Tag Archives: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke

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

Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Senior Night Speeches:

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 95-57 road win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon.

Highlights:

 

  • There was some legitimate concern heading into this game. Saturday noon starts have not exactly yielded the best version of 2018-19 North Carolina Basketball. Would Cam Johnson’s ankle be okay? Would Nassir Little’s? Would the Tar Heels overlook Wake Forest with a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium looming on Wednesday evening? Forget all that. Carolina came out guns blazing and by the time Wake finally scored with 13:31 left in the first half the Heels were up 18-0 and went on to record the most lopsided victory (38 point margin) in the history of this rivalry.
  • As has been the case of late, this flurry to start the game was fueled on the defensive end of the court.
  • Perhaps Cam Johnson should tweak his ankle more often. He scored the first points of the game (a three-pointer, of course) and went on to hit his first eight shots (six of which were threes). Johnson finished with 27 points on an efficient 10-for-13 shooting including 7-for-10 from deep.
  • Staying with the “ankle injury” theme, Nassir Little seemed to be playing all right, although not as aggressive as usual. He did dive after a loose ball and absorb contact on multiple occasions without showing ill effect.
  • Congratulations to Luke Maye whose seven rebounds give him 805 for his career. He becomes just the 21st Tar Heel to break 800.
  • Carolina out-rebounded Wake, but only 39-36. In fact, the Deacons had more offensive rebounds than Carolina did (18-9). Granted Carolina also had 22 fewer missed shots than their opponents.
  • The Heels shot 62.3 percent (38-61) for the game; the best percentage so far this season. The previous high was 56.1 in the blowout of NC State. In the first half, Carolina shot 74.1 percent (20-27); the best percentage for one half of play this season. The previous high for one half is 64.0 percent in the second half of the Miami comeback last Saturday.
  • Although this was a game with many positives, there were two troublesome stats. The first was turnovers. Carolina finished with 15 turnovers, 11 of which came in the first half. Senior Luke Maye was responsible for five of the turnovers, four of which happened in the first 12:30 of game action.
  • The second troubling stat involved the free throw line. The Heels missed their first six shots and finished just 3-for-11.

  • Carolina is now 6-0 on the road in ACC play.
  • Thanks to this victory and Notre Dame’s loss, the worst seed Carolina can receive in the ACC Tournament is 10. If Boston College loses on Sunday, the worst possible seed changes to nine, which means the Heels will have already clinched a first round bye.
  • One of the best by-products of such a dominant victory is the rest it afforded the starters. Only one player, Cam Johnson, reached the 30 minute mark.
  • It was a good day for the reserves. Seventh Woods scored nine points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting. Brandon Robinson chipped in eight points, Brandon Huffman six, Nassir Little five, and Andrew Platek five. 14 Tar Heels played and 13 scored at least one point. Additionally, 12 recorded at least one rebound.
  • Maybe the craziest stat of the game – EIGHT different Tar Heels connected on a three-pointer.

  • Often times, when teams get out to a hot start, they get lazy and the second half gets ugly. Not true today. The Tar Heels continued to pad the lead in the second half and only turned the ball over four times.
  • This was not an eye-popping performance from Coby White (on his birthday!). However, his stat line was the exact type of balance the Tar Heels need from him – 10 points, six assists, two turnovers, five rebounds, and three steals.
  • Great fast break to stretch lead back to 28 with :30 left before halftime. Andrew Platek got what appeared to be a block (although not credited with one). Coby White picked up the loose ball and threw a long pass to Cam Johnson who found a cutting Luke Maye for the lay-up. Enjoy:

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 Duke on Wednesday, February 20. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN & Raycom.

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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 – Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 83-76 home-ish win over Notre Dame. Every win down the stretch, in which the Heels face a crazy gauntlet of opponents, is big. After a crazy week of college basketball, this win solidified the Heels alone in first atop the ACC at 9-2, with a whole slew of teams bunched together right behind them.

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Tony Bradley was a spark off the bench for UNC in the 83-76 win over Notre Dame on Super Bowl Sunday. He had 12 points on 5-7 shooting, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, and 3 blocks. Photo Credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati

First, a note. I didn’t have the opportunity to post Quick Hitters after the Pittsburgh game, but wanted to make sure to say congrats to Kennedy Meeks for becoming just the 11th player in UNC history for amassing 900 career rebounds.

  1. I don’t like to criticize the refs, so I won’t.
  2. This was the second time this season the Heels have had a game delayed. Last time was the 51-point NC State blow out. This one was indeed closer, but the Heels are 2-0 in delayed games.
  3. It was really nice to see a team come out and play man-to-man after a streak of majority zone defenses. Notre Dame did, however, sprinkle in 2-3 zone on several inbounds plays and other half-court possessions throughout the game.
  4. After several games of lackadaisical defense, this game featured a more aggressive and locked-in defense effort from the Tar Heels. Most notably, the there was an apparent renewed effort to stop dribble penetration.
  5. Kennedy Meeks had four rebounds before the first media timeout and finished the game with 8. He would have had more, were it not for second half foul trouble, including fouling out with 5:14 remaining in the game.
  6. Poor FT shooting – 4-10 to start the game. Including 0-2 from Justin Jackson, 1-2 from Tony Bradley, and 3-6 from Kennedy Meeks. Joel Berry, the potential all-time leader at UNC for FT%, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 6:48 left in the game. You can’t do that against the #2 team in the nation in FT percentage. For the game, Carolina shot 17-28 (60.7%) and Notre Dame was 17-20 (85%).
  7. This was another game in which the Heels obliterated their opponents on the boards. The margin in this game was 19 (44-25). In fact, Carolina almost had more offensive rebounds (17) than Notre Dame did defensive rebounds (18). Perhaps the best stat of the day is that all 10 players that saw time on the court day had at least one rebound.
  8. Justin Jackson and Joel Berry a combined 1-9 from three in the first half. Started 0-8 before Jackson connected.
  9. While Berry and Jackson were struggling, it was Kenny Williams who picked up the slack. He shot 3-4 from deep and had 11 total points. In fact, it was Williams (as per usual) who was the spark plug in this game. He had 3 assists and zero turnovers. Perhaps his best play of the day however, came with 10:35 remaining in the game. UNC was up 65-53 and Notre Dame had gained a good deal of momentum. Williams stepped into the lane and drew a charge from Steve Vasturia.
  10. Though Joel Berry and Nate Britt didn’t score in the first half, they had 8 assists combined.
  11. Great scoring balance. 6 different Heels scored in double figures (Jackson – 16, Hicks – 14, Berry and Bradley – 12, Meeks and Williams – 11) in a game where the team had 83.
  12. Theo Pinson missed his 3rd game in a row, however he was out on the court before the game going through drills and looked to be in good form. This is a (hopefully) good sign for him suiting up on Thursday night against Duke. I thought his absence today might be the Tar Heels’ undoing because of Notre Dame’s desire to spread the floor and drive, which would necessitate a good deal of small ball.
  13. Though this version of the Tar Heels are not known for their shot-blocking prowess, the team had 6 (including 3 from Tony Bradley) today.

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.

 

 

 

 

Quick Hitters – Notre Dame (NCAA Tournament – Elite 8)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-74 win over Notre Dame in the Elite 8:

  1. First off, biggest play of the game was the steal by Theo Pinson with 12:22 left in the game. Although Marcus Paige had just hit a jumper to stop a 12-0 Notre Dame run and put the Tar Heels back in the lead 53-52, the Irish had all the momentum. Theo’s steal ignited the bench and things progressed positively from there.
  2. The crucial juncture of the game was the 12-0 Notre Dame run midway through the 2nd half to take a 52-51 lead. Rather than packing it in, the veteran Tar Heels responded in kind, with a 12-0 run of their own and never looked back. All of this run happened with Brice Johnson on the bench, having just picked up fouls 2 & 3 (the latter of which was a technical).RAURLXFSQQASTCA.20160328040042
  3. Getting back to Theo Pinson, he provided a huge spark this evening. His stat line was solid, but not overly impressive if you didn’t see the game: 6 points on 2-2 shooting, 2 rebounds (both offensive), 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers. But if you did see the game, you know how important every one of those stats was. Almost all of this stat line came in 2 critical stretches of the 2nd half – all after the Brice Johnson technical. Stretch #1 (12:22-8:37). Situation: Notre Dame has just reeled off the 12-0 run to take the lead and gain momentum. Carolina could fold, or respond. Enter Theo: The 1 steal in the stat line is the aforementioned biggest play of the game at 12:22. Subsequently, although he missed both free throws (which provided the craziest play of the game when Isaiah Hicks had a left-handed tip-in from 5 feet out off the 2nd miss), he drew the 3rd foul on Zach Auguste at 10:57. He then secured his first two points with a lay-up at 10:01 while guarded by the now-saddled-with-3-fouls Zach Auguste who couldn’t play aggressive defense. Next, at 9:21, off a beautiful, standard-issue Kennedy Meeks full court outlet pass, Pinson threw a nice alley-oop to Hicks for one of his 4 assists. Then, at 8:40, he corralled an offensive rebound in traffic (with all 5 Notre Dame players surrounding him) and put it back for points 3 and 4. Stretch #2 (2:07-1:39). Situation: The Tar Heels are maintaining a pretty comfortable 10 point cushion, but the game is not out of reach. Enter Theo: At 2:07, Justin Jackson snags an offensive rebound and kicks it back out to a wide-open Pinson at the top of the key. Pause. Syracuse was in the exact same situation just a few hours earlier. Up 6, Tyler Lydon got an offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Michael Gbinije at the top of the key. He promptly fired a 3. With a fresh 30 on the shot clock. Up 6. With 2:37 to in the Elite 8. Would Theo suffer the same fate? No, he pulled the ball out, found Berry and the Tar Heels ran clock until the Irish decided it was time to start fouling. At 1:54, Justin Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Theo had a tip-out to Joel Berry for offensive rebound number 2. To wrap up stretch #2, Pinson was fouled at 1:39 and sank both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to give Carolina a 12 point lead. Mr. Theo Pinson earned his trip to the press conference on this night.
  4. With 25 points and 12 rebounds tonight, Brice Johnson broke a record and tied a record. The double-double was his 23rd of the season and is the most by a Tar Heel in one season. The 12 rebounds gives him 399 on the season, which places Brice in a tie with Tyler Hansbrough’s 2007-08 season for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Should Brice secure 1 rebound against Syracuse he would hold the single-season rebound record and be the only Tar Heel to ever get 400 in a season.
  5. At this point, I’m convinced Marcus Paige was sandbagging all season. In all seriousness, so glad for Marcus and the re-start that the tournament has allowed him.
  6. Coming into the game this Tar Heel team had the best assist-to-turnover ratio and the lowest turnovers per game average of any Tar Heel team since turnovers were first recorded in 1981-82. Carolina only had 6 turnovers tonight (versus 17 assists), so both those numbers should continue to improve.
  7. Big play when Demetrius Jackson hurt his ankle. He was clearly at least somewhat hobbled and Joel Berry was able to take advantage on several drives to the hoop.
  8. This is the first time I remember seeing Brice’s emotions affect the game in such a monumental way. Getting a 2nd foul was no big deal, but the subsequent technical foul (& therefore 3rd personal) which sent him to the bench really hurt. It was in the middle of the Notre Dame 12-0 run and could have potentially effectively ended the North Carolina men’s basketball season. Fortunately, his teammates picked him up and it didn’t end up hurting. Brice was quick to take the blame at the top of the press conference.
  9. Another solid game from Kennedy Meeks. Although he only played 15 minutes, he scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting and hit both free throws he shot.
  10. The “burn” offense. Great tactic from Mike Brey. Certainly a source of frustration for the Heels in the 1st Also allowed the Irish to stay in the game while Zach Auguste was on the bench in foul trouble. All the same, for the most part, the Heels showed great defensive patience and stayed dialed in for the full shot clock. I should also say, I’m not sure Notre Dame was still using this tactic down 12 with 5 minutes to go. I think they should have abandoned this approach much sooner than they did, but that’s why they pay Mike Brey and not Isaac Schade.
  11. Tonight, the Irish had the highest FG% (55.1%) against the Tar Heels all season. Previous to this, the Heels had held 28 straight opponents under 45%. This was only the 2nd time all season a team has shot over 50% against Carolina.
  12. Hats off to Notre Dame. Back-to-back Elite 8s. Came in with a great game plan tonight and executed it. They are a classy program, who works hard and plays the game well. Certainly going to miss watching the departing players in the ACC.EEPNYHUDSNAOMRW.20160328021838

The Path To Houston, Part 4

Welcome to the 2016 ACC Tournament, Round 2! What a testament to the depth and talent in the conference. On the second day of Elite 8 games, the only four teams in play are all from the ACC: Virginia vs. Syracuse and North Carolina vs. Notre Dame. It’s highly possible that the Tar Heels could repeat the path they took in the semifinals and finals of the ACC Tournament. They play Notre Dame tonight (ACC Tournament semifinals) and, with a win, would most likely play Virginia (ACC Tournament final) in the Final Four next Saturday.

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Elite Eight: Notre Dame

  • 24-11 (11-7)
  • 6th in ACC
  • Stat Leaders
    • Points: Demetrius Jackson – 15.5
    • Assists: Demetrius Jackson – 4.7
    • FG%: Zach Auguste – 55.9
    • Rebounds: Zach Auguste – 10.9
    • Steals: Demetrius Jackson – 1.2
    • Blocks: Demetrius Jackson – 1.1
    • Minutes: Steve Vasturia – 36.0

Previous 2015-16 ND / UNC Games

  • February 6. UNC @ ND. Notre Dame won 80-76. UNC led by at many as 15 and 9 at the half. The Heels let off the accelerator in the 2nd half and lost by 4.
  • March 11. ACC Tournament semifinal. North Carolina won 78-47. The Heels were locked in defensively and the game was effectively over by halftime. The Tar Heels had a 24-0 run at one point in this game.

Game Notes

  • Bonzie Colson has started most of the season for Notre Dame, but Coach Mike Brey has inserted Matt Farrell into the starting lineup throughout the NCAA Tournament. As he says, this gives them “another ball handler on the floor…and that’s kind of helped and taken a little pressure off Demetrius that we have another ball handler on the floor to start a game”. The problem for the Irish is that while this gives them another ball handler, it eliminates their height advantage in the backcourt and doesn’t seem to provide any matchup difficulties for the Tar Heels in the frontcourt.
  • While North Carolina has won every tournament game by double digits, Notre Dame has played three very close games. In fact, Notre Dame has been behind in the 2nd half of every game they’ve played. Michigan last held a lead with 4:32 remaining. Both Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin held leads with under :30 left.
  • This is Notre Dame’s 2nd straight Elite 8. They lost to Kentucky in the same round last year.
  • By the numbers, Notre Dame’s defense is by far the worst of the 4 units in adjusted efficiency. UNC is 2nd on offense and 16th on defense. ND is 10th on offense but 154th on defense.
  • While having a very efficient offense, Notre Dame plays at a much slower pace (318th in the country) that do the Tar Heels (50th). It will be interesting to see which team can exert their will.
  • There has been a lot of talk from Notre Dame about 2014-15 when Duke beat them handily before Notre Dame got revenge later in the postseason. They are hoping to do the same to North Carolina after the Heels’ 31 point victory a few weeks ago. If I were Roy Williams (and I’m most decidedly not), I would counter by reminding my team of the 2008-09 season. Carolina played Michigan St. in the Big 10/ACC Challenge and won 98-63 (35 point victory). When the teams met again for the National Championship later that season, there was a lot of talk of revenge, but the Heels won 89-72 in a game that never felt that close.

A couple records that might be broken tonight:

  • Brice Johnson has 387 rebounds this season. This is 12 shy of tying Tyler Hansbrough for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Tyler has 399 in 2007-08. Should Brice break the record, he would be the first Tar Heel to have 400 rebounds in a seson.
  • Brice also has 22 double-doubles (points and rebounds) on the season. He is tied with Billy Cunningham for the most for a Tar Heel in one season. Cunningham achieved this in 1963-64.

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Notre Dame Starters (**Colson usually starts but Farrell has been starting in the NCAA Tournament)

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TO/G SPG BPG
Demetrius Jackson 6’1” 201 35.9 15.5 3.5 4.7 44.4 32.7 81.5 2.1 1.2 0.3
Matt Farrell** 6’1” 175 12.9 2.4 0.8 1.6 35.0 28.1 88.2 0.6 0.2 0.0
Steve Vasturia 6’5” 212 36.0 11.4 2.6 3.2 43.3 34.6 85.0 1.9 0.8 0.2
V.J. Beachem 6’8” 200 31.1 11.9 3.9 0.8 47.1 44.0 57.1 0.9 0.8 0.8
Zach Auguste 6’10” 245 29.8 14.3 10.9 1.1 55.9 0.0 62.6 2.5 0.7 1.1

Notre Dame Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TO/G SPG BPG
Bonzie Colson** 6’5” 225 25.2 11.2 6.7 1.0 53.6 33.3 77.0 1.0 0.9 1.0
Matt Ryan 6’8” 217 14.8 5.3 1.7 0.5 41.7 37.4 79.2 0.2 0.3 0.1
Rex Pflueger 6’6” 198 13.6 2.4 1.4 1.1 38.2 32.0 95.2 0.3 0.6 0.2

The Numbers

  North Carolina Notre Dame
KenPom Rank 4 34
Points per game 82.9 75.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 121.6 (2nd) 118.2 (10th)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 94.4 (16th) 102.7 (154th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.9 (50th) 65.7 (318th)
Field Goal% 47.9 47.4
2P FG% 53.7 52.8
3P FG% 32.1 37.1
3PA% 26.8 34.2
FT% 74.4 74.1
FT Rate 32.7% 33.0%
RPG 40.9 35.7
Offensive Reb Rate 40.0% 33.0
Defensive Reb Rate 69.8% 68.3
APG 17.9 13.5
BPG 4.5 4.0
SPG 6.9 5.5
TPG 10.9 10.1
TO Rate 15.4% 15.4%

X-Factor: Notre Dame’s starting lineup change. Can Carolina take advantage of the now even more pronounced frontcourt size advantage before Bonzie Colson comes in off the bench? Justin Jackson (6’8”) will most likely match up with Steve Vasturia (6’5”) – advantage Jackson. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson (both 6’10”) will, in some form, match up with Zach Auguste (6’10”) and VJ Beachem (6’8”). The Heels need to attack whomever Beachem is guarding. The question for Carolina is whether Meeks will be quick enough to follow either Auguste or Beachem or whether Roy Williams will need to bring in Isaiah Hicks or go small with Theo Pinson. The personnel chess match between Coach Williams and Coach Brey will be interesting and go a long way to determining which of these teams will head to the Final Four next Saturday.

Main Key to the Game: Stop me if this sounds familiar to Friday’s game against Indiana: Stop Demetrius Jackson’s dribble penetration (Friday it was Yogi Ferrell). Staying in front of Jackson (without fouling) is top priority tonight. If other players have to help off, that leaves shooters open outside for 3s and, with the defensive rotations required, also leaves the offensive glass vulnerable.