Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Panthers

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Auburn (NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 97-80 season-ending loss to Auburn on Friday evening in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • What a fun season it’s been. This team really took us on a ride; rounding into form by winning 17 out of 19 games prior to this loss. That streak lead to a shared ACC regular season championship. The only two losses in those 19 games were to fellow one seeds Duke and Virginia.
  • The abrupt and harsh ending that the NCAA Tournament delivers is always jarring. The unexpected loss will put a sour taste in the mouth of Tar Heel fans for some time. Seeing Kenny Williams on the sideline in tears after checking out for the final time is one of the most heartbreaking images you’ll ever see.
  • Who would have thought that the unheralded class of Kenny Williams and Luke Maye would wind up as one of the most accomplished classes in the history of North Carolina basketball? But that’s where we find ourselves. This is a credit to the coaching staff. It’s high time that the college basketball world begins to fully appreciate Roy Williams for the coach that he is.

  • While not as talented as the 2012 team, the external injury circumstances that led to that teams’ demise seem to have struck again this year at just the wrong time in the form of Nassir Little and Cam Johnson’s illness, Coby White’s tweaked ankle, and Kenny Williams’ hamstring.
  • At the same time, those are excuses and take away from Auburn’s three-point barrage in the second half. Fully healthy or not, Carolina simply didn’t have the defensive answers to slow down what the Tigers did after halftime.
  • Going back to the illnesses / injuries, it was clear that Little and Johnson were not themselves on Friday night. Little did not have his usual otherworldly explosion to the rim – he was blocked twice on dunks that would never have happened on a normal night. Johnson, will still tying for the team lead in scoring and having three steals, seemed a step behind all night. After tweaking his ankle five minutes before halftime, Coby White stayed in the game but didn’t possess his usual blow-by capabilities.

  • By hitting two three-pointers in his final game, Cam Johnson finished the season with 96, the second most in a single season in Carolina history. What a pick-up he was for Roy Williams’ club over the previous two years. With all due respect to Pittsburgh and their program, Johnson is a Tar Heel.
  • The Tar Heels finish the season with 312 made three-pointers as a team, the most in program history for a single season.
  • Unfortunately, the story on this night was Auburn’s three-point shooting. After Carolina did a reasonable job guarding deep shots in the first half, the Tigers exploded for 12 threes after halftime (on just 18 attempts).
  • Coming into the game, rebounding appeared to be a plus for the Tar Heels, while three-point shooting was a plus for the Tigers. Curiously, Auburn matched Carolina in rebounds in the first half (21) while Carolina matched Auburn in threes in the first half (five).
  • With many players struggling to make baskets, it was great to see Kenny Williams shoot well in his final collegiate game. The senior finished with 10 points, including hitting two threes. The Tar Heels will struggle to replace his defensive grit and determination next season.
  • Hard to believe but Luke Maye finishes his career with the 10th most rebounds in Carolina history (942). He also recorded 377 rebounds this season, the seventh most in a single season in the Tar Heel record book. Maye is the only player in program history to have two entries in the single-season top 10 rebounding list. Maye finishes his career tied with Kris Lang for 39th on the all-time Carolina scoring list with 1392 points.
  • After dominating their first two NCAA Tournament opponents on the glass, Carolina could not take advantage of a poor rebounding Auburn team, only holding a 40-36 advantage in that category.
  • What contrasting styles between the North Carolina / Auburn game and the Texas Tech / Michigan game from Thursday night. The Heels and Tigers had combined for 14 points just 1:45 into the game. The Red Raiders and Wolverines took 10:39 to achieve the same.
  • Other than back-to-back ill-advised shots around the 6:00 mark, when Carolina seemed poised to make a last push, Brandon Robinson had another solid showing. He finished with nine points, hit two threes, grabbed four rebounds, had three assists, and zero turnovers (against a team build to force them). Robinson’s continued development over the summer will be an important key to Carolina’s success in 2019-20.
  • Carolina didn’t play a great first half, but did enough to put themselves in position to take over in the second half (similar to the Iona game). However, a 14-0 run from Auburn that spanned the end of the first half and beginning of the second half gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. The Heels never again got any closer than six.
  • The part of the game that you hate to see: Auburn’s Chuma Okeke suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee with 8:08 left in the game. Okeke’s knee buckled as he drove to the basket. While he eventually hobbled off the court under his own power, the injury had the appearance of an ACL issue. Best wishes to Okeke in his recovery.

Roy Williams, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye post-game press conference:

While there will sadly be no more Quick Hitters this season, stay tuned throughout the off-season for updates on recruiting decisions, potential transfers, NBA early entry decisions, roster composition for 2019-20, and more.

On a personal note, thanks so much for continuing to read my work. I love getting to write about North Carolina basketball and would do it just for myself, but it’s an honor to do it for others as well. I’m so thankful for everyone who reaches out to say how much they enjoy reading. Your kindness is overwhelming.

Want to receive an email with Quick Hitters and other articles from Isaac Schade? Click here.

 

Advertisements

Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

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

Highlights:

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

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

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

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

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against NC State on Tuesday, January 8. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN.

Want to receive an email with Quick Hitters and other articles from Isaac Schade? Click here.

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Harvard

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-57 home victory on Wednesday night over Harvard.

Highlights:

  • Tonight was the final tune-up for the Tar Heels before ACC play commences on Saturday at Pittsburgh. It was a sluggish win for Carolina, but a win all the same. At the same time, the ugly win will not do much to inspire confidence heading into conference play. The 2018-19 Tar Heels are very much still a work in progress.
  • For the 13thseason in a row, Carolina has amassed 10+ non-conference wins.
  • Sterling Manley was out tonight with left knee discomfort. There is no current timetable for his return.
  • The Tar Heels only had four first half turnovers and finished with 11. Curiously, Cam Johnson was responsible for five of those. Harvard finished with 22 turnovers.

  • Carolina only out-rebounded Harvard 38-34 and had just eight offensive rebounds.
  • Garrison Brooks had another strong start but picked up two fouls before the first media timeout. This is the third game in a row he’s had two fouls in the first five minutes. Particularly with a thin front line further thinned with Sterling Manley’s absence, Brooks has to find ways to stay on the court longer.

  • Admittedly it has been against back-to-back mid-major teams, but the defense is trending in the right direction. Purely based off of shooting numbers, Carolina has held their last two opponents (Davidson and Harvard) to 33.9 percent (41-for-121) on field goals. Anecdotally, the team appears to be playing with more urgency, activity and cohesion on defense. Of course, there is still room to grow on defense. Here is Kenny Williams talking about that need for growth:
  • This defense uptick is fortunate because the Heels are struggling in half court offense and need the defense to turn into fast-break offense. A great example of the defense turning into offense came just before the under 4:00 media timeout of the first half. Kenny Williams grabbed a steal and pitched ahead to Leaky Black who assisted Nassir Little on an explosive dunk.

  • Sluggish and sloppy start to second half. Harvard cut the lead down to as little as 5.
  • If something seemed different defensively in the second half, that’s because Carolina started switching all their screens instead of the usual hedging out.
  • 19-22 from the free throw line for the Heels. Those are numbers you’ll take any night.

  • 5 different players hit double-digit scoring, led by Luke Maye’s 14.
  • For the first time all season, Kenny Williams didn’t record an assist.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC conference opener on the road against Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 5. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom. Here’s former Pittsburgh Panther Cam Johnson talking about tonight’s game, but also the impending match-up in Pennsylvania:

Want to receive an email with Quick Hitters and other articles from Isaac Schade? Click here.

 

 

 

Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 85-67 road win over Pittsburgh:

srsoxqrygsbmhum-20170226003034
Tony Bradley dunks during UNC’s 85-67 victory over Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: J.D. Lyon, Jr.
  1. This was a big time road win for UNC. It’s always tough to play against a team on their senior day. And don’t forget, the Tar Heels only beat Pitt by two AT HOME earlier in the season. More importantly, the win assured Carolina of at least a share of the regular season ACC title as well as a top two seed in the ACC Tournament. If Duke loses to Miami later today, the Heels will clinch the number one seed in the tournament.
  2. Pitt’s frontcourt rotation is thin, and Carolina was able to take advantage by drawing two early fouls on Sheldon Jeter. Jeter eventually fouled out in the second half.
  3. With Jeter on the bench for most of the game (only played seven minutes), the Heels were able to do what they do best: rebound everything. Carolina had 48 total rebounds, half of which were offensive. By comparison, Pittsburgh had 28 total rebounds. As has been the case several times this year, the Tar Heels had more offensive rebounds (24) than their opponent had defensive rebounds (19).
  4. Here’s a number for you: Carolina was 33-73 on field goals, meaning they missed 40. Of those 40, we’ve already noted that they rebounded 28. That means the Heels rebounded 60% of their misses.
  5. Pitt got out to a 17-11 lead. This savvy and veteran UNC squad isn’t fazed on the road. They went on a 13-2 run to make the score 24-19. Pitt came back and made it 30-28 with 2:39 to go. Then the Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run to end the half, turning a close game into a 12 point halftime lead.
  6. In the first half, UNC assisted on nearly every made field goal. The Heels had 12 assists on their first 12 made baskets. They had 13 assists on 14 made baskets. The lone outlier would have actually been an assist, but Kennedy Meeks missed a lay-up, got his own rebound, and scored.
  7. Carolina only turned the ball over eight times. The first turnover didn’t occur until thirteen minutes into the game.
  8. Though Isaiah Hicks finished with four fouls, he picked up his first with about six minutes to go in the first half.
  9. One big lapse early in the second half: North Carolina turned the ball over on three straight possessions. This allowed Pitt to cut the lead to eight. The margin never got any closer though, and the Heels eventually pulled a way.
  10. Isaiah Hicks is so close to the 1,000 career points mark. He scored eight today and needs three against Virginia on Monday to join Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, and Joel Berry as the others to do so this year.
  11. Justin Jackson is very likely going to finish this year holding the UNC mark for most made three-pointers in a single season. He hit five today, giving him 83 for the year. The record is 95, set by Shammond Williams in 1996-97. This also means Jackson could also be the first Tar Heel to reach 100 made three pointers in one year.

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.

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 (ACC Tournament Semifinal)

Quick hitters from last night’s 78-47 ACC Tournament semifinal victory over Notre Dame:

  1. The last 2 two times these teams met, the Tar Heels should have won. They didn’t. The first was last year’s ACC Championship game in which Carolina had a 9-point lead with 9:59 to go and ran out of gas down the stretch after playing 4 days in a row. The second was this year’s only regular season match-up (in South Bend) in which Carolina had as much as a 15-point lead, lead by 9 at the half, and were ahead as late as 6:36 left in the game. Last night, the Tar Heels should have won again. And they did. Handily.
  2. Oh, hello there, Marcus. Mr. Paige, just as in Thursday’s quarterfinal, hit his first 3 of the game. The difference is that against Notre Dame he then continued to play like Marcus Paige. He was both aggressive and decisive. He led all scorers with 16, shot 4-7 from 3, had 7 assists, 2 steals, 3 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. On the defensive end, he put a dog collar on Steve Vasturia – drawing a charge and holding him to 0 points. Most college basketball writers and commentators have been saying, “If Marcus Paige gets back to being Marcus Paige, this is a national championship team. If he doesn’t, they’re still really good, but don’t have a chance at a championship.” Here’s an example from Jeff Goodman: Tar Heels Need A Better Marcus Paige. If last night was an example of things to come, look out America.
  3. It’s been well chronicled that Roy constantly reminds his team of the defense it takes to win a championship (conference or national) – in particular how successful the ’05 and ’09 national championship teams were when they bought in on that end of the floor. Against Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Tar Heels were more locked in defensively. But last night against Notre Dame was another level. Carolina bigs were able to break contact on multiple occasions to get around and deflect entry passes. There were active feet, active hands, help defense. You might say the Tar Heels were flying around making plays, which is an accolade usually attributed to a defensive unit in football. Will it happen against tonight against Virginia? Is that swarming defense sustainable for 6 games across three weekends? I sure hope so.
  4. Here are some statistical examples of last night’s defense:
    • ND didn’t SCORE in the final 6:10 of the 1st half
    • ND didn’t record a FG until 14:52 of the 2nd
    • Combined, that’s an 11:18 drought without a FG.
    • ND shot 33.3% in the 1st half, 26.9% in the 2nd half, and 30% for the game. For the Irish, the 2nd half percentage was the lowest for a 2nd half and 2nd lowest in any half on the year. The overall percentage was the lowest in a game for the season.
    • ND scored 47 points – the only time this year they didn’t hit 50.
    • According to Pomeroy rankings, ND is the 10th most efficient offense in the country, EVEN AFTER this performance.
  1. During Notre Dame’s scoring drought, the Tar Heels had another big run. 18-0 over the course of the final 6:10 of the 1st Extended to 24-0 to start 2nd half.
  2. Something else about the run to end the first half: Brice Johnson & Kennedy Meeks were on the bench. Both left the court with 2 fouls and 6:30 to go in the first half (the 18-0 run started at 6:10). When that happened, I, along with probably all Tar Heel fans, was nervous. The score was 23-20. Neither player came back in in the 1st The halftime score? 41-22.
  3. Let’s see, how do I put this? Ah yes: Joel Berry is strong.
  4. To think that Carolina was this dominant on a night when Brice Johnson was saddled with foul trouble (only played 15 minutes) and “only” (by his normal standard) had 12 points and 7 rebounds is scary for the rest of the country. This also meant no double-double for Brice.
  5. Part of the reason UNC didn’t need a huge performance from Johnson is that Isaiah Hicks recorded his first career double-double (11 points and 15 rebounds) to go along with an assist, a steal, and two blocks in 23 minutes of action. He continues to be very efficient. A good sign of things to come next year.
  6. The offensive percentages were somewhat down: 43.5% FG and 63.2% FT for the game. The Tar Heels missed several bunnies right around the rim. And yet, this was a dominant performance. This exemplifies the importance of the defensive effort.
  7. Once again, Carolina did the work of putting the game away early so that they didn’t have to fret down the stretch. 20+ point lead for all but the first minute of the 2nd
  8. Tonight will be Carolina’s 5th ACC Championship game in 6 years. Of course, as we know, they haven’t won any of the previous 4. Tonight could be the night. And another great opportunity to buckle down and get a tough win against Virginia.
  9. Interestingly, after the wins against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, I now hear commentators and writers using words like “attitude”, “edge”, “hard”, “pit-bull mentality”, “committed”, “chip”, and “personality” to describe this “soft” team.

Bonus: If you are a college basketball fan, today was a fun day. A classic UConn/Cincinnati 4OT game, including a deeper-than-half-court-game-tying-buzzer-beater. A game-winning half-court buzzer-beater from Buddy Hield that was no good because he didn’t get it off in time. Michigan fighting for their life and upsetting the #1 seed Indiana. The list goes on. Let’s not kid ourselves: March Madness has already started.

 

 

 

Quick Hitters – Pittsburgh (ACC Tournament Quarterfinal)

Here are quick hitters from today’s ACC Tournament Quarterfinal win over Pittsburgh:

  1. Pitt jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 90 or so seconds (all 8 points from Jamel Artis). The Heels were 1-7 from the floor until Marcus Paige hit a 3 to make the score 10-7. After settling in, Carolina took its first lead at 15-14 with 12:07 to go in the 1st half on Nate Britt’s lay-up (after penetrating Pitt’s 2-3 zone, which was a nice sight to see).
  2. Joel Berry was 6-6 with 13 points in the first 20 minutes. Have a 1st half young man! He ended the game with 20 points and was the high scorer. I’m not saying he’s Ty Lawson, but Joel has put the team on his back in very similar ways at times this year.
  3. Neither team reached the bonus in the 1st That just doesn’t happen in today’s college basketball climate.
  4. The game went to the last media timeout of the 1st half at 3:21 with Pitt up 35-29. By the time the teams went to the locker room, the Heels had gone on a 10-0 run and were up 39-35.
  5. Speaking of runs, Carolina had 2 big ones on the day. The aforementioned 10-0 run grew to 12-0 after halftime. There was also an 11-0 run midway through the 2nd half; which effectively put the game out of reach.
  6. Kenny Williams came into the day 0-12 from behind the arc in his freshman campaign. The first 3 of his Tar Heel career (and there will be many more – that’s a pretty stroke) could not have come at a better time. The shot came as part of the 11-0 2nd half run and pushed the lead to double digits for the first time at 66-55 with 8:28 to go. That lead would never shrink back to single digits.
  7. Speaking of Kenny Williams, he played critical minutes in the heart of the 2nd Obviously, I’m not Roy Williams, but if I had to guess – he wasn’t thinking solely about today, but rather doing everything he can to use the Tar Heels’ depth to his advantage as this tournament goes on. At the same time, good to see that Kenny has his coach’s trust enough to insert him at a critical juncture in the game. Kenny received a nice round of applause from the crowd as he came back to the bench with 7:05 left in the game.
  8. Brice Johnson, with his 19 points and 10 rebounds, notched his 20th double-double of the season. Of the power 5 conferences, only Ben Simmons has more (22) on the season. With an eye toward the UNC record books: 20 double-doubles on the season ties Johnson with Mitch Kupchak (‘74-‘75), Billy Cunningham (‘62-‘63), and Doug Moe (‘60-‘61). John Henson (‘10-‘11) and Antawn Jamison (‘97-‘98) had 21. Billy Cunningham (’63-’64) has the most Carolina double-doubles in a single season with 22. Carolina will play at least 2 more games, so Johnson should have a chance to tie (and possibly even break) the record.
  9. This was a game in which the Tar Heels demonstrated a high level of closeability. In a tight game, Carolina used the 2nd half 11-0 run to extend to a double-digit lead. In the previous 2 games (Syracuse & Duke), Carolina had shown closeability in that they made tough plays down the stretch to win close games. In this win, they did the work of closing earlier so that outcome was not in doubt in the waning moments. This is a good sign moving forward.
  10. With free throw shooting being an Achilles (ahem) heel the past couple of years, this year has been a breath of fresh air (74% as a team). Today’s 89% (16-18) is always welcome. It helps to have Marcus Paige, Joel Berry, and Nate Britt who are each top 14 in career FT% at UNC.
  11. The Tar Heels have shot extremely well against Pitt this year. Today, they had their highest 1st half FG% of the year (56.7%), their 4th highest 2nd half FG% (61.5% – also the 4th highest in any half), and their 2nd highest FG% for the whole game (58.9%). Last time the Heels played Pitt, the numbers were similar. 55.6% in the 1st half (2nd highest in the 1st half), 63.0% in the 2nd half (3rd highest in the 2nd half or any half), and 59.3% for the game (the highest for a game).

ACC Tournament Seeding Scenarios

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

Here are the current standings:

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

Here are Saturday’s matchups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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