutes of regulation. Clemson, meanwhile was busy hitting three three-pointers in that same stretch. Here are the turnovers:

  • Due to Francis’ injury, Andrew Platek got his first career start and made the most of it. He scored eight points and had career highs in both rebounds (eight) and assists (six). If you were to nitpick, you could certainly question some of his shot decisions (early shot clock threes down the stretch and at the beginning of overtime), but all-in-all Platek played admirably.
  • Carolina had uncharacteristically not made 50% of their shots in any one single game so far this season. Today was game number 16, and after Brandon Robinson’s three-pointer with 5:25 remaining in regulation they were sitting at exactly 50% (25-for-50) shooting. From there, the Heels missed their final six shots in regulation and shot 3-for-10 in overtime.
  • Armando Bacot seems to have emerged from his rough patch. Against Pittsburgh and Clemson, he shot a combined 13-for-21 from the field and 10-for-14 from the free throw line for a total of 36 points.
  • Despite a slow offensive start (two points in the first 25 minutes), Garrison Brooks scored 13 to extend his double-digit scoring streak to seven straight games and his 11 rebounds extended his double-double streak to four straight games.
  • For the second time this season, Justin Pierce has scored zero points in back-to-back games. Curiously, these most two recent performances come immediately on the heels of back-to-back double-digit scoring outputs against Yale and Georgia Tech.
  • Similar to Garrison Brooks’ performance against Georgia Tech in a losing effort, Brandon Robinson was absolutely sensational this afternoon. He scored a career high 27 points, hit two clutch free throws to put Carolina up three with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, carried the Tar Heels offensively in the first half with 19 points.
  • One curiously glaring number is that Clemson managed to match Carolina on the glass, 39-39. Watching the game, it was clear that Clemson was getting a fair share of rebounds (more so than the Heels usually surrender), but it still felt that Carolina won the rebounding battle. The numbers told a different story.
  • As previously mentioned, Carolina shared the ball more capably today than in recent games. The assist total was 18 (on 28 made shots). Interestingly, the Heels assisted on the first four made baskets of the game, the first three of which all went to Andrew Platek.
  • Credit to the big guys for staying out of first half foul trouble. Carolina was playing with an already shortened bench (which was made even shorter with Francis out) and Armando Bacot picked up a quick foul and Garrison Brooks got his second midway through the first half. Both players were able to stay away from adding to these totals, which enabled Carolina to keep the Tigers at bay in the first half.
  • Hard to know what to say and where to go from here. It’s obvious that the injuries (to players in street clothes and those who are still playing) are severely limiting Carolina’s ability to win consistently. How do you salvage this type of season? Are there moral victories? As coaches, do you start getting younger guys as much experience as possible for next year? With Carolina losing these three very winnable games, does Cole Anthony elect to not suit back up? Keep in mind – these are 18-to-22 year old young men. Continue to cheer them on, continue to root for them, continue to encourage them. Their worth as humans is not (or at least should not be) tied to their ability to put an orange ball through a hoop at a higher rate than their opponents. Chin up, Tar Heel fans.

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 Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 18. Tip is at 12:00ET on one of the ESPN Networks (TBD).

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 73-65 home loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

Condensed Game:




  • We are now 15 games into the season and Carolina has failed to shoot 50% from the field in a single game.
  • With the win, Pitt breaks a 22 game ACC road losing streak. This was also their first victory ever in Chapel Hill (0-7 before this game).
  • In a reversal from the Georgia Tech loss on Saturday, this game had a rather promising first half. Carolina was hustling, the offense looked more efficient, and the defense held Pitt to 32.1% shooting, including just 1-for-10 from deep.
  • With the game tied at 14, Carolina took control of the first half when Xavier Johnson picked up his second foul and went to the bench. Carolina immediately went on a 13-2 scoring run to take a 27-16 led and eventually lead by as many as 14 points, before finishing the half up nine. The lead could have been bigger, but some careless turnovers (harbingers of what was to come in the second half) prevented that from becoming a reality.
  • The second half was a completely different story. It’s hard to put your finger on just one issue as the main culprit, but carelessness with the basketball is what seemed to prime the pump of Pitt’s comeback. Jeremiah Francis and Leaky Black handled the majority of the point guard duties and combined for seven of the 17 turnovers, many of which were of the live ball variety. KJ Smith also had a turnover in his three-plus minutes on the court running the point.
  • As Pitt’s confidence grew in the second half, so did their three-point shooting. The team that had just shot 1-for-10 in the first half from three suddenly went 8-for-12 (70%). That’s a better percentage from the three-point line in the second half than Carolina shot from the free throw line. Freshman Justin Champagnie led the Panther charge from deep, burying four threes over the course of just four minutes of game action.
  • While Carolina’s defense was once again struggling in the second half (the last two opponents have shot 63% and 58%), the offense was also losing its way. With no Cole Anthony to confidently run the point guard position, the offense looks discombobulated at times. The ball moves east and west around the perimeter several times before someone has to hoist a desperation three.
  • There is no question that this team struggles offensively; the statistics and advanced metrics bear out that reality. Therefore, in order to be successful, defense will have to be the calling card of this crew. Thus far, that has not been the case. Never count out Coach Williams’ ability to get his team bought in.
  • Garrison Brooks followed up his monster game against Georgia Tech with his third straight double-double and sixth straight scoring in double-figures. His tally for this game was 21 points (9-for-12 shooting), 10 rebounds, and interestingly, hit his first career three-pointer in an end-of-shot-clock situation.
  • Armando Bacot had a nice bounce back game, scoring 15 points (6-for-11 shooting), grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out four assists (although he did have four turnovers). Bacot looked more aggressive and engaged throughout the first half and the beginning part of the second.
  • The Brooks / Bacot combination carried the offensive load, scoring 36 of the team’s 65 points. This is great news for a Roy Williams-coached team. Unfortunately, there is not currently a dynamic point guard in uniform to balance the front court and back court.
  • Brandon Robinson has scored in double figures four games in a row; the longest such stretch of his career.
  • It’s clear that Coach Williams is doing anything he can to find a nuance to help his team or throw off the opponent. At the beginning of the game, Carolina was trapping every ball screen they could. The Heels secured a turnover on the first possession of the game, but didn’t have as much success afterwards.
  • In this injury-laden season, it was a nice change to get Andrew Platek back on the court. He hustled and was aggressive, apparently trying to fill the void left by Anthony Harris. Shortly after checking in for the first time, Platek had a steal and ensuing fast break lay-up. At this point, you need all the bodies you can get to field a competitive team.
  • To that end, while no one left the game, Carolina continues to have injury concerns. Brandon Robinson had medical attention more than once on the bench. Garrison Brooks took a hard fall and on another occasion landed on his elbow going for a loose ball. Jeremiah Francis appeared to be hobbling at one point and was examined by Doug Halverson on the bench.
  • Every starter committed a turnover, and four of the five had at least three.
  • Free throws continue to be an issue. Tonight the Heels shot 10-for-17 (58.8%).
  • A positive take-away: eight of the nine Tar Heels who played scored at least one point.
  • Christian Keeling’s minutes continue to dwindle. Tonight was the fewest minutes he has played all season (6:00).

Roy Williams postgame press conference:


Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Clemson on Saturday, January 11. Tip is at 4:30ET on Regional Sports Networks.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Clemson

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-79 road win over Clemson on Saturday night.


  • See what happened on that last play was…well…and then…okay, so…ummm….yeah. In all seriousness, you never expect to get a favorable call on the road in an end-of-game scenario, but that’s what happened. While it seemed like perhaps Garrison Brooks fouled Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell as he drove to the bucket in the waning seconds, the refs didn’t call it, so it wasn’t a foul and Carolina won by two. Coby White made a heads’ up play on that Clemson drive to save the ensuing loose ball to Garrison Brooks, who got the ball ahead to Kenny Williams. Williams wisely threw the ball ahead to the other end of the court where the clock ran out before Clemson could recover the ball and get a shot off.
  • Yes, the clock was still running when Clemson recovered and the player got the shot off before the clock said zero. However, the clock had stopped for approximately 1.8 seconds during the scrum on the other end and Clemson’s Hail Mary was released with 0.2 remaining. So the shot wouldn’t have counted if it had gone; thusly Williams’ play was brilliant.
  • While we all care a great deal about the results of a basketball game, the more important concern on Saturday was the health of Roy Williams. Just before halftime, Coach Williams went down with one of his bouts of vertigo that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from time to time. Unfortunately, this episode wasn’t one where he just popped back up and was fine. Coach was escorted to the locker room by Doug Halverson and Eric Hoots and did not return to the court for the rest of the game. Steve Robinson filled in admirably and helped guide the Heels to victory.
  • With the win, Carolina is 8-0 on the road in ACC games. This means that a win at Boston College on Tuesday would be just the second time since the ACC expanded to 18 games in 2012-13 that a team has finished 9-0 on the road in conference play (Virginia achieved that feat last season).
  • Coby White started the game on fire. In the first eight minutes, he had 14 points including four three-pointers. He finished with a game high 28 points, to go along with six rebounds, five assists, two steals, but unfortunately five turnovers. White now has 70 threes on the season, the second-most ever by a Tar Heel freshman. Rashad McCants holds the record with 72.
  • Just another ho-hum double-double for Luke Maye (13 points, 10 rebounds), his twelfth of the year. Maye is tied for 15th all-time at Carolina with 854 rebounds and is 49th in points with 1286.
  • Clemson big man Elijah Thomas is precisely the type of player the Heels have struggled with the past two seasons. He exploded for 10 points, nine rebounds, and two assists in the first half. However, a third foul early in the second half limited his production to just three more points, two more rebounds, and one assist.
  • Welcome back Sterling Manley, now shoot two free throws with nobody standing on the lane. With 54 seconds remaining before halftime, Manley checked in for the first time since the Davidson game back on December 29 and immediately took an elbow to the face from Elijah Thomas. Thomas was assessed a Flagrant 1. Manley made one of two free throws and Cam Johnson hit a three on the ensuing possession.
  • Speaking of Cam Johnson, he scored 19 points, 18 of which came from six three-pointers (on just eight attempts). The efficient shooting brought his season percentage from deep up to a ridiculous 48.1 percent. His 78 made threes so far this season is already tied for 15th in a single season in Carolina history.
  • On the flip side of three-point shooting is Kenny Williams. He hasn’t hit from deep in four straight games and is 0-for-14 in that stretch. But as Kenny Williams does, he’s found other ways to contribute. In that same stretch he has 13 assists and just five turnovers. He has multiple drawn charges. It was Williams who huddled the team together to rally the troops and settle everyone down after Coach Williams’ vertigo episode. It was Williams who hit a couple mid-range shots down the stretch. It was Williams who grabbed Coby White to assure him after White prematurely fouled in the closing moments. It was Williams who hit three of four free throws to help seal the win. I’ll say it til I’m blue in the face: Senior. Leadership. Matters.

  • There were some interesting line-up combinations on Saturday. For a stretch in both halves, Coby White and Seventh Woods were both on the floor, seemingly in an effort to get White some off-the-ball scoring opportunities. It will be interesting to see if Coach Williams utilizes this combination more going forward.
  • Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks, and Coby White each finished the game with four fouls. Maye and Brooks played the last three minutes and change saddled with four. This is when the depth that Coach Williams develops each year becomes important. You never know when a similar scenario will happen going forward and the Heels will need to call on Brandon Huffman (& hopefully Sterling Manley) to provide some key minutes.
  • Huffman and Manley both helped down the stretch of the first half. Huffman in particular showed great tenacity on the offensive boards leading to a Nassir Little put-back and and-one.

  • To that end, 11 different players saw the court in the first half for Carolina. Keep in mind, this is with Leaky Black still on the bench in street clothes.
  • A takeaway from this game will be end-of-game awareness. After a Cam Johnson three gave Carolina a seven-point lead with 1:15 to go, Coby White turned the ball over near mid-court. So instead of a seven point lead with under one minute remaining, Clemson cut the lead to five with still more than a minute. This was not the only issue, but the one that stands out the most as causing more end-of-game pressure than was necessary. That said, the Heels did what they needed to do from the free throw line to escape with a win, including making the front end of several 1-and-1s.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the final road game of the season against Boston College on Tuesday, March 5. Tip is at 8:00ET on Raycom and WatchESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Syracuse

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


  • 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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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-72 road win over Duke on Wednesday night.


  • How absolutely sublime that in a year when all anyone can talk about is Duke’s freshmen, it was Carolina’s senior leadership that won this game. Luke Maye finished with 30 points (his first 20-point game against Duke), 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers. Cameron Johnson had 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. And while Kenny Williams didn’t have the scoring numbers, he drew three charges, had five rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. Maye has scored 20+ in four of the last six games, while Johnson has 27 and 26 points in the last two.
  • While the seniors had really strong games, the freshmen unfortunately struggled. Coby White finished with six turnovers and nine points, but on 3-for-14 shooting. He did corral five rebounds, dish out three assists and have two blocks. Nassir Little was essentially a non-factor and Leaky Black is still in street clothes.
  • With the freshmen struggling, it was up to the juniors and sophomores to help out. With White struggling, Seventh Woods provided 12 strong minutes. He scored five points, drew a charge, passed out three assists and had two steals. One of those steals led to the vicious Garrison Brooks dunk right before halftime. Speaking of Brooks, he was the other unexpected scoring contributor – 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two steals.
  • The aforementioned Brooks dunk right before halftime was part of the most important sequence of the game. With 1:30 remaining before halftime, Duke cut the Carolina lead to five. Over the next 90 seconds, the Heels went on a 5-0 run to rebuild a double-digit lead. On two occasions early in the second half, Duke cut the lead back to nine, but the Heels led by double-digits for the remaining 18 minutes of the game. A week after Duke’s impressive comeback against Louisville, Carolina knew they had to keep playing. Every time Duke made a push, the Heels responded right back.
  • If you told me before the game that Carolina was going to shoot 2-for-20 from three and that Coby White was going to shoot 3-for-14 and have six turnovers, I would have thought there was no way Carolina wins. This team has been so dependent upon the outside shot this year.
  • Carolina wasn’t the only team to struggle from deep. The two teams combined to shoot 3-for-34 from three in the first half. Duke wound up shooting 8-for-39 for the game.
  • Part of the reason Carolina was able to overcome those shooting woes was their points in the paint. The Heels scored 30 of their first 32 points in the paint (12 of which were second chance buckets). Duke allows 30.0 points in the paint per game this season. Carolina more than doubled that number, finishing with a whopping 62.
  • And part of the reason Carolina was able to get those inside points was a knee injury to Zion Williamson less than a minute into the game. It’s unfortunate for the young man, who is a transcendent athlete. Hopefully he’ll be okay. It was obvious (with apologies to Tre Jones) that Williamson is the one who sets the defensive tone for Duke. Without him, the Blue Devils are extremely vulnerable defensively; particularly in the paint. The Williamson-less Blue Devils we saw tonight reminded me more of last year’s poor defensive team than the unit I’ve seen this year in Durham.
  • An important factor in Williamson’s absence was the freedom it allowed Luke Maye. Maye, who would have had a much more difficult time navigating Williamson’s defense, quickly scored six points against the replacement (Jack White) and was then off and running to a 30-point game.
  • Duke fans will say the injury cost Duke the game (and it certainly had a great impact), but the same could be said for Carolina’s game against Virginia last week. A game in which Carolina came much closer to winning than Duke did tonight. Even without Zion, Duke still has three of the top 10 freshmen (and two of the presumptive top-five NBA Draft picks) in the country. Plus, the game was played at Cameron (a.k.a. Hansbrough) Indoor Stadium.
  • It’s so vitally important to get off to a good start on the road (see Carolina’s 18-0 opening against Wake on Saturday). The Tar Heels jumped on top early, never trailed and built a double-digit lead seven-and-a-half minutes into the game.
  • 160 total points were scored in the game. Only 44 of those points (27.5 percent) were scored by someone not named Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish.
  • Carolina is now 7-0 in the ACC in road games. The remaining two are at Clemson and at Boston College. Only one team has ever gone 9-0 on the road in ACC play – Virginia in 2017-18.
  • This was the 11th time in the Roy Williams / Mike Krzyzewski era that Carolina and Duke have met as top-10 opponents. After tonight’s win, Carolina now holds a 6-5 advantage in those games.

  • With the win (and given the tiebreaker over NC State), Carolina is now guaranteed no worse than the seventh seed in the ACC Tournament, including a first round bye.
  • The Heels are tied for first in the ACC with Virginia and Duke. Carolina’s next two games are against Florida State and Syracuse, the teams tied for fourth (and two games back in the loss column). The results of those two games will go a long way to determining who winds up with the top four seeds in the ACC Tournament (which comes with a first and second round bye). Carolina has the scheduling advantage of playing both these games in the Dean Dome.
  • Carolina now has victories over two of the four current projected number one seeds (Duke and Gonzaga) and came a few plays away from a third (Virginia). Duke has two wins over Virginia, but, outside of that, the Tar Heels arguably own the best pair of wins in the country.
  • Something to keep your eye on: Cam Johnson can’t seem to catch a break on the nagging injury front. This was the third game he’s missed part of because of an injury. Tonight he hurt his left ankle when stepping on a photographer four minutes into the second half. He came back in a couple minutes later and promptly hit a mid-range shot and later drew a charge. However, he appeared to re-tweak the ankle in the last minute of the game. Hopefully Cam will be okay for the quick turnaround against Florida State on Saturday.
  • Many celebrities were on hand for the game. Most notably was President Obama. Others included Spike Lee, Todd Gurley, Greg Olsen and Ken Griffey Jr.


Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Florida State on Saturday, February 23. Tip is at 3:45ET on CBS.

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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.