Tag Archives: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Iona (NCAA Tournament – 1st Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-73 win over Iona on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • With Luke Maye’s 16 points tonight, three different Tar Heels have scored 500 points this year (Cam Johnson – 580, Coby White – 530, Maye – 502). That’s happened seven previous times in program history. Those seasons each worked out pretty well: 3 National Championships (1992-93, 2008-09, 2016-17), 1 National Runner-Up (1980-81), 2 Final Fours (1994-95, 1997-98), and 1 Elite Eight (1986-87).
  • Roy Williams is now 29-0 all-time in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament.

  • Cam Johnson has made 91 three-pointers this season. He is just the fifth Tar Heel to hit 90 threes in a single season. Justin Jackson (105), Shammond Williams (95), Marcus Paige (94), and Joel Berry (93) are the other four.

  • Coby White now has one or fewer turnovers in four of the last five games. He had achieved this just three times in his 28 games prior.

  • At halftime, both teams had 14 defensive rebounds. The difference was that Carolina also had 14 offensive rebounds to Iona’s two. The Gaels only managed 10 more rebounds the rest of the game, none of which were offensive. Overall, Carolina doubled up Iona on the glass 52-26 and had 25 second chance points to the Gaels’ three.
  • Interestingly, no Tar Heel had double-digit rebounds, but all five starters had between six and nine.
  • This projected to be a high-scoring game with both teams in the top-50 in tempo according to KenPom. However, Iona decided to slow the game down and try to take Carolina out of transition. It worked in the first half with the Heels only scoring two fast break points in that stretch.
  • A big part of why Iona’s plan worked is that they hit 10 three-pointers in the first half while Carolina struggled to run offense against the Gaels’ match-up zone. The second half, however, was a different story. The Gaels hit their second three-pointer of the second half, before missing their next 12 by which point the Heels were up by 18.
  • It’s always a question how freshmen will respond to their first NCAA Tournament game. While most of the team was struggling in the first half, it was Coby White and Nassir Little who led the way offensively. White scored eight of the team’s first 12. Nassir Little picked up his second foul with 8:49 left before halftime, but stayed in the game and proceeded to score Carolina’s next three buckets. Little finished second on the team in scoring with 19 (behind Johnson’s 21) on an efficient 9-for-13 shooting.

  • While being less of a factor than his classmates, Leaky Black saw his first game action since spraining his ankle on January 29 against Georgia Tech. He secured three rebounds in the last four minutes of the first half and played well other than a turnover in the closing seconds before halftime.
  • The seniors were the primary culprits of the first-half woes. The three combined to shoot 6-for-22, including 1-for-8 from three point range. But then the second half happened. After halftime, Carolina went on an 11-3 run to grab a 44-41 lead. All 11 of those points were scored by the senior trio, who shot a combined 10-for-15 (4-for-6 from deep) in the second half. After the 11-3 run, Iona scored the next two points before the Heels reeled off a backbreaking 19-4 run to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • It was another balanced scoring night for the Tar Heels, with five Tar Heels in double figures and Kenny Williams chipping in eight.
  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, keep an eye on his right knee. He checked out of the game with just a couple minutes remaining and had the training staff check him out.

  • The second round will be an interesting match-up against Washington, whose head coach, Mike Hopkins, was a long-time Syracuse assistant and runs Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense. It’s worth noting that since Syracuse came to the ACC, the Tar Heels are 8-1 against the Orange (the only loss coming in the teams’ first ACC match-up). In those games, the Tar Heels have averaged 20 assists per game and assisted on 69.2 percent of made field goals. In the three most recent meetings, those numbers jump to 21.3 assists per game, while assisting on an absurd 81.0 percent of made field goals.

Roy Williams, Nassir Little, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Washington on Sunday, March 24. Tip is approximately 2:40ET (following Iowa/Tennessee) on CBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-70 home win over Duke on Saturday night.

Highlights:

  • Let me start by both apologizing and bragging. This final regular season edition of Quick Hitters is coming to you late, but for good reason. I watched this Carolina/Duke rivalry game from the comfort of a hospital room because my daughter, Poppy Ann Schade, was born on Friday (International Woman’s Day). In her lifetime Carolina has won an ACC Championship, is undefeated, and has never lost to Duke. Maybe she’ll be a good luck charm for the Heels in March (and April?!).

  • You probably won’t hear this on ESPN, but Carolina has now won three games in a row against Duke, four of the last five, and six of the last nine.
  • Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but the Heels have put themselves in great position for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps they now even have a shot at playing closer to home since a one seed would likely be at Duke’s expense. There are many story lines to unfold over the next week before the brackets are revealed next Sunday.
  • The winner of the second Carolina/Duke game of the season has gone deeper in the NCAA Tournament 11 of the past 12 years. Furthermore, 11 of those 12 teams have made it to the Elite 8 or better (2014 is the lone exception in both cases). Will the same be true this year? Let’s hope so.
  • Virginia’s victory over Carolina earlier in the season ultimately came back to bite the Heels. Virginia’s victory over Louisville just prior to the Carolina/Duke game gave the Cavs at least a share of the conference title, but assured them of the one seed in the ACC Tournament. As we know, the Heels tied the Cavs for the ACC regular season championship, but received the two seed because of the head-to-head loss.
  • There are so many plays and players to talk about. Let’s start with the seniors. First up: Kenny Williams. It has been well documented that Williams has struggled with his three-point shot this season. A career 36.8 percent three-point shooter, he was shooting just 28.2 percent and was 0-for-his-last-15 heading into the Boston College game. On senior night, Williams connected on four threes (a season high) and has gone 6-for-12 in the past two games.
  • Against Duke, Williams was second on the team in scoring with 18 points, grabbed six rebounds, had three assists, one block and one steal. That would be a complete stat line for most people, but as we are all aware, there’s more from Kenny Williams. He drew four (FOUR!!) charges in the game; three of which were against Duke’s leading scorer, RJ Barrett. He also played his usual strong man-to-man defense including forcing Cam Reddish into an off-balance contested three-pointer just before half time. What a time for Kenny Williams to have his best game of his senior season.

  • The other two seniors, Luke Maye and Cam Johnson didn’t fare very well in the first half. They combined to shoot 3-for-11 and both picked up two fouls, although they did combine for 10 rebounds. The second half, however, started off with the seniors scoring 12 straight points for Carolina to turn a 40-38 halftime deficit into a 55-44 lead. Johnson finished with a double-double (14 pts / 10 reb). He now has double-doubles in back-to-back games for the first time, three in the last five games and five total on the season (all in ACC play). While Maye didn’t get a double-double, he did come within shouting distance of a triple-double, finishing with seven points, 16 rebounds, and a career-high seven assists.
  • Luke Maye now has 890 rebounds in has career. 10 more rebounds will make him just the 12th Tar Heel to reach the 900 milestone. Maye has averaged 18 rebounds over the last two games. For context, that’s the exact same number as Sean May in 2005.

  • One more note on the seniors: Typically, senior night features a walk-on or two in the starting line-up. However, the only three graduates on this years’ roster are already in the starting line-up so the typical five started the game.
  • You’ll recall that Coby White struggled in round one against Duke (nine points on 3-for-14 shooting, 1-for-6 from deep, six turnovers). Not tonight. This time around White had 21 points, four threes, three assists, three blocks, and zero turnovers. Here are some of the special accomplishments White achieved tonight: This was the first time all season he didn’t have a turnover (coming on the heels of his first non-multiple turnover ACC game). He set the Carolina freshman record for made three-pointers in a season (75), passing Rashad McCants’ 72 in 2002-03. During one stretch in the second half, White scored nine straight for Carolina. In the first half, he also had one of the more impressive drives to the basket you will ever see.

  • Midway through the second half Carolina went on an 11-0 run to grab a 75-60 lead in a game that neither team had previously lead by more than six points. However over the next six minutes, Carolina missed nine straight shots (six of which were threes) and turned the ball over twice, allowing Duke to cut the lead to 75-70.

  • It would not be a surprise to hear that blocks played a factor, because Duke is the leading shot blocking team in the country. However, it was Carolina blocks that were the story. The Heels finished with eight (tying a season high). With the Heels mired in the aforementioned scoring drought, they recorded three blocks over the final 3:38 to help preserve the lead (one each from Brooks, Maye, and Williams).
  • Garrison Brooks really struggled at the line. He hit just 2-for-8 in the first 39 minutes. But then with the game on the line and Duke fouling in the final minute to extend the game, Brooks collected himself and hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to score the Heels’ final two points of the game. Coach Williams showed great confidence in the sophomore big man to leave him in even when he knew Duke was fouling. Cam Johnson also hit both ends of a 1-and-1 just 16 seconds before Brooks.
  • Duke’s worst two field goal percentages of the season happened on Wednesday, February 20 and Saturday, March 9. Also known as the two times they played the University of North Carolina.
  • Good defensive effort from Andrew Platek to save possession and call a timeout with 7:12 left in first half. You just worry about the health and well-being of anyone who dares to use one of Coach Williams’ timeouts in the first half!
  • Zion Williamson once again didn’t play for Duke. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Marques Bolden also hurt his knee 2:30 into the game trying to block a Garrison Brooks dunk. Javin DeLaurier filled in admirably, scoring eight points on 4-for-4 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots in 28 minutes. Thoughts go out to Bolden who, at this time, is reported as having a sprained MCL.
  • Carolina wasn’t as able to take as much advantage of Williamson’s absence this time around. The Heels led points in the paint 32 to 30. The rebounding numbers were tied at 48, however the Heels outscored the Blue Devils 22-11 on second chance points. In fact, second-chance points were responsible for Carolina’s first five points.
  • The bigger difference was outside the paint, where Carolina hit 12 threes, after connecting on just two in round one. In fact, the Heels had already surpassed those two just three-and-a-half minutes into the game.
  • You always worry about some under-the-radar player going off for Duke – in this case someone like Alex O’Connell, Jack White, or Jordan Goldwire. Carolina held those three players to four points on 1-for-10 shooting and no made threes.
  • Nassir Little scored all nine of his points in the first half. His scoring and athleticism, combined with Kenny Williams’ team-leading 12 first half points, buoyed the Tar Heels while waiting on the top three scorers (Johnson, White, Maye) to find their touch.

  • This is that weird part of the season where the Tar Heels could play as many as nine more games or as few as two. Enjoy. Every. Moment.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Senior Night Speeches:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC Tournament. The Heels have a 1st & 2nd round bye and will start play on Thursday in the Quarterfinals against either Louisville, Georgia Tech, or Notre Dame. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Louisville

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-69 road win on Saturday afternoon over Louisville.

Highlights:

  • What a huge win for Carolina. In addition to the revenge factor, the victory allows the Heels to keep pace with Duke and Virginia atop the ACC standings.
  • Just eight games into conference play Carolina has already secured a winning road record in ACC games, by achieving a 5-0 start. With five of the first eight conference games being on the road, this also means that six of the remaining 10 are at home.
  • In the previous match-up in Chapel Hill, the Heels played uninspired and uninterested. That was not the case today as the boys in baby blue were the aggressors from tip to final horn. This was most evident on the defensive end of the court. For example, Steven Enoch, who abused Carolina inside in the first game for 17 points and 11 rebounds, finished with zero points on 0-1 shooting and four rebounds.
  • The 10 turnovers today tied for the second-fewest committed by Carolina all season. No single player had more than two. Most importantly, Coby White had four assists against two turnovers, while Seventh Woods also had four assists and zero turnovers. Coach Williams will be pleased with an 8:2 assist-to-turnover ratio from his two primary ballhandlers.
  • There will be games where the freshmen dominate the headlines. Then there will be games like today when the seniors combined for 49 of the team’s 79 points.
  • Louisville outrebounded Carolina in the first game (40-31). Not today. The Heels went from the -9 of the first game to +17 today (49-32). In fact, the Cardinals didn’t corral a single offensive rebound until after halftime. On the other hand Carolina tied their second-highest offensive rebound output of the season with 18.

  • Nine players saw time on the court for Carolina. Nine players scored. Nine players recorded a rebound. Seven players recorded an assist.
  • Luke Maye finished the Georgia Tech game with a meager four points. He responded today with 20 points and 11 rebounds. It wasn’t a great shooting day (7-for-18), but what a great response from the senior. Here’s Maye talking about the game:
  • Louisville typically makes a living at the line. Today, they only took nine free throws. So not only were the Tar Heels the aggressors, but they did so without fouling. Meanwhile, Carolina made more free throws (15), than the nine that Louisville took.
  • Louisville made push after push in the second half to try and get back in the game. Carolina had an answer every time. Kenny Williams, in particular, had two important threes in these situations. Williams also had a monster defensive rebound in the first half which resulted in a Cam Johnson three and the first double-digit lead of the day.
  • After the first game against Louisville, one of the storylines was that Carolina would have to shoot better than 3-for-22 from deep. The Tar Heels did shoot better, but only marginally so (6-for-24). It’s been said of this team that they have to find a way to win when the outside shots aren’t falling, and today they did.
  • Another stat that needed to be remedied from game one was Coby White’s minutes (and points). Due to foul trouble, he only played 19 in the first match-up and scored four points. Today he played 30 minutes, but shot 3-for-14 and finished with eight points. It’s also been said of this team that they have to find a way to win when Coby White doesn’t shoot well, and today they did.
  • Part of the reason the Heels were able to do so was the steady hand of Seventh Woods. Woods has struggled recently, but had to do well today because there was no Leaky Black to play third-string point guard. Here’s Woods talking about his play today:
  • Brandon Huffman played some important minutes in the first half after Garrison Brooks picked up his second foul. Huffman played solid interior defense and scored a bucket off a post-up.
  • Despite the two first half fouls, Garrison Brooks played a really solid game. He scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He scored two interior buckets early in the second half and a few minutes later had a dunk in transition.
  • The first four minutes of each half are always important, but especially on the road. At the first media timeout of the game the Heels led 10-9. The halftime lead was 16 and at the first media timeout of the second half Louisville was only able to knock the lead down one to 15.
  • Nassir Little just continues to make ridiculous athletic plays. He had a tip-in in the closing minutes of the first half that had no business going in. He also had this block on a really nice defensive play:
  • Cameron Johnson posted another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He didn’t miss a shot in the first half – 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, 2-for-2 from deep, 2-for-2 from the line.

 

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 NC State on Tuesday, February 5. Tip is at 8:00ET on Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Georgia Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-54 road win on Tuesday night over Georgia Tech.

Highlights:

  • The story of this game was a 25-5 run over the first 6:50 of the second half that pushed a seven-point halftime lead out to 27. The Heels took the lead out to 30 halfway through the second half.
  • Carolina has not yet lost on the road in ACC play. The Heels are 4-0 away from the Dean Dome in conference games. Playing at Louisville on Saturday will be a fierce test of the teams’ road mettle.
  • Curious rebounding numbers in the wins over Virginia Tech last week and Georgia Tech tonight. While UNC outrebounded both teams (VT 35-32 and GT 39-34), the margins against overmatched rebounding opponents should have been significantly larger.
  • Once again, turnovers made life more difficult than it needed to be. For the game, Carolina surrendered 15. Luke Maye was responsible for one-third of those. At one point in the first half, the Tar Heels turned the ball over on four straight possessions.

  • The beginning of the first half was all about Coby White, the beginning of the second half was all about Cameron Johnson. White was 2-for-2 from deep in the first four minutes and scored eight of Carolina’s first 11 points. He finished with 19 points (7-13 FG, 5-9 3FG) and eight assists (against two turnovers). Johnson scored the Heels’ first eight points of the second half and led all scorers with 22 points. He shot an incredibly efficient 4-6 from three and 8-10 on all field goals.
  • Leaky Black sprained his left ankle with 8:28 remaining. He was seen on crutches and in a walking boot after the game.
  • Georgia Tech’s 54 points was the fewest points Carolina has allowed this season. Also the third time Carolina has held their opponent under 60. Carolina held exactly one opponent under 60 the entirety of the 2017-18 season. The Yellow Jackets missed their first nine three-pointers and finished 2-16.
  • Even though Nassir Little’s streak of scoring in double-digit games ended, he had another solid performance (other than settling for threes on a couple occasions). Little  is so freakishly athletic. He had several rebounds that were unbelievable. His follow of his own shot and put back with 10:30 remaining was as impressive and quick of a second jump as you’ll see.
  • Tonight wasn’t 16 made three-pointers like against Virginia Tech, but 13-27 from deep is another really impressive showing.
  • Seventh Woods had a nice moment in the first half. He tipped a Georgia Tech pass, which deflected to Cameron Johnson. Johnson pitched ahead to Woods who rose up for a transition dunk.

  • As part of Carolina’s second half run, Georgia Tech had a transition lay-up to cut the lead to 10. They missed it and a Carolina break back the other way resulted in a Garrison Brooks dunk and a 14 point lead. Those were the first two points in a 15-0 Tar Heel scoring run. Here’s the dunk:

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 Louisville on Saturday, February 2. Tip is at 2:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 103-82 home win on Monday night over Virginia Tech.

Highlights:

  • For those who didn’t watch the game, they will look at the box score and say, “Wow what a blow out over a top-10 team!” But as those of us who watched the game know, that would be a completely incorrect assumption. This game began nearly identically to the Louisville game. But instead of folding, the resilient Heels showed what they learned from that previous shellacking, and provided a shellacking of their own.
  • And that shellacking began on the defensive side of the ball with three reserves in the game. The under-16:00 media timeout didn’t come until 13:21 of the first half, with the Hokies leading 19-13. At that point, Nassir Little, Brandon Robinson, and Seventh Woods all checked in. Virginia Tech hit another three for a 22-13 lead, but after that, Carolina began to chip away thanks to defensive pressure mostly provided by Woods. The Heels went on to outscore the Hokies 32-9 in the final 12:30 of the half. Here’s a prime example of turning defense into offense:
  • Virginia Tech had two separate five minute scoring droughts in the first half. Carolina scored 20 straight points during the second of those droughts and forced Virginia Tech into 12 first half turnovers.
  • Coming into the game, Carolina was fifth in the nation in scoring offense (87.3) while Virginia Tech was fifth in scoring defense (59.5). Something had to give. The Heels hit 60 to eclipse Tech’s season average with 15:31 still remaining. The 103 total points was 43.5 over the Virginia Tech season average.
  • Roy Williams has said all season what a great shooting team this is. They have shown that ability in spurts, but tonight was the night the dam broke. The Heels shot 1-for-their-first-12 from deep and it seemed that it would be another dismal shooting night. But then something happened and Carolina hit 14 of their next 18 threes and finished 16-for-34. The 16 made threes is one shy of a UNC record.
  • What a performance from Coby White. He led the team in points (27), rebounds (7), assists (6), steals (4), and blocks (1 – tied with Luke Maye).
  • Nassir Little continues to make strides. He scored a career high 23 points, including two three-pointers. This is the third game in a row in which he’s scored double digits. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He grabbed six rebounds and had three assists. Oh, and did all of that in just 20 minutes.
  • Potentially lost in the three-point barrage: while Virginia Tech was busy hitting six of their first seven three-pointers en route to building a 22-13 lead, Garrison Brooks scored eight of those 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
  • Two of Virginia Tech’s best players, Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker both picked up three fouls in the first half. Their absence really contributed to Carolina’s ability to not only get the lead, but extend it in the first half.

  • The play that encapsulated the game: with just under 3:00 to go and Carolina up 19, Coby White dove for a loose ball, passed to Luke Maye, who found Kenny Williams, who passed back to Maye, who promptly threw a beautiful lob to Nassir Little for a dunk and his career high 23rd point. Here it is:

  • Another highlight play was Brandon Robinson’s threading of the needle to Kenny Williams with just under 10:00 remaining in the game. Robinson went down hard under the basket in the final minute of the game. Keep your eyes on his status. Thankfully, Carolina has eight days before it takes the court again.

  • Part of Carolina’s ability to climb back into the game in the first half was that they only turned the ball over four times. Nine turnovers in the second half is less appealing, but understandable given a lead of as many as 27 points.
  • Carolina came into the game third in the nation with 19.4 assists per game and dished out 25 more on 36 made baskets.
  • This might seem backwards, but what an encouraging sign that on a night when Carolina scored 103 points, the team’s leading scorer, Cam Johnson, only had eight.
  • Curiously, UNC only outrebounded Virginia Tech 35-32. The Tar Heels entered the game second in the nation with 43.89 per game while the Hokies are 320th in the nation with just 32.59 per game.
  • ESPN commentators have shown a growing disturbing habit during games of talking about anything other than the game. The “Which Williams?” segment in the middle of game action tonight was a new low.
  • Finally, this is the exuberance you love to see of five players having a great time playing together:

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game over a week away against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, January 29. Tip is at 8:00ET on RSN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-60 road win on Saturday over Pittsburgh.

Highlights:

  • This was the start the Tar Heels needed in conference play. During the 2016-17 season Carolina had a similar start to the ACC schedule: back-to-back road games with the first against one of the presumptive bottom dwellers in the conference. That year, Carolina went to Atlanta and lost to Georgia Tech by 12. The current iteration of the Tar Heels would not suffer the same fate, by securing a dominant victory in Pittsburgh.
  • This game was Cam Johnson’s first return game to Pitt (Carolina played the Panthers only at home last year). Not a single player remaining on Pitt’s roster was one of Johnson’s teammates. Lots of players in that position of returning home try too hard or get too amped up. Not Johnson, who had another great game. He, along with Coby White, paced Carolina’s scoring in the first half. Johnson also tallied a season-high nine rebounds, had four assists and zero turnovers. Here’s Johnson talking about his homecoming:
  • This game was tied at 12. Carolina then went on an extended 26-5 run (including a 16-0 spurt) to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • Last season, Johnson fell well short of his three-point shooting expectations (34.1 percent). This year he’s up nearly 15 percent (48.6 percent), hitting 35 of 72 shots thus far. Literally one more made three would have him at 50 percent from deep on the season.
  • Garrison Brooks did a better job managing his fouls than he has of late. He didn’t pick up a second foul until just before halftime. This self-control allowed him to play 28 minutes, up from a 19.5 season average. The extra court time afforded Brooks the opportunity to have arguably his most productive game of the season – nine points on 4-for-8 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists, zero turnovers, two blocks and two steals. In fact, he was the leading assist man on the team.
  • Carolina has now committed just 11 turnovers in back-to-back games. While any number of turnovers is undesirable, 11 is a palatable number for Coach Williams and his up-tempo style of play.
  • The Heels racked up 24 assists on 32 made buckets (75 percent). At halftime, Carolina has 11 assists and Pitt had precisely zero.
  • For the third game in a row, Carolina held their opponent to 60 points or less and under 40 percent shooting. Pitt only scored 23 points and shot 20.7 percent in the first half. Here’s an example of that solid defense turning into an assist from White to Maye:

  • Carolina hauled in 51 rebounds (17 offensive), led by Luke Maye’s 11. However, they allowed 46 rebounds to Pittsburgh. So the rebounding total is where it needs to be, but the rebound margin is less than the advantage the Heels usually enjoy.

  • Coby White’s shot might be back. He led the team in scoring with 22. He and Johnson each hit three first-half three pointers en route to the team shooting 10-for-24 (41.7 percent) from deep. Pitt, on the other hand, only buried two three pointers. Here’s White discussing his first ever ACC game:
  • Kenny Williams had a rough, foul-plagued game. He picked up his third foul with just over 8:00 before halftime and his fourth less than two minutes into the second half. Williams shot 1-for-5 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from deep. You have to feel for the senior.
  • Carolina employed a zone in the first defensive possession after the under 12:00 media timeout of the first half. They played six total zone possessions in the first half as well as several more in the second.
  • An area Carolina needs to continue to grow: the Heels let Pitt get into the bonus with 14:22 left in the first half.
  • It seems like at least once a game Nassir Little comes up with some type of highlight. He had a monster block with around 12:00 left in the first half and had a huge dunk later in the game.

  • The three freshmen (Nassir Little, Coby White, Leaky Black) were on the court together quite a bit throughout the game. Roy Williams’ willingness to trust his three freshmen in a line-up together in their first ACC road game says a lot about his faith in them.
  • The Heels had really active hands against Pitt; particularly from Brandon Robinson who finished with three steals.
  • It seems like more often than not, Carolina has a lapse just before halftime. Not so today. The first half ended with a wonderfully executed fast break. Leaky Black grabbed a rebound and pitched ahead to Cam Johnson who passed to Coby White for a lay-up as the buzzer expired. Here’s the play:

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 NC State on Tuesday, January 8. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN.

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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.

Offensive Zone Possessions (@ Clemson)

Based on the way that Georgia Tech’s disruptive 1-3-1 zone slowed down North Carolina’s offensive attack last Saturday, Clemson, a team that typically stays in man-to-man on defense, sprinkled in several possessions of zone throughout the game. While Georgia Tech played an aggressive 1-3-1, Clemson played a 2-3 zone, more designed to coax a team into settling for 3-pointers and mid-range jump shots.

While the Tar Heels are currently shooting their highest 3-point percentage since 2012-13 and second highest since 2009-10, the interior game is still the bread and better so coaxing the team into shooting from outside is a good recipe for springing an upset. The Heels are shooting 36.4% from 3-point range this season. For reference, here are the shooting percentages of every team in the Roy Williams era:

  • 2016-17 – 36.4%
  • 2015-16 – 32.7%
  • 2014-15 – 35.8%
  • 2013-14 – 33.6%
  • 2012-13 – 37.3%
  • 2011-12 – 33.8%
  • 2010-11 – 32.8%
  • 2009-10 – 32.8%
  • 2008-09 – 38.7%
  • 2007-08 – 37.2%
  • 2006-07 – 35.8%
  • 2005-06 – 37.5%
  • 2004-05 – 40.3%
  • 2003-04 – 35.1%

So let’s took a look at this game against Clemson: the possessions in which the Tigers played zone, what happened in those possessions, and then we’ll make some observations about how UNC did in those possessions.

By my count, the Tar Heels had 80 possessions in this game, 36 in the first half, 34 in the second half, and 10 in overtime (including quick end-of-period possessions). For the game, Clemson played zone for all or part of six possessions. One of those six possessions included two separate sections of zone, so there were seven times when Carolina played offense against the Clemson defense. Here’s what happened in those six possessions (seven sequences):

  1. 17:56 (1st half) – Possession starts with Clemson in man-to-man. Clemson foul @ 17:49. Clemson in 2-3 zone from UNC base line inbounds. Result: Joel Berry three. Open. MADE.
  2. 13:11 (1st half) – Possession starts with Clemson in man-to-man. Clemson foul @ 13:03. Clemson in 2-3 zone from UNC base line inbounds. Result: Luke Maye 17-foot jumper. Open. MADE.
  3. 11:30 (1st half) – Full court pressure after made Clemson free throw. Once UNC is across half court, Clemson falls back into 2-3 zone. Result: Brandon Robinson three. Open. MISSED.
  4. 4:49 (1st half) – Possesion starts with Clemson in man-to-man. Clemson foul @ 4:31. Clemson in 2-3 zone from UNC base line inbounds. Result: Justin Jackson three. Contested. MISSED. UNC offensive rebound results in free throws for Tony Bradley (1-2).
  5. 18:58 (2nd half) – Possesion starts with Clemson in man-to-man. Clemson foul @ 18:50. Clemson in 2-3 zone from UNC base line inbounds. Result: Joel Berry three. Contested. MISSED. Kennedy Meeks offensive rebound. Ball out of bounds to UNC @ 18:35 (2nd half). Clemson in 2-3 zone from UNC base line inbounds. Result: Kenny Williams three. Open. MADE.
  6. 13:54 (2nd half) – Possession starts with Clemson in man-to-man. Clemson foul @ 13:40. Clemson in 2-3 zone from UNC base line inbounds. Result: Joel Berry three. Open. MADE.

So now let’s make some observations about the zone possessions / sequences:

  • Clemson certainly coaxed the shots they wanted out of the Tar Heels. The initial shot in six of the seven sequences was a three-pointer. The seventh might as well have been – a Luke Maye 17-foot jump shot just inside the three-point line.
  • The Tar Heels were 4-7 (57.1%) on those initial shots.
  • Five of the seven initial shots were either open or wide open due to good ball movement and probing the middle of the defense.
  • Of the six possessions, UNC scored on five of them (83.3%), thanks to offensive rebounds on two of the three misses.
  • Six of the seven sequences occurred from dead ball, rather than live, situations. In the lone outlier, Clemson began the possession with full-court pressure and sunk into the 2-3 zone once UNC got the ball across half-court.
  • Of the six dead ball zone sequences, five of them occurred after a Clemson foul. In the outlier, Clemson played zone after the ball went out of bounds off a Tiger.
  • Worth noting: Clemson didn’t play zone out of every dead ball situation.
  • Curiously, the possession that started at 13:54 of the second half was the last in which Clemson played zone for the game. The Tigers returned to their man-to-man defense for the rest of the second half and all of overtime.

All-in-all, UNC faired well in their zone possessions in terms of shot success. However, they failed to do what they do best – get the ball into the middle and score at the rim. So while Georgia Tech’s 1-3-1 zone was more disruptive when it came to taking the Tar Heels out of their offensive rhythm, Clemson’s 2-3 zone was effective at changing their shot selection.

It will be interesting to see whether other ACC teams follow this blueprint and sprinkle in zone principles to cause similar disruptions to Ken Pomeroy’s 11th-rated efficient offense. Even more curious – when faced with zone, will the Tar Heels continue to settle? Time will tell.

Quick Hitters – Georgia Tech

Quick Hitters from Saturday’s conference opening 75-63 road loss to Georgia Tech.

  1. Of everything you would want to see in the first conference game on the road against the presumptive worst team in the conference, this performance was the exact opposite of those things. I’m not sure just how bad the illness is that’s going around the team, but most players looked either a step slow or indifferent. The Heels looked sloppy and committed a season high 20 turnovers. In the ultra-competitive ACC, you cannot afford to lose games like this. Great teams find a way to pull out an ugly win, even on a day like today.
  2. With Georgia Tech’s football team playing their bowl game in Jacksonville, FL at the same time as this game, a lot of the Yellow Jacket faithful were absent from McCamish Pavilion. This allowed for a lot of Tar Heels to fill the seats. This was obvious with 6 minutes left in the game when you heard a “de-fense” chant when North Carolina was on defense. After a forced shot clock violation, a “Tar – Heels” chant broke out.
  3. Joel Berry shot five three-pointers before the first media timeout, making two of them. As a team, Carolina shot seven three-pointers in that same time span. A lot of this was coaxed from Georgia Tech’s zone defense. Despite a better three-point shooting percentage this year, this is not ideal shot selection. All told, Carolina shot 5-26 (19.2%) from deep for the game.
  4. Speaking of Georgia Tech’s zone, this game was a great primer for playing Syracuse. The zone rendered the Carolina offense ineffective. The guards seemed content to throw the ball around the perimeter and shoot the first somewhat-open three that was available.
  5. After the first couple possessions of the first half, Justin Jackson was absent offensively the rest of the half. He forced a couple shots to try and get going, but they were not within the rhythm of the offense. He did finish with 16 points, but it took him 17 shots to get there, including going 0-5 from three.
  6. 11 first half rebounds for Kennedy Meeks, three of which were offensive. He finished with 14.
  7. Nate Britt was the main bright spot and provided some veteran leadership in a game that was not going well. Big baseline jumper to tie the game early in the second half. Followed by a steal and assist to Luke Maye on a fast break. Britt, who had been in a shooting slump, was the catalyst in this game for the Heels. He finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting (3-4 from three), three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, and five steals.
  8. Joel Berry is clearly still not feeling well. He had eight points on 3-13 shooting (including 2-9 from deep) and committed six turnovers.
  9. I didn’t keep track of the number, but there were a lot of missed lay-ups in this game.

 

 

2016-17 Conference Schedule Primer

There are 18 regular season games remaining in the 2016-17 University of North Carolina men’s basketball schedule. Every one of them is an ACC conference match-up. With every conference team having played at least 12 games, we can take a more informed look at the conference schedule.

With that conference schedule beginning today at Georgia Tech, let’s examine what will unfold between now and March 4 when the conference slate ends in Chapel Hill against Duke.

Current ACC Standings

  1. #20 Florida State (13-1, 1-0)
  2. #12 Virginia (12-1, 1-0)
  3. #5 Duke (12-1, 0-0)
  4. Virginia Tech (11-1, 0-0)
  5. #9 North Carolina (12-2, 0-0)
  6. Pittsburgh (12-2, 0-0)
  7. NC State (11-2, 0-0)
  8. #24 Notre Dame (11-1, 0-0)
  9. Clemson (10-2, 0-0)
  10. Miami (10-2, 0-0)
  11. Georgia Tech (8-4, 0-0)
  12. Syracuse (8-5, 0-0)
  13. Boston College (7-6, 0-0)
  14. #6 Louisville (12-2, 0-1)
  15. Wake Forest (9-4, 0-1)
  • Florida State, Virginia, Louisville, and Wake Forest have each played a conference game and are, therefore, currently the top two and bottom two teams in the standings.
  • Florida State beat Wake Forest 88-72 on Wednesday, December 28.
  • Virginia beat Louisville 61-53 on Wednesday, December 28.

UNC Conference Schedule

  1. @ GT (12/31)
  2. @ Clemson (1/3)
  3. NC St (1/7)
  4. @ Wake (1/11)
  5. FSU (1/14)
  6. Syracuse (1/16)
  7. @ BC (1/21)
  8. VT (1/26)
  9. @Miami (1/28)
  10. Pitt (1/31)
  11. ND (2/4)
  12. @Duke (2/9)
  13. @NC St (2/15)
  14. Virginia (2/18)
  15. Louisville (2/22)
  16. @ Pitt (2/25)
  17. @ Virginia (2/27)
  18. Duke (3/4)
  • Every ACC team except for Louisville (who travels to Indiana) will play a conference game this weekend.
  • There are currently six ACC teams ranked in the AP Top 25: Duke (5), Louisville (6), UNC (9), Virginia (12), FSU (20), and Notre Dame (24).
  • Three other ACC teams showed up in the “others receiving votes” category: Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Miami.
  • Joe Lunardi currently projects 10 ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament field – the nine teams mentioned in the AP poll plus Pittsburgh.
  • The five ACC teams not included in the AP poll or Lunardi’s field are: Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC State, Syracuse, and Wake Forest
  • The Tar Heels will play two games (a home and home) against Pittsburgh, Virginia, NC State, and Duke.
  • There will be one game against each of the other 10 conference teams: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
  • Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Miami will all be on the road.
  • FSU, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Louisville will all be at home.

1 game against (in chronological order):

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

2 games (home and home) against:

  1. #5 Duke (12-1)
  2. NC State (11-2)
  3. Pittsburgh (11-2)
  4. #12 Virginia (11-1)
  • The Tar Heels will play seven conference games against teams currently ranked in the AP poll.
  • Match-ups with Virginia (#12) and Duke (#5) will be a game on each teams’ home court, accounting for four of the seven games.
  • Of the other three games against currently ranked teams, all three games will be at home – FSU (#20), Notre Dame (#24), Louisville (#6).
  • Road wins in conference are always hard to come by. There are four ACC teams (BC, GT, Syracuse, Wake Forest) who have yet to reach double digit wins for the season. Of the Tar Heels five road games against teams they only play once, three of them are against one of these four teams (all but Syracuse).

The ACC is deep and loaded. No team will make it through the 18-game onslaught unscathed. This is a veteran and battle-tested North Carolina team who should compete with Duke, Virginia, and Louisville for the ACC regular season championship. In order to do so, the Tar Heels must hold serve at home, win expected road games (Boston College, for example) and steal a few other road games against tougher competition. What are the keys to this happening? Joel Berry must stay healthy, Theo Pinson needs to return sooner than later and assimilate rather seamlessly, Justin Jackson needs to continue to be aggressive, and the three freshmen need to take another step forward. It all starts today against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.