Tag Archives: Marcus Paige

Does Duke Dominate the ACC?

As I sat in the discouraging aftermath of Villanova’s 2016 National Championship, not only was the loss hard, but the impending personnel loss weighed heavy as well. This was the end of an era. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the players responsible for 35 of Carolina’s 74 points that night, including the final 10, would never again don a University of North Carolina Tar Heel uniform.

As the offseason unfolded, things got worse as I realized how loaded Duke’s roster would be in the 2016-17 season. Just days after Marcus Paige’s miraculous three-pointer, Grayson Allen announced he was coming back to school for his junior year. A few weeks later, big man Amile Jefferson was granted another year of eligibility after a foot injury held him out most of the 2015-16 season. Duke had already signed three of the top 10 recruits in the class (depending on which recruiting site you go by), but then another top 20 recruit (Marques Bolden) picked the Blue Devils over Kentucky. Once again, Duke was picked to run away with not only the ACC Championship, but also the National Championship.

I realized I was beginning to have this fear that Duke was dominating the ACC year after year after year and that no one else could keep up with their talent, recruiting, and on-court victories. My perception was that the Blue Devils were in a class of their own of late, winning all sorts of regular season and conference championships.

So I decided to actually look at the results to help confirm my suspicions.

This is Roy Williams’ 14th season coaching the Tar Heels. Here are the ACC regular season conference champions during that span:

  • 2004 – Duke
  • 2005 – North Carolina
  • 2006 – Duke
  • *2007 – North Carolina, Virginia
  • 2008 – North Carolina
  • 2009 – North Carolina
  • *2010 – Duke, Maryland
  • 2011 – North Carolina
  • 2012 – North Carolina
  • 2013 – Miami
  • 2014 – Virginia
  • 2015 – Virginia
  • 2016 – North Carolina
  • *2017 – North Carolina (Notre Dame can share the championship if they win and North Carolina loses today)

*the ACC allows co-champions when teams tie, regardless of head-to-head results. Notre Dame can tie North Carolina this year if the Irish beat Louisville today AND the Heels lose to Duke.

Looking at the results, North Carolina actually has eight regular season championships, compared to Duke’s three. Virginia also has three, but no other school has more than one. Okay, I guess I can breathe a little easier.

If it isn’t regular season championships, perhaps my feelings of Duke’s domination of the ACC are based on ACC Tournament championships. Here are the results of the championship game for the past ten years:

  • 2007 – North Carolina 89 – NC State 80
  • 2008 – North Carolina 86 – Clemson 81
  • 2009 – Duke 79 – Florida State 69
  • 2010 – Duke 65 – Georgia Tech 61
  • 2011 – Duke 75 – North Carolina 58
  • 2012 – Florida State 85 – North Carolina 82
  • 2013 – Miami 87 – North Carolina 77
  • 2014 – Virginia 72 – Duke 63
  • 2015 – Notre Dame 90 – North Carolina 82
  • 2016 – North Carolina 61 – Virginia 57

So that’s not it either. North Carolina and Duke have each won three ACC Tournament championships in the past ten years. In fact, during that ten-year span, the Tar Heels have made the ACC Championship game seven times while the Blue Devils have only advanced to the final four times. Interestingly, a different team has won the ACC Tournament each of the past six years.

Taking a deeper look, Duke has actually not won an ACC regular season or tournament championship since the conference expanded to 15 teams in the 2013-14 season.

Maybe if we expand the scope further, we can uncover my fears of Duke supremacy. Perhaps my worries are due to the fact that Duke has had more success that Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Here are the NCAA Tournament results for both teams in the Roy Williams era:

  • 2004 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Final Four
  • 2005 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2007 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2008 – UNC: Final Four; Duke: Second Round
  • 2009 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2010 – UNC: NIT Finalist; Duke: National Champions
  • 2011 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2012 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2013 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Elite Eight
  • 2014 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: First Round
  • 2015 – UNC: Sweet Sixteen; Duke: National Champions
  • 2016 – UNC: Finalist; Duke: Sweet Sixteen

North Carolina:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 1
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eights – 3
  • Sweet Sixteen – 1
  • Second Round – 4
  • First Round – 0
  • NIT Finalist – 1

Duke:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 0
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eight – 1
  • Sweet Sixteen – 5
  • Second Round – 1
  • First Round – 3
  • NIT – 0

These results don’t point to Duke dominance either. In the 13 NCAA Tournaments of the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, both teams have two National Championships to their name. The Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT the year after the 2009 championship, while the Blue Devils have made the NCAA Tournament each year. Carolina has never lost in the first round (the REAL first round) of the NCAA Tournament in the Williams era, while Duke has been knocked out three times at that level. Carolina’s biggest advantage in NCAA Tournament success is that they have made it to the Elite Eight or beyond in seven of the 13 years, while Duke has advanced that far four times. Needless to say, NCAA Tournament results also do not explain my fear of Duke dominance.

Perhaps my worries are unfounded? Maybe my fears are irrational and Duke hasn’t actually dominated the ACC?

Then it hit me. I needed to narrow my scope, not broaden it. Here is Carolina’s record against Duke each year of the Roy Williams era:

  • 2003-04 – 0-2
  • 2004-05 – 1-1
  • 2005-06 – 1-1
  • 2006-07 – 2-0
  • 2007-08 – 1-1
  • 2008-09 – 2-0
  • 2009-10 – 0-2
  • 2010-11 – 1-2
  • 2011-12 – 1-1
  • 2012-13 – 0-2
  • 2013-14 – 1-1
  • 2014-15 – 0-2
  • 2015-16 – 1-1
  • 2016-17 – 0-1

In the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have a total record of 11-17 against Duke. Duke holds a comfortable lead in the series during this time span, but since Carolina’s 2009 championship, the Blue Devils have absolutely dominated. From the 2010-11 season through the present, the Tar Heels have a 4-12 record against Duke.

Mystery solved. My fears of Duke ACC dominance are actually based on the fact that they have absolutely owned North Carolina head-to-head in the Roy Williams era. It is always nice to beat your rival, but, at the end of the day, give me the championships every time!

 

 

Will tonight’s regular season finale be a turning point in the series for the Tar Heels? Or will it be a step in the right direction for a Duke team that was supposed to run away with the 2016-17 season?

A Tale of Two Halves: Joel Berry’s Free Throw Shooting

The free throw line is the loneliest and most pressure-filled place on a basketball court. Some basketball players thrive on this moment. Others? Weeeeeelllll, not so much.

Two players in NBA history have shot over 90% for their careers (Steve Nash, 90.4% and Mark Price, 90.4%). Stephen Curry (90.4%), though still active, shares the same distinction. Coming in just behind these three is Rick Barry who famously shot his free throws underhanded (and technically rounds up to 90% free throw shooting himself).

On the other side of the coin are the “not-so-much-ers”. We all know about the “Hack-a-Shaq” tactic of fouling an opponent even when he doesn’t have the ball. Why? Because he’s so awful at shooting free throws that the percentages say you are better off giving that player two free shots from 15 feet rather than letting the opposing team run their offense. It’s become so rampant that the NBA has been forced to employ rules discouraging the use of this tactic. As you would imagine, this strategy is so named because teams started doing this to Shaquille O’Neal. While Shaq is a poor free throw shooter, and believe me, he is bad, the Big Aristotle actually more than half of his free throws (52.7%) for his career.

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Believe it or not, there are actually several NBA players with worse free throw shooting percentages than Shaq. One of the most famous players of all time – Wilt Chamberlain – shot just 51.1% from the charity stripe. Several NBA players have shot under 50% – Chris Dudley (45.8%), DeAndre Jordan (42.1%), and Ben Wallace (41.4%).

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Finally, coming in under 40% free throw shooting is Andre Drummond at 38%.

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When it comes to the best free throw shooters in North Carolina basketball history, Shammond Williams leads the way at 84.9% (292-344). As recently as last year, it looked as though that Williams’ career record would fall. Entering his senior year, Marcus Paige had actually eclipsed Williams in career free throw percentage at 86.5% (275-318). Paige, as you might recall, had an “off year” (by his standards) in the 2015-16 season, shooting “just” 77.4% (72-93). When all was said and done, Paige wound up fifth on the all-time list for UNC at 84.4% (347-411), behind Williams, Kim Huband, Marvin Williams, and Danny Green.

Shammond Williams also holds the single-season record for free throw percentage at 91.1% (133-146) in 1997-98; the only Tar Heel to shoot above 90% for an entire season. Marcus Paige holds two of the top nine single season free throw percentage marks. He hit 87.7% (128-146) in 2013-14 (third place) and 86.5% (96-111) in 2014-15 (ninth place).

This brings us to Joel Berry. Berry did not begin his Tar Heel career as a candidate to be one of the best free throw shooters in North Carolina history. During his freshman year, Berry shot 75.7% (28-37). Things changed, though, in his sophomore year when Berry shot 86.7% (91-105), which is the eighth best single-season mark in Tar Heel history. This incredible sophomore year allowed Berry to begin his junior year at 83.8% (119-142) for his career, which is seventh on the all-time list.

Joel Berry entered his junior year with great possibilities of continuing to move up the career free throw percentage list as well as having one of the best single seasons of free throw shooting in UNC history. Right out of the gate, that’s exactly what Berry did. Oddly though, Joel Berry’s free throw shooting in 2016-17 has been a tale of two halves.

Let’s use the natural dividing of non-conference schedule and conference schedule to create those two halves.

First, the good. In non-conference, Berry hit 39 of 42 free throws over the course of 11.5 games (he missed most of the second half against Radford after suffering an ankle injury and the subsequent games against Davidson and Tennesee). That’s a 92.9% clip during roughly the first third of the season. That free throw percentage would give Berry the best single season number in Carolina history; beating Shammond Williams’ 91.1% mark for a single season by almost two percentage points. This hot start also propelled Berry to 85.9% for his career, a full percentage point above Williams’ career record.

As the conference part of the schedule began, everything changed. Let’s call this part the “not-so-good”. The Tar Heels have played 17 conference games (and have one more to go against some team from eight miles down the road). In those games, Joel Berry has shot 35-47 from the free throw line, which is 74.5%; a drop of 18.4 percentage points from the non-conference portion of the schedule. This is a respectable number, but not an “all-time-best-in-program-history” type of number. The worrisome part is that things have continued to get worse. Over the last 11 games, Berry has shot just 68.8% (22-32) from the line. Remember, this is statistically one of the greatest free throw shooters in Carolina history.

Here’s a telling way to look at things. In the non-conference schedule, Berry shot free throws in nine of the 11.5 games he played in. In those nine games, he hit every free throw he took seven times. By contrast, Berry has shot free throws in 11 of the 17 conference games. Of those 11 games, he’s made every free throw he’s taken just twice.

It’s also troubling to notice the discrepancy in the number of free throws Joel Berry has attempted when comparing the non-conference and conference. In his 11.5 non-conference games, Berry shot 42 free throws. In the 17 conference games, he’s shot 47, just five more. That means that in non-conference games, Berry 3.65 free throws a game, which dropped to 2.76 per game during the conference schedule. In the non-conference schedule, there were three games when Berry didn’t shoot any free throws. In conference, there have been six such games.

It’s hard to say exactly what is causing the drop in Joel Berry’s free throw percentage. Perhaps it’s the fatigue of playing point guard for Roy Williams over the course of a grueling season. Perhaps it’s a problem of shot mechanics. Perhaps Berry is in his own head. Perhaps the hot start was an anomaly. Perhaps it’s a lack of focus.

Whatever the reason, while Justin Jackson has been the most consistent scorer this year for North Carolina, Joel Berry is the heart and engine of the team. In order for this year’s version of the Tar Heels to reach, and possibly exceed, what the 2015-16 team achieved, Berry will have to continue to be that driving force as the regular season gives way to postseason tournaments. And it wouldn’t hurt if he hit a couple more free throws along the way.

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

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

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

Quick Hitters – Kentucky

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Justin Jackson reacts to a go-ahead lay-up with under 1:00 left in the game, that gave the Tar Heels a 100-98 over Kentucky. Unfortunately, this was not the last big image from the game. Photo Credit: J.D. Lyon, Jr.

Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 103-100 neutral site loss to Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.

  1. First off, you never like to lose, and especially not to Kentucky, but this looked like the team that was playing in Maui, not the team we’ve seen in the four games since – an encouraging sign. The trick now is becoming that team always. This game had the feeling of a game in March or April and will pay dividends for both teams throughout the season.
  2. I think Joel Berry is going to be all right. With a player coming back from a lower body injury, you always wonder what their first game back will be like. Berry’s return was reminiscent of Marcus Paige’s first game last season against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The key is not having the let down that Paige had after that. Berry’s line from Saturday: 23 points on 9-15 shooting, 3-5 on 3s, 2-2 FTs, 5 R, 7 A, 3 TO, 2 S in 34 minutes. Also, Berry fell to the court after getting his shot blocked less than two minutes into the game. While you hate to see him fall, it’s nice that he was able to get right back up.
  3. The pace of this game was incredibly fun to watch. Two deep and athletic teams who like to run. And yet they take care of the ball really well – both teams finished with single digit turnovers.
  4. Speaking of pace, both teams scored 50+ points in the first half. Kentucky had 56, which is the most given up in the Roy Williams era in the first half. In the end, both teams finished with over 100.
  5. Justin Jackson missed more free throw in this game (five) than he had the rest of the season combined (four). Coming into the game he was 25-29 (86.2%). On the other side of the coin, Tony Bradley, who was shooting 30-50 (60%), went 6-6 in this game to balance out Jackson’s misses.
  6. Speaking of Justin Jackson, he’s getting to the line so much because he is attacking and aggressive. This is a good sign. Jackson finished the game with a career-high 34 points.
  7. Great close to the first half. The Heels closed the lead to as little as four after being down 12, and finished the half down five.
  8. Understatement of the season: Malik Monk is good at basketball. A couple of great defensive possessions against him in the closing minutes of the first half were what helped Carolina close the gap.
  9. That said, you know who would’ve done a great job guarding Monk in this game? Theo Pinson. Not saying Pinson would have completely shut Monk down, because he was hitting everything in sight. However, his lankiness and athleticism certainly would’ve bothered Monk and lowered his point total. Thanks to my man Carter Gilchrist for pointing this out!
  10. Speaking of Pinson, the Heels only got two points from the 2-guard spot today, and you’ve got to think that Pinson would’ve contributed more.
  11. Luke Maye had some important contributions. He had to HUGE 3s down the stretch as the Heels were fighting back. He also had a big time tap out on a missed Justin Jackson free throw that gave the Heels a chance to go up two possessions with under one minute left. Unfortunately, Joel Berry missed a shot and we know what happened next. Maye finished with a career high 11 points.
  12. Foul trouble hurt the Heels in this game. Berry, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks each were playing with four fouls down the stretch. Meeks fouled out, but both Hicks and Berry played smart to stay on the court down the stretch and impact the game in big ways. (Berry did ultimately foul out, but it was on the last meaningful play of the game).

 

 

Quick Hitters – Davidson

Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 83-74 home win against Davidson.

  1. The starters looked flat to start the game. So much so that four minutes into the game the five players on the floor were Seventh Woods, Stilman White, Luke Maye, Brandon Robinson, and Tony Bradley. This crew moved the score from 10-3 to 15-13 when they exited, exactly what you want to happen when you bring in the second unit to provide energy.
  2. Much of the 10-0 run the reserves went on early in the game was fueled by Luke Maye, who had seven points in that stretch. Maye finished with a career high 10 points.
  3. Once again Seventh Woods is taking too many shots and dribbling too much. He wound up playing only 11 minutes in a game where it seemed like he would play a lot more due to Joel Berry’s injury.
  4. Most of the minutes I assumed Woods would get went to Stilman White who had a solid 15 minutes including six points (all on free throws) and one assist against no steals.
  5. Much of the credit for the frustration in this game is due to Davidson’s double-teaming the post. The Heels got sped up, made some poor decisions, and then didn’t spend time getting the ball inside in the first ten minutes of the game. This trend continued throughout the game. For the most part the interior players did not handle the double teams well.
  6. That said, the team did a poor job of forcing the issue inside. This is attributed both to Davidson’s active defense and the absence of Joel Berry.
  7. Justin Jackson’s work over the summer is paying off from deep. He finished 7-13 on three-pointers. Overall, he tied his career high with 27 points.
  8. While it hurts to have Joel Berry out, very similar to last season and Marcus Pagie’s absence early in the season, the extra experience Nate Britt, Seventh Woods, and Stilman White are getting will pay dividends later on. At the same time, based on what we saw tonight, if Berry doesn’t play against Tennessee or Kentucky, things could go south in a hurry.

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

 

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

 

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

The Wait

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

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

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

What is this wait I speak of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 6

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

National Championship: Villanova

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

Previous NCAA Tournament Meetings Games

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

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

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

Game Notes

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

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

The Record Book

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

Villanova Starters

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

Villanova Key Reserves

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

The Numbers

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

3 X-Factors:

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

Main Key to the Game for the Tar Heels:

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

 

Quick Hitters – Syracuse (NCAA Tournament – Final 4)

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

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

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The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5

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

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Final Four: Syracuse

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

Previous 2015-16 Games

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

Game Notes

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

The Record Book

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

Syracuse Starters

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

Syracuse Key Reserves

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

The Numbers

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

2 X-Factors:

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

Main Key to the Game:

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