Tag Archives: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Washington (NCAA Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-59 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • The Tar Heels advance to the Sweet 16 for the 29th time in program history; the most all-time. While a Sweet 16 appearance is not the ultimate goal, let’s keep it in perspective: There are only 16 of the 353 D1 men’s basketball teams still playing and Carolina is one of them. That never gets old. See for yourself:
  • Cameron Johnson made three more three-pointers to run his season total to 94. That ties him with Marcus Paige (2014-15) for the third most in a single season in Carolina history. In second place is Shammond Williams with 95.
  • Luke Maye just keeps piling up career accolades. Against Washington, Maye set NCAA Tournament career highs in both points (20) and rebounds (14). His 20 points move him into 40th on the all-time Carolina scoring list (1379). His 14 rebounds move him into 11th on the all-time Carolina rebounding list (935). If Maye grabs seven rebounds against Auburn, he’ll move past Eric Montross into 10th.
  • Wrap your brain around this: Luke Maye is the only person in program history to have two entries on the Carolina single season top ten rebounding list. Maye now has 370 rebounds this season; ninth-most in a single season for a Tar Heel. The next person Maye would pass on that list is…himself from last season. Depending on how far the Heels go in the NCAA Tournament, Maye has a shot at recording just the second 400 rebound season in Carolina history (Brice Johnson – 416 in 2015-16).
  • The Tar Heels have been dominant on the boards thus far in the NCAA Tournament. Iona? Doubled them up (52-26). Washington? Doubled them up as well (48-24). That’s a total of 100 rebounds for Carolina vs. just 50 for their opponents.
  • A couple scary injury moments in this one. Garrison Brooks took an elbow to the mouth in the first half, which damaged two of his teeth and required stitches. Brooks missed the rest of the first half while being attended to, but came back out and had a solid second half. Not coincidentally, thanks to Brooks’ steady defense, his first half absence was the only point at which it seemed like Washington could potentially make a run.

  • The other injury occurred in the opening moments of the second half when Kenny Williams got a steal on Washington’s first possession. Unfortunately, he appeared to tweak his left hamstring. After being evaluated, Williams eventually returned to the game. Thankfully he has several days to recover before playing Auburn on Friday night.
  • Don’t look now, but Nassir Little is rising (#NassirRising). With 19 points against Iona and 20 against Washington, he has his highest two game scoring output of his Tar Heel career. There was a stretch in the second half when he scored 11 straight for Carolina, including a monster block.
  • Coby White broke out of his shooting slump early and often. He hit 4-for-5 from three in the first 11 minutes of the game. White finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and several drives to the hoop against a defense geared at “stopping three-pointers and layups”.
  • White wasn’t the only player to shoot better from deep. As a team the Tar Heels shot 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from three, the best percentage since playing Wake Forest on February 16.
  • As per usual, Carolina played great zone offense, sharing the ball and operating out of the opening at the free throw line. Quietly, Cam Johnson had seven assists and zero turnovers. This was the most assists he’s had as a Tar Heel and tied his career high.
  • Once or twice a game, Carolina will execute a picture-perfect fast break. With 11:20 to go before halftime, Nassir Little grabbed a rebound, threw a long outlet pass to Cameron Johnson, who hit Brandon Robinson for the lay-up.
  • This Tar Heel team is really difficult to guard because the scoring comes from so many different players and in so many different ways. In five of the last six games, at least four Tar Heels scored in double figures.
  • Washington scored the first bucket of the second half to cut the Carolina lead to five. From there, the Heels went on a 13-0 run over the next 4:30 to push the lead to 18. Washington would never again get within single digits. That is how an experienced team closes an NCAA Tournament game.

Roy Williams, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament against Auburn on Friday, March 29. Tip is at 7:29ET on TBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Florida State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-59 home win over Florida State on Saturday afternoon.

Highlights:

  • Hangover from Duke game? Nah. If anything, the Heels were even more focused. Perhaps they were desperate to prove that Wednesday’s result wasn’t just some aberration due to Zion Williamson’s absence. Besides, in the Roy Williams era, Carolina has never (NEVER) lost the game after the first Duke game. After today’s win the Heels are now 16-0 in those games. So what was there to worry about?
  • It might not seem like it to casual fans, but given the circumstances, this might have been the biggest win of the season. Carolina is coming off the emotions of the Duke game. FSU was on an 8 game winning streak. The stakes were high given the ACC standings and the need to keep pace with Virginia and Duke, while keeping Florida State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Louisville at bay.
  • This is back-to-back Saturdays in which Cam Johnson had a big game coming off an ankle injury. Last week he dropped 27 on Wake Forest, including seven made threes. Today he got his second double-double of the year with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
  • By the way, is there a more underrated player in the country than Cameron Johnson? Is it because of the legend of Luke Maye? Or perhaps the hype given to freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little? Hopefully Johnson will begin to get the national attention he deserves based on the year he’s having.
  • Staying with the theme of working back from ankle injuries, Nassir Little has appeared to still be hampered by his even though he has been playing. Today, however, was a different story. Little attacked from the second he got on the court and wound up making more free throws than anyone else in the game attempted. In fact, Little had two monstrous dunks. One came in the first half when he drove and dunked over one of the Seminole behemoths inside. The other was on a put-back when nobody bothered to box out the most athletic man on the court. Little finished tied with Johnson for a game-high 18 points. Here’s both dunks:
  • Those 18 points, along with production from the rest of the bench were hugely important against a deep Florida State team. You think Roy Williams plays a lot of people? Leonard Hamilton plays a lot of people. Nine Seminoles made it to double-digits in minutes. And although the Seminoles led the bench scoring category, as expected, Carolina kept it to a respectable 33-24.
  • Against Florida State, Carolina often struggles with length and athleticism. And yet today Carolina dominated the interior numbers. After what many considered to be an aberration on Wednesday night due to the Zion Williamson absence, the Heels proved they score in the paint with anyone by leading that category 28-12 over the Seminoles. Additionally, thanks to a strong gang rebounding effort, the Heels topped that category 47-32 (including a 13-6 lead in offensive rebounds).
  • Florida State makes a habit of living at the free throw line. A big question coming into the game was, “Can Carolina stay out of foul trouble and keep the Noles off the line?” By way of answer, the Heels made 18 free throws and FSU attempted 16. Sooooo….”yes”.
  • The three point shooting got off to another sluggish start. Carolina hit two of 11 in the first half, but finished a respectable 7-for-20. Early in the season, the Heels really struggled to win games where they didn’t shoot well. This week they beat the number one and 16 teams in the country while shooting a combined 9-for-40 from three. Good for the Tar Heels. Bad for the rest of the country.
  • After these most recent two wins, the Heels are 7-3 against ranked teams this season. Importantly, after a 2-2 start in those games, Carolina has won five of the last six.

  • Coby White played a sluggish first half but came out and scored six of his 10 points early in the second half to help push the three-point halftime lead out.
  • Thanks to the results of Saturday’s other games, the top three ACC teams (Carolina, Virginia and Duke) are each 12-2 and hold a three game lead over the next closest teams in the standings. Additionally, if Carolina beats Syracuse on Tuesday, they’ll have locked up no worse than the third seed and a double bye in the ACC Tournament.
  • Thanks to yet another strong defensive showing, Carolina’s defensive efficiency is now catching up to the offense. The Heels are just one of five teams nationally in the top ten of both offensive and defensive efficiency in KenPom. They are seventh in offense and tenth in defense. The other four teams are Virginia, Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky.

  • Garrison Brooks continues to grow in his discipline as a player. In other games this season, two first half fouls would have completely taken him out of his game. Today he didn’t commit any other fouls and in fact was responsible for drawing the third fouls on both Seminole big men in the second half.
  • Brandon Robinson didn’t have a huge statistical game, but he did have an important stretch midway through the first half. He also snatched a BIG TIME rebound away from 7’4” Christ Koumadje a couple minutes later in the first half.
  • Florida State hit a three with 10:36 remaining to cut the lead to four. This was as close as the game had been since just after halftime. Over the course of the next 90 seconds Carolina went on an 8-0 run, which included two Luke Maye threes. The run extended out to 16-1 and Florida State didn’t hit another field goal until 1:57 remained in the game.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Syracuse on Tuesday, February 26. Tip is at 9:00ET on Raycom and WatchESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-72 road win over Duke on Wednesday night.

Highlights:

  • How absolutely sublime that in a year when all anyone can talk about is Duke’s freshmen, it was Carolina’s senior leadership that won this game. Luke Maye finished with 30 points (his first 20-point game against Duke), 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers. Cameron Johnson had 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. And while Kenny Williams didn’t have the scoring numbers, he drew three charges, had five rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. Maye has scored 20+ in four of the last six games, while Johnson has 27 and 26 points in the last two.
  • While the seniors had really strong games, the freshmen unfortunately struggled. Coby White finished with six turnovers and nine points, but on 3-for-14 shooting. He did corral five rebounds, dish out three assists and have two blocks. Nassir Little was essentially a non-factor and Leaky Black is still in street clothes.
  • With the freshmen struggling, it was up to the juniors and sophomores to help out. With White struggling, Seventh Woods provided 12 strong minutes. He scored five points, drew a charge, passed out three assists and had two steals. One of those steals led to the vicious Garrison Brooks dunk right before halftime. Speaking of Brooks, he was the other unexpected scoring contributor – 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two steals.
  • The aforementioned Brooks dunk right before halftime was part of the most important sequence of the game. With 1:30 remaining before halftime, Duke cut the Carolina lead to five. Over the next 90 seconds, the Heels went on a 5-0 run to rebuild a double-digit lead. On two occasions early in the second half, Duke cut the lead back to nine, but the Heels led by double-digits for the remaining 18 minutes of the game. A week after Duke’s impressive comeback against Louisville, Carolina knew they had to keep playing. Every time Duke made a push, the Heels responded right back.
  • If you told me before the game that Carolina was going to shoot 2-for-20 from three and that Coby White was going to shoot 3-for-14 and have six turnovers, I would have thought there was no way Carolina wins. This team has been so dependent upon the outside shot this year.
  • Carolina wasn’t the only team to struggle from deep. The two teams combined to shoot 3-for-34 from three in the first half. Duke wound up shooting 8-for-39 for the game.
  • Part of the reason Carolina was able to overcome those shooting woes was their points in the paint. The Heels scored 30 of their first 32 points in the paint (12 of which were second chance buckets). Duke allows 30.0 points in the paint per game this season. Carolina more than doubled that number, finishing with a whopping 62.
  • And part of the reason Carolina was able to get those inside points was a knee injury to Zion Williamson less than a minute into the game. It’s unfortunate for the young man, who is a transcendent athlete. Hopefully he’ll be okay. It was obvious (with apologies to Tre Jones) that Williamson is the one who sets the defensive tone for Duke. Without him, the Blue Devils are extremely vulnerable defensively; particularly in the paint. The Williamson-less Blue Devils we saw tonight reminded me more of last year’s poor defensive team than the unit I’ve seen this year in Durham.
  • An important factor in Williamson’s absence was the freedom it allowed Luke Maye. Maye, who would have had a much more difficult time navigating Williamson’s defense, quickly scored six points against the replacement (Jack White) and was then off and running to a 30-point game.
  • Duke fans will say the injury cost Duke the game (and it certainly had a great impact), but the same could be said for Carolina’s game against Virginia last week. A game in which Carolina came much closer to winning than Duke did tonight. Even without Zion, Duke still has three of the top 10 freshmen (and two of the presumptive top-five NBA Draft picks) in the country. Plus, the game was played at Cameron (a.k.a. Hansbrough) Indoor Stadium.
  • It’s so vitally important to get off to a good start on the road (see Carolina’s 18-0 opening against Wake on Saturday). The Tar Heels jumped on top early, never trailed and built a double-digit lead seven-and-a-half minutes into the game.
  • 160 total points were scored in the game. Only 44 of those points (27.5 percent) were scored by someone not named Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish.
  • Carolina is now 7-0 in the ACC in road games. The remaining two are at Clemson and at Boston College. Only one team has ever gone 9-0 on the road in ACC play – Virginia in 2017-18.
  • This was the 11th time in the Roy Williams / Mike Krzyzewski era that Carolina and Duke have met as top-10 opponents. After tonight’s win, Carolina now holds a 6-5 advantage in those games.

  • With the win (and given the tiebreaker over NC State), Carolina is now guaranteed no worse than the seventh seed in the ACC Tournament, including a first round bye.
  • The Heels are tied for first in the ACC with Virginia and Duke. Carolina’s next two games are against Florida State and Syracuse, the teams tied for fourth (and two games back in the loss column). The results of those two games will go a long way to determining who winds up with the top four seeds in the ACC Tournament (which comes with a first and second round bye). Carolina has the scheduling advantage of playing both these games in the Dean Dome.
  • Carolina now has victories over two of the four current projected number one seeds (Duke and Gonzaga) and came a few plays away from a third (Virginia). Duke has two wins over Virginia, but, outside of that, the Tar Heels arguably own the best pair of wins in the country.
  • Something to keep your eye on: Cam Johnson can’t seem to catch a break on the nagging injury front. This was the third game he’s missed part of because of an injury. Tonight he hurt his left ankle when stepping on a photographer four minutes into the second half. He came back in a couple minutes later and promptly hit a mid-range shot and later drew a charge. However, he appeared to re-tweak the ankle in the last minute of the game. Hopefully Cam will be okay for the quick turnaround against Florida State on Saturday.
  • Many celebrities were on hand for the game. Most notably was President Obama. Others included Spike Lee, Todd Gurley, Greg Olsen and Ken Griffey Jr.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Florida State on Saturday, February 23. Tip is at 3:45ET on CBS.

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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. Virginia

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 69-61 home loss to Virginia on Monday night.

Highlights:

 

  • I wrote this during the game and so I have to stick to it: Regardless of what the final result is (and you would obviously like to win), great resolve from the Heels to push back in second half and grab the lead. And what I’ll add to it now after the game: Man that’s a tough game to lose.
  • Carolina held a 55-48 lead with 7:50 remaining. From that point, Virginia outscored the Heels 21-6 for the rest of the game.
  • Granted, four of those minutes were with Cam Johnson’s ankle being tended to in the locker room. Make no mistake, his absence down the stretch allowed Virginia to exploit some defensive match-ups and hurt Carolina’s offensive attack. I’ll say it: If Johnson doesn’t miss those four minutes, Carolina wins tonight. Post-game Johnson said his ankle was actually already bothering him, so it will be important to monitor his health going forward.
  • Speaking of hurt ankles, Happy Birthday Nassir Little! Your present is a sprained ankle. With 12:06 remaining in the first half, Little stepped on Braxton Key’s foot and immediately went to the locker room. Little never even came back to the bench. With Leaky Black’s ankle injury, Sterling Manley’s continued absence, plus Little and Johnson, the Carolina depth will be tested over the coming weeks.

  • The lack of depth led to three Tar Heels (Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, Coby White) playing 36+ minutes. That fatigue appeared to play a factor in the closing minutes. However, Virginia’s Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter all did the same with seemingly fewer ill effects. In fact, it was Guy who hit the two dagger threes for Virginia in the closing minutes.
  • I hesitate to be a “ref-blamer”, but there were several clearly inaccurate calls tonight. With 9:30 left in the first half, the refs rewarded Virginia the ball after replays showed it clearly tipping off of Cavalier Jay Huff’s fingers. At the exact same point of the second half, Virginia committed a shot-clock violation that wasn’t called. Replays showed the ball definitely in Braxton Key’s hands. There were other questionable calls, but these were the two most blatant.
  • On the other side of shot clock sadness were two calls that also went against Carolina. With two seconds remaining before halftime, Virginia’s shot clock ran out before Coby White could possess the ball for a breakaway lay-up. Then, on what would have been a miraculous shot with 3:30 remaining in the game, Coby White knocked in a three as the shot clock expired for a 62-59 lead. Unfortunately, the refs stopped the game to check this one, and it was determined the ball was still on his fingertips. At the time, it felt like the type of shot that meant Carolina was destined to win this one. Oh well. Here’s the play, followed by a second angle with a view of the shot clock:

  • This is just the sixth time all season Virginia has given up 60+ points.
  • Albeit on fewer possessions than normal, Carolina only turned the ball over eight times. This is the second lowest total of the season (six against UCLA).
  • Much better job rebounding tonight after the clunker against Miami on Saturday. Carolina out-rebounded Virginia 38-27, 16 of which were offensive. The Cavs, who admittedly don’t make much of an effort for offensive rebounds, only had three of that variety.
  • Carolina had 17 assists on 23 baskets.

  • Thanks to the mobility of Garrison Brooks, Carolina elected to switch a majority of ball screens when he was in the game. While it felt like Virginia could have exploited this possession after possession, they rarely did.
  • Virginia shot over 50 percent from three (11-for-20). It’s difficult to overcome the methodical nature of the Cavs in any game, but especially when you allow that level of field goal percentage.
  • Great hustle from Brandon Robinson on this play:

  • Tar Heel alums were everywhere. Most notably, Michael Jordan was in the house. Beyond that, players in attendance included Antawn Jamison, Billy Cunningham, Lennie Rosenbluth, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Ford, Nate Britt, George Lynch, Buzz Peterson, and likely a host of others.

  • Carolina led 11-8 early before Virginia went on a 10-0 run. The Heels kept it close most of the half although dropped behind by seven at halftime. From 40-32 early in the second half, Carolina went on an impressive 17-3 run to make the score 49-43.
  • Unfortunately, as previously stated, it just wasn’t meant to be tonight. The Heels need to take some time to get healthy and ready for the final seven game push of the regular season. So chin up Tar Heel fans, there’s still a lot of good basketball ahead.

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 Wake Forest on Saturday, February 16. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom.

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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 – Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from Wednesday nights 93-87 road win against Wake Forest.

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Joel Berry’s breakaway “dunk” against Wake Forest as part of UNC’s 93-87 victory in Winston-Salem on Wednesday night. Photo credit: J.D. Lyon, Jr.
  1. For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels were able to get the opponent’s best player (John Collins in this instance) on the bench in foul trouble early in the first half. Collins then picked up his third foul eight seconds into the second half and never really got into the rhythm of the game.
  2. Also for the second game in a row, the Tar Heels stayed under their season average for turnovers. There were 11 total. Two specifically encouraging points: (1) No player had more than two turnovers. (2) Joel Berry, who has been uncharacteristically struggling with turnovers of late, only had one but had seven assists.
  3. Stop the presses, JOEL BERRY MISSED A FREE THROW! Not to fear though, he’s still shooting 91.8% for the season (45-49).
  4. There was a weird play late in the first half where Tony Bradley essentially head-butted the midsection of a Wake Forest player. Bradley walked off the court under his own power but seemed to be rather wobbly. He did not return in the second half, and will be evaluated back in Chapel Hill. His absence was noticeable on the court, particularly in a game where the other three front court players each had four fouls.
  5. Great find from Theo Pinson right before halftime on the pitch-ahead to a wide-open Kennedy Meeks.
  6. Pinson scores his first point of the season with 12:03 left in the second half on a free throw. The shots will start falling.
  7. Wake Forest trimmed a 19-point lead down to one with 9:43 left in the game. The Tar Heels pushed the lead back to as many as nine, but never got the margin back to double digits. It’s extremely difficult to win on the road in the ACC.
  8. All five starters scored in double figures.
  9. It felt like everyone on the court made some type of winning play down the stretch, whether it was knocking down free throws in a 1-and-1 situation, hitting clutch shots, or grabbing important rebounds.
  10. What a luxury to have Isaiah Hicks shooting so well from the free throw line that he doesn’t have to be subbed out in late game free throw situations.
  11. Have you looked at the ACC standings? 12 of the 15 teams have at least two conferences losses already.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.