Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Boston College

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

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Florida State on Monday, February 3. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

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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:

CezYMj-WEAAIvXA.jpg-large

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.

 

Soak It Up

This is it. The final weekend of the 2015-16 college basketball season. No matter what happens in NRG Stadium, this will be the final time we will see this edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James will only pull on their Tar Heel #5, #11, and #42 jerseys once more, maybe (hopefully) twice more. As fans, we find it easy to get wrapped up in defining a season by the final game. Whether or not Carolina can win tomorrow against Syracuse and subsequently knock off Villanova or Oklahoma on Monday night, this will go down as one of my favorite (if not the favorite) teams of all time. So here’s what I want to say: before we get enraptured in the games this weekend, make sure to take time to stop, appreciate this team, and soak it up.

Make sure to think back on the careers and development of Paige, Johnson, and James.

 

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Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, & JP Tokoto with Coach Roy Williams for their freshman picture

 

The biggest thing I’ll remember from this year is the Marcus Paige emotional roller coaster. Here is my stream-of-consciousness thinking of Mr. Paige’s senior year thus far: “Marcus is finally healthy and primed for a huge All-American senior year; reminiscent of his sophomore campaign! He broke his hand. Oh no! Which hand??? His non-shooting hand? Okay. Whew. Dodged a bullet. When will he come back? How will the team play until then? 5-1 with an undesirable, but understandable loss in a true road game at Northern Iowa. How will he look when he finally suits up? 20 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 34 minutes at home against Maryland, an early contender for the national championship? We’ll take it. Marcus is ready to go. Then the slump. Poor Marcus. His shot looks so pretty, why won’t it go in? He’s not hitting his free throws either. Oh man he hit a couple 3s this game, he’s back!! Nope he’s not. Well the good news is Marcus is still doing everything else he should as a teammate. I just hate for his senior year to play out this way. Maybe, just maybe he’ll pick up in March. Yes – 4 of 7 from deep against Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals. Here we go. Marcus is on in March. Spoke to soon. 0-7 from deep against Virginia. But man did he do a number guarding Brogdon. 2 solid, but unspectacular, games to start the NCAA tournament. But then Indiana, ohhhhh the Indiana game. With each successive 3 to start the game, I jumped higher and yelled louder. 21 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers. That’s Marcus Paige. He’s back.” Marcus might score 30 points against Syracuse or he might score 0. The Tar Heels might win and the same stats are possible against Oklahoma/Villanova. Either way, Marcus Paige will be one of my five favorite Tar Heels of all time.

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 01 North Carolina at Louisville
February 1, 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks with North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) during the game against The Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina Tar Heels at The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY. Louisville defeated North Carolina 71-65. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Raise your hand if you thought Marcus Paige would have the struggles he’s had this year and yet, the Tar Heels would find themselves in the Final Four as the favorites to cut down the nets. The reason is because of two words: Brice Johnson. Let me use some numbers, so that we can try to wrap our heads around what a historical year he’s had. With his next rebound (just one), Johnson will have 400 for the season and will become the single-season rebounding leader in North Carolina Men’s Basketball history (and is on the doorstep of moving into the top 10 in ACC single season history). Just stop and think about that. For every rebounder that’s ever put on a UNC jersey, he has the most rebounds in any one season. And it’s not just this season. Brice is 1 of only 8 Tar Heels to have 1000 career rebounds. The others on the list are some gentlemen named Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, and Daugherty. Heard of any of them? He’s currently number 6 on that list and has a realistic shot to move past Antawn Jamison for 5th. And it’s not just the rebounds, it’s also the points. Brice has scored 648 points this year, good to tie him with NBA champion Harrison Barnes’ 2011-12 campaign for 18th in one season. He will definitely continue moving up this list; whether UNC plays 1 or 2 more games will determine exactly how much further. Along similar lines, Johnson has moved into 19th on the career scoring list, again with extremely realistic chances to continue moving up. This also means that this team boasts 2 of the top 20 scorers in Carolina history (Paige is currently at #12). The combination of scoring and rebounding a lot means that Johnson has accumulated 23 double-doubles this season, again the most in a single-season in UNC history. He currently is averaging 17.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg this year. Only 4 Tar Heels have averaged a double-double since 1975-76. Their names? Antawn Jamison, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, John Henson. Mr. Brice Johnson, we thank you for giving us one of the greatest single years any player has ever had in Chapel Hill. I think all that yelling Roy has done just might have made a difference.

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I will remember this year as the year that the “not tough” Tar Heels suffered 6 losses (to this point), but only by a combined 22 points. And they never lost by more than 6. And they had a lead at some point in EVERY GAME THEY PLAYED. In fact, the Heels also had a least a tie in the 2nd half of every game they played. Probably the most impressive of these stats is that, of Carolina’s 38 games to date, they’ve held a 2nd half lead in every game but one (@ Virginia).

I will remember the collapse at home to Duke. As that game wore on, and the Heels struggled to create separation, I thought, “there’s no way we lose this game”. However, there were images of Austin Rivers floating in the back of my head. I will readily admit that after that loss, I really wondered what this team would amount to come tournament time. But now we have answer. The Tar Heels of the 2016 ACC Tournament were a thing of beauty. This team is tough.

I will remember this as a Carolina team that returned almost completely intact (we miss you JP!) and added a couple nice pieces in Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. I will remember this as the year that a Carolina team with no “superstars” and possible NCAA sanctions looming moved past several years of uncertainty (early departures after 2011-12, the PJ Hairston debacle, Paige’s injury-riddled junior year, etc), joined together, and rose above it all to make the Final Four with as good a shot as you’re going to get at winning a national championship.

It’s been a great year. We still have 1, maybe 2, games left. So soak it up Tar Heel fans and let’s enjoy this epilogue.

UNCBKB16-101215-EDH

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.