Tag Archives: Louisville Cardinals

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 75-69 home win on Tuesday night over Notre Dame.

Highlights:

  • The response after the Louisville clunker was not as resounding as you hoped it would be, but Carolina did enough to outlast a tough Notre Dame club.
  • Tar Heels got back on track rebounding with a 47-36 advantage over Notre Dame, including a 16-7 advantage on the offensive end.
  • After a concerning nine turnovers in the first half, Carolina only had two in the second half.
  • An encouraging stat: Garrison Brooks finished with zero fouls.
  • Unlike last year’s Carolina-Notre Dame matchup in the Dean Dome, John Mooney did not hit 8,345 threes (okay the real number was six). Tonight he hit zero threes, but did manage to score 16 points and grab 19 rebounds.
  • Speaking of not hitting a three-point shot, Cam Johnson has now gone 0-for-7 in the last two games after hitting one in each of the first 15 games of the season. However, Johnson did manage to have triple-double-like numbers – 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists.
  • Was this the game where Nassir Little found his place in the offense? After scoring zero first-half points, he scored 11 in the second half, including six in a row for Carolina. All 11 points came from Little attacking or being around the basket. Hopefully this performance will jump start a surge from the freshman.
  • Brandon Robinson provided another spark off the bench with a career high three made three-pointers. Robinson has now connected from deep in four straight games and five of the last six. His three-point percentage is up to 52.4 percent for the season. With nine minutes remaining in the first half, he also had a nice deflection of a Notre Dame alley-oop after rotating over to help on defense.
  • Carolina hit more three-pointers (four) in the first eight minutes of this game than they did in the entire game against Louisville (three).
  • Seventh Woods had a huge chase down block at 12:00 and then got fouled on the other end. He hit both free throws to give Carolina at 51-50 lead.
  • After scoring 26 points in the first 9:30 of game time, the Tar Heels only scored seven more points before half time.
  • The second half featured a back-and-forth affair with multiple lead changes. After Notre Dame took a 58-57 lead with just under seven minutes remaining, the Tar Heels went on a 12-1 run to gain a double-digit lead with 1:25 left in the game.
  • However, 6-for-11 free throw shooting (including missing the front end of a 1-and-1) in those final 90 seconds allowed Notre Dame to cut the lead back to four. Someone must step up and be the closer in those moments.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game at Miami on Saturday, January 19. Tip is at Noon ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 90-82 road victory on Tuesday night over NC State.

Highlights:

  • What a start to conference play. The Heels are 2-0 in the ACC. Both road wins. This one over an upstart NC State team ranked 15thin the nation. The Tar Heels never trailed against the Wolfpack and responded each time the home team made a run. That’s the start you want to the conference portion of your schedule. Carolina finally gets a home conference game Saturday against Louisville before hosting a struggling Notre Dame team after that.
  • With 12:19 remaining Cam Johnson dove after a loose ball and crumpled into a heap on the floor while clutching his inner right knee. I (and likely a multitude of others) feared the worst: torn ACL. Poor Cam Johnson has worked so hard to get to where he is as the match-up-nightmare-sniper-who-can-also-drive-you-to-the-hole leading scorer of the 2018-19 Tar Heels. Thankfully the report turned out to be cramps and Johnson returned to the bench with just a little bit of time left on the clock. Coach Williams reported that he didn’t want to put Johnson back in the game for fear of the cramps returning in a crucial moment. Brandon Robinson and Leaky Black both filled Johnson’s minutes admirably down the stretch. Here’s Cam in the locker room postgame, discussing the incident:
  • Much has been made of Luke Maye’s consistent growth at the free throw line, but don’t miss Garrison Brooks’ numbers in the same department. In his freshman year, he shot 58.7 percent (37-63). Through 15 games this season, Brooks is up to 72.1 percent (31-43), a change of +13.4 percentage points. Checking in on Maye’s free throw numbers, he’s shooting 80.6 percent this year, up 18.2 percent from last year (62.4 percent) and 37.7 percent from his freshman year (42.9 percent).
  • Staying with Brooks, he has now tallied five assists and zero turnovers in back-to-back games. He led the team in assists in both games (Cam Johnson also had five against NC State). Brooks and Maye have developed some good big-to-big passing chemistry.

  • Luke Maye recorded a double-double (21 points, 11 boards). You’ve heard that before. But what will surprise you is that Kenny Williams (15 points, 10 boards) and Cam Johnson (15 points, 11 boards) joined him in the double-double club. Three Tar Heel double-doubles in one game! The feat was the first of Williams’ career, and the first time he’s reached double-digits rebounds. For Johnson, it was his first of the season and fourth of his career. Here’s Kenny Williams talking about being 4-0 in Raleigh during his tenure as a Tar Heel:
  • Those double-doubles helped contribute to a 51-33 advantage on the boards for the Heels. After a recent concerning trend down in rebounding dominance for Carolina (a stat they rely on heavily), this reversal was a welcome sight. Particularly because NC State has also rebounded the ball well this year.
  • The Tar Heels shot well on frees and threes. Carolina was 22-for-26 (84.6 percent) from the free throw line and 10-for-25 (40 percent) from deep. This is the second game in a row the team has shot 40 percent or better from three-point range.
  • Roy Williams loves when his teams make more free throws than the opponents attempt. Carolina made 22 free throws. NC State attempted 17.
  • Oh the turnovers. 23 of them. Luke Maye was the main culprit with seven, followed by Coby White with five. In fairness, NC State makes a living by forcing turnovers, but Carolina has to be tougher with the ball. After back-to-back games of trending in the right direction with just 11 giveaways in each, 23 is worrisome.
  • Leaky Black picked up his third foul with 4:26 remaining before halftime. Play resumed before Coach Williams could sub him out. How did Black respond? A block on the next possession. Challenging a shot on the possession after that while staying straight up and down so as to not draw a foul. That’s a freshman making important defensive plays on back-to-back possessions right after drawing a third foul in the first half.
  • Out of context, allowing 82 points sounds like it was a poor defensive night. However Carolina held NC State to under one point per possession. In fact, don’t look now, but this is the fifth game in a row the Heels have held their opponent under one point per possession.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first ACC home game, against Louisville. Tip is Saturday, January 12 at Noon ET on ESPN.

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The Road Less Traveled

As you look at North Carolina’s 2018-19 men’s basketball schedule, something curious jumps off the page about the first two games. The Tar Heels are beginning their season by playing back-to-back true non-conference road games – against Wofford (who won in the Smith Center last year) and Elon.

“What is Roy Williams thinking?” you ask yourself. “Major programs like Carolina don’t have to take road games. They can get anyone they want to come to Chapel Hill.”

Here’s the thing: playing away from home in the non-conference part of the schedule actually isn’t a strange phenomenon or outlier for Coach Williams and the Tar Heels.

But just how does Carolina’s scheduling stack up against programs of a similar ilk?

Why go on the road?

Of the country’s historically successful major college basketball programs, most only venture away from home when they absolutely have to. Some coaches will argue that conference and NCAA Tournament games are all played on a neutral court, so it’s pointless to schedule true non-conference road games.

To only look ahead to postseason tournaments, however, is to miss the mark. Half of the regular season conference match-ups are true road games. The results of these games play a huge factor in conference seeding, which ultimately helps determine a team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament. To fail to test your team on the road in the non-conference portion of the schedule is to set them up for failure when they go on the road in conference games.

Criteria

To determine how the Tar Heels compare to other programs in this metric, I examined the 10 winningest programs of all time. I looked at the past 10 schedules for each of these programs (from the 2009-2010 season through the upcoming 2018-2019 season) to determine which teams were willing to go prove themselves outside the friendly confines of their home gym. To be included, a team had to have been in a BCS / Power 5 conference for each of those 10 seasons. This stipulation ruled out Temple (#5), St. John’s (#9), BYU (#12) and Utah (#14).

The list is therefore whittled down to these 10 (in order of all-time wins):

  • Kentucky (#1 | 2,263 wins)
  • Kansas (#2 | 2,248)
  • UNC (#3 | 2,232)
  • Duke (#4 | 2,144)
  • Syracuse (#6 | 1,884)
  • UCLA (#7 | 1,870)
  • Notre Dame (#8 | 1,866)
  • Louisville (#10 | 1,825)
  • Indiana (#11 | 1,817)
  • Arizona (#14 | 1,796)

Which teams are willing to consistently schedule true regular season non-conference road games?

What do the schedules reveal?

After studying each program, one team stands out above the rest. Below is the total number of true non-conference road games each of the programs scheduled during the 10-year period evaluated (from most to least):

  • North Carolina – 24
  • Arizona – 19
  • Louisville – 17
  • Kansas – 16
  • Kentucky – 13
  • Indiana – 11
  • Syracuse – 10
  • Duke – 9
  • UCLA – 9
  • Notre Dame – 7

Additionally, there are interesting takeaways concerning these blue-bloods and their scheduling of true non-conference road games (or lack thereof) strewn throughout the research.

In the 10-year span…

  • Carolina is the only team of the 10 to have multiple true non-conference road games in each of the 10 seasons.
  • Carolina is the only team to amass more than 20 true non-conference road games.
  • Carolina has four seasons (including each of the last three) with three true non-conference road games. No other team on the list has more than one.
  • In five of the 10 seasons evaluated, Duke and Notre Dame have scheduled precisely 0 (ZERO!!) true non-conference road games.
  • For the past eight years, Duke has only voluntarily scheduled two true non-conference road games. Those were both at Madison Square Garden, which only technically counts as St. John’s second home arena.
  • Notre Dame has by far the most putrid total of true non-conference road games with seven. Of those seven, only four were voluntary. The other three are all Big 10 / ACC road games.

Take Aways

Last season, I wrote a piece about Carolina’s road success in conference games over the previous seven years. Prior to last year’s 4-5 conference road record, the Heels had recorded seven straight seasons of a winning conference road record. Meanwhile, the rest of the conference fell miserably short of that level of success.

Think that type of achievement is pure happenstance? Think again. The road to success in conference road games is paved in the non-conference portion of the schedule. By exposing his team to hostile road environments early in the season, Roy Williams is preparing them to succeed away from home when it matters most – on the road in the country’s most difficult conference. The road to success is a road less traveled.

For reference, below is a table with each team’s true non-conference road games over the past 10 years:

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.

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Louisville

Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 74-63 home win over Louisville.

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Joel Berry shoots a three over the outstretched hand of Louisville’s Anah Mahmoud in UNC’s 74-63 win over Louisville on February 23, 2017. Photo Credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati
  1. I cannot stress enough what a huge win this was, for two reasons. First, with Duke losing to Syracuse earlier in the night, this win over Louisville gave the Tar Heels a two game lead in the ACC with three tough games remaining. It by no means guarantees a conference regular season title, but it sure is nice to have some breathing room. Second, Carolina has struggled with Louisville’s defense and athleticism in the two years they’ve been in the ACC.
  2. Nearly three minutes before Tar Heels scored to start the game. Carolina opened the game shooting 2-15 with 4 turnovers in the first 6 minutes.
  3. Stilman White played some meaningful minutes in the first half when Coach Williams put in five brand new players. He even hit a mid-range jumper that put a jolt in the Smith Center crowd.
  4. We’ve been seeing this all season, but let’s just make sure we say it: Justin Jackson and Joel Berry take (and make) some really deep threes.
  5. After starting off the season looking like he would set Carolina’s career and single season records for free throw percentage, Joel Berry has really “struggled” (a relative term) in conference play. He missed 2 more free throws last night. Weird.
  6. This was the second game in a row where an opponent missed an inordinate number of shots in a certain aspect of the game. This time it was both free throws and three-pointers. Louisville’s first made free throw came with 7:41 left in the game. For the game Louisville shot 4-13 while Carolina shot 21-29 on free throws. The final three-point discrepancy was not as substantial, but Louisville didn’t hit their first three until early in the second half.
  7. This was, unfortunately, a game marked by Isaiah Hicks foul issues. For the Tar Heels to accomplish everything they want to this year, Hicks has to stay out of foul trouble, and on the court.
  8. Carolina missed opportunities on the offensive glass when tips didn’t fall. That said, Louisville is the one team that can really stay with Carolina on the glass and Heels doubled up the Cardinals, 16-8, on the offensive glass.
  9. Another 20+ scoring night for Justin Jackson, in another huge game. Look out folks, this man just might bring home ACC Player of the Year.
  10. A little too tense down the closing minutes. The Tar Heels were up 17 with just under four minutes, but took their foot off the gas too early, which allowed Louisville to cut the lead to 8. However Nate Britt then hit two free throws to push the lead back to 10 and essentially ice the 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.

 

 

 

 

22 Points

I hate losing. If you are anything like me, every loss is a slow, painful death that sticks with you the rest of the season (and sometimes even in the years to come). I can name the Tar Heels’ 6 losses, in order, off the top of my head: Northern Iowa, Texas, Louisville, Notre Dame, Duke, and Virginia. All 6 of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament – or rather, would be if eligible (here’s looking at you Louisville). Here are the teams in order from strongest to weakest:

  RPI BPI KenPom NCAA Tourney Seed
Virginia 3 2 2 1
Louisville 17 8 11 Not in Tournament
Duke 19 11 22 4
Texas 27 37 30 6
Notre Dame 32 33 39 6
Northern Iowa 73 97 76 11

In some ways, it’s worse when the losses are really close games that you know you should/could win. Or worse yet, if it’s a game where you have a comfortable lead at some point, but can’t hold on to it.

Unfortunately, that was every one of these 6 losses. The Tar Heels lost these games by a measly 22 combined points. That’s an average of losing by 3.67. Or taken another way, Carolina lost by only 1-2 possessions a game. This is such a small margin of error: 1 or 2 extra turnovers, 1 or 2 missed boxouts, 4 missed free throws, 1 or 2 times not properly defending the pick and roll, 1 or 2 times not staying in front of your man, a silly foul, etc. You can agonize over the tiny mistakes that can swing a game. Or you can learn from them, remove them, and move on (not exactly Coach Smith’s mantra, but very similar).

The silver lining is that Carolina has been in every game it’s played this season. They have never been blown out – the largest loss was by 6 points. The largest deficit the entire season is 13 points (@ NC State). They’ve held a lead at some point in every game this season. They’ve either been tied or held a lead in the 2nd half of every game this season. In fact the only game they didn’t at some point have a 2nd half lead was the regular season loss to Virginia in Charlottesville.

So, at the end of the day, maybe these losses are not so unfortunate. Maybe this veteran group of Tar Heels have learned something from these 6 losses. Maybe those missing 22 points have helped them get tougher. The domination of the ACC tournament certainly seems to point to that.

Can those 22 points continue to be meaningful to the make-up of this team as the stakes get higher? We’re about to find out during the best 3 week stretch of every year.

ACC Tournament Seeding Scenarios

Saturday marks the end of the regular season conference schedule for the ACC. While Wake Forest has already completed their conference schedule, the other 14 teams will be in action.

Here are the current standings:

  1. Miami (13-4)
  2. North Carolina (13-4)
  3. Virginia (12-5)
  4. Louisville (12-5)
  5. Duke (11-6)
  6. Notre Dame (10-7)
  7. Pittsburgh (9-8)
  8. Syracuse (9-8)
  9. Virginia Tech (9-8)
  10. Clemson (9-8)
  11. Florida State (7-10)
  12. Georgia Tech (7-10)
  13. NC State (5-12)
  14. Wake Forest (2-16)
  15. Boston College (0-17)

Here are Saturday’s matchups:

  1. Clemson @ Boston College
  2. NC State @ Notre Dame
  3. Pittsburgh @ Georgia Tech
  4. Syracuse @ Florida State
  5. Miami @ Virginia Tech
  6. North Carolina @ Duke
  7. Louisville @ Virginia

Before we get to the scenarios for each team that could play out (and, hold onto your butts, cause there are plenty) in terms of seeding for the ACC Tournament, let’s look at what we already know:

  • Due to a self-imposed ban, Louisville will not participate in any postseason tournaments. This means there will only be 14 teams competing in the ACC Tournament.
  • NC State (12 seed), Wake Forest (13 seed), and Boston College (14 seed) are already locked in.
  • Miami, North Carolina, and Virginia are guaranteed a top-4 seed, which means a double bye into the quarterfinals. The other top-4 seed will be Duke or Notre Dame.

Below are the possible scenarios for each of the ACC Teams in terms of ACC Tournament seeding. We’ll work from the bottom up, cause, why not, it’s that kind of wacky year in college basketball. PS…buckle up for the scenarios for Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, & (in particular) Clemson – there’s a lot of ground to cover.

  1. Boston College (0-17). Locked in as #14 seed
  2. Wake Foreset (2-16). Locked in as #13 seed
  3. NC State (5-12). Locked in as #12 seed
  4. Georgia Tech (7-10)
    • Possible seed range: 10-11
    • 10 seed if…
      1. GT wins
      2. FSU loses
    • 11 seed if…
      1. GT loses and FSU wins
  5. Florida State (7-10)
    • Possible seed range: 10-11
    • 10 seed if…
      1. FSU wins & GT loses
    • 11 seed if
      1. FSU loses
      2. GT wins
  6. Clemson (9-8)
    • Possible seed range: 5-9
    • 5 seed if…
      1. Clemson, Pitt, & Duke win; ND, Syracuse, & VT lose
      2. Clemson, Syracuse, & Duke win; ND, Pitt, & VT lose
    • 6 seed if…
      1. Clemson, ND, Pitt, & Syracuse win
      2. Clemson, ND, & Pitt win; Syracuse & VT lose
      3. Clemson, ND, Syracuse, VT, & Louisville win; Pitt loses
      4. Clemson & ND win; Pitt & VT lose
      5. Clemson wins; ND, Pitt, Syracuse, & VT lose
      6. Clemson, Pitt, & Syracuse win; ND & VT lose
      7. Clemson, Pitt, & UNC win; ND, Syracuse, & VT lose
      8. Clemson, Syracuse, & UNC win; ND, Pitt, & VT lose
      9. Clemson, Pitt, Syracuse, & VT lose
    • 7 seed if…
      1. Clemson, ND, Pitt, & VT win; Syracuse loses
      2. Clemson, ND, Syracuse, VT, & UVa win; Pitt loses
      3. Clemson, ND, & VT win; Pitt & Syracuse lose
      4. Clemson, Pitt, Syracuse, & VT win; ND loses
      5. Clemson & VT win; ND, Pitt, & Syracuse lose
      6. Clemson, Syracuse, & VT lose; Pitt wins
      7. Clemson, Pitt, & Syracuse lose; VT wins
    • 8 seed if…
      1. Clemson, Pitt, & VT win; ND & Syracuse lose
      2. Clemson, Syracuse, & VT win; ND & Pitt lose
      3. Clemson & Syracuse lose; Pitt & VT win
      4. Clemson & Pitt lose; Syracuse win
    • 9 seed if…
      1. Clemson loses; Pitt & Syracuse win
  7. Virginia Tech (9-8)
    • Possible seed range: 6-9
    • 6 seed if…
      1. VT & ND win; Syracuse loses
      2. VT, ND, Clemson, Syracuse, & UVa win; Pitt loses
      3. VT & Clemson win; ND & Syracuse lose
      4. VT wins; ND, Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse lose
    • 7 seed if…
      1. VT, ND, Clemson, Syracuse, & Louisville win; Pitt loses
      2. VT & Syracuse win; Pitt & Clemson loses
      3. VT & Pitt win; ND, Clemson, & Syracuse lose
      4. VT, Clemson, & Syracuse win; ND & Pitt lose
    • 8 seed if…
      1. VT, Pitt, & Syracuse win; Clemson loses
      2. VT, ND, Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse win
      3. VT & Clemson lose; Pitt wins
      4. VT & Pitt lose; Clemson & Syracuse win
      5. VT, Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse lose
    • 9 seed if…
      1. VT, Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse win; ND loses
      2. VT loses; Pitt & Clemson win
      3. VT, Pitt, & Syracuse lose; Clemson wins
  8. Syracuse (9-8)
    • Possible seed range: 5-9
    • 5 seed if…
      1. Syracuse, Clemson, & VT win; ND & Pitt lose
      2. Syracuse wins; ND, Pitt, & Clemson lose
    • 6 seed if…
      1. Syracuse & ND win; Pitt & Clemson lose
      2. Syracuse & Pitt win; ND & Clemson lose
    • 7 seed if…
      1. Syracuse, ND, & Pitt win; Clemson loses
      2. Syracuse & Clemson win; Pitt & VT lose
    • 8 seed if…
      1. Pitt & Clemson win; VT loses
      2. Syracuse, ND, Clemson, & VT win; Pitt loses
      3. Syracuse, Pitt, Clemson, & VT win; ND loses
      4. Syracuse, Pitt, & VT lose; Clemson wins
    • 9 seed if…
      1. Syracuse, ND, Clemson, Pitt, & VT win
      2. Syracuse loses; Pitt & VT win
      3. Syracuse, Pitt, & Clemson lose
      4. Syracuse, Clemson, & VT lose; Pitt wins
      5. Syracuse & Pitt lose; Clemson & VT win
  9. Pittsburgh (9-8)
    • Possible seed range: 5-9
    • 5 seed if…
      1. Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse win; ND loses
      2. Pitt wins; ND & Clemson lose
    • 6 seed if…
      1. Pitt, ND, & Syracuse win; Clemson loses
      2. Pitt & ND win; Clemson, Syracuse, & VT lose
    • 7 seed if…
      1. Pitt, ND, Clemson, & Syracuse win
      2. Pitt, ND, Clemson win; Syracuse & VT lose
      3. Pitt, ND, & VT win; Clemson & Syracuse lose
      4. Pitt & Clemson win; ND & Syracuse lose
      5. Pitt, Syracuse, & VT lose
    • 8 seed if…
      1. Pitt, ND, Clemson, & VT lose; Syracuse loses
      2. Pitt & Syracuse lose; VT wins
    • 9 seed if…
      1. Pitt loses & Syracuse wins
  10. Notre Dame (10-7)
    • Possible seed range: 4-7
    • 4 seed if…
      1. ND wins & Duke loses
    • 5 seed if…
      1. ND & Duke win
      2. ND & Syracuse lose; Pitt, Clemson, & VT win
      3. ND, Syracuse, & VT lose; Pitt, Clemson, & UNC win
      4. ND, Pitt, & VT lose; Clemson, Syracuse, & UNC win
      5. ND, Pitt, & Syracuse lose; Clemson wins
      6. ND, Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse lose
    • 6 seed if…
      1. ND loses; Pitt, Clemson, Syracuse, & VT win
      2. ND, Syracuse, & VT lose; Pitt, Clemson, & Duke win
      3. ND, Clemson, & Syracuse lose; Pitt wins
      4. ND & Pitt lose; Clemson, Syracuse, & VT win
      5. ND, Pitt, & VT lose; Clemson, Syracuse, & Duke win
      6. ND, Pitt, & Clemson lose; Syracuse & VT win
    • 7 seed if…
      1. ND & VT lose; Pitt, Clemson, & Syracuse win
      2. ND & Clemson lose; Pitt & Syracuse win
  11. Duke (11-6)
    • Possible seed range: 3-5
    • 3 seed if…
      1. Duke wins & UVa loses
    • 4 seed if…
      1. Duke & UVa win
      2. Duke & ND lose
    • 5 seed if…
      1. Duke loses & ND wins
  12. Louisville (12-5). Will not play in ACC Tournament due to self-imposed postseason ban.
  13. Virginia (12-5)
    • Possible seed range: 1-4
    • 1 seed if…
      1. UVa wins; Miami & UNC lose
    • 2 seed if…
      1. UVa & UNC win, Miami loses
      2. UVa & Miami win; UNC loses
    • 3 seed if…
      1. UVa, UNC, & Miami win
      2. UVa & Duke lose
    • 4 seed if…
      1. UVa loses & Duke wins.
  14. North Carolina (13-4)
    • Possible seed range: 1-3
    • 1 seed if…
      1. UNC wins
    • 2 seed if…
      1. UNC, Miami, & UVa lose
      2. UNC & UVa lose; Miami wins
      3. UNC & Miami lose; UVa wins
    • 3 seed if…
      1. UNC loses; Miami & UVa win
  15. Miami (13-4)
    • Possible seed range: 1-3
    • 1 seed if…
      1. Miami wins & UNC loses
      2. Miami, UNC, & UVa lose
    • 2 seed if…
      1. Miami & UNC win
      2. Miami & UVa lose; UNC wins
    • 3 seed if…
      1. Miami loses & UVa wins

So there you have it. A primer for Saturday’s action and what it all means for next week’s ACC Tournament. The nice thing for our Tar Heels? It’s pretty easy to figure out: win at Duke and you’re the #1 seed; lose at Duke and you’re the #2 or #3 seed.

Here’s to Paige, Johnson, & James getting simultaneously their first win at Cameron and their first regular season ACC Championship.