Tag Archives: Wofford

Quick Hitters – UNC @ Wofford

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-67 road win on Tuesday night over Wofford.

Highlights:

  • First off, kudos to Coach Roy Williams for scheduling back-to-back true road games to start the season. The first of which was tonight’s rematch against essentially the same Wofford team that beat Carolina in the Smith Center last season. Click here to read how the Tar Heels’ true road non-conference scheduling compares to other blue blood programs.
  • Turnovers (22 of them) were an issue in Carolina’s exhibition game against Mt. Olive. The Heels started off in the same mode, committing four before the first media timeout, finishing with 15 total. While starting point guard Coby White was responsible for two, Seventh Woods kept his miscues to one.
  • Speaking of White, he unfortunately had a rough first game. Whether it was nerves or something else, the team looked smoother with Woods at the helm. In addition to White’s three turnovers, he took several ill-advised, early shot clock threes. The kind you can get at any point in a possession. The good news is that White played a much better final five minutes, hitting a couple shots and making some solid passes. The electric freshman should settle in to his role and run the team with aplomb.

  • On the flip side of the point guard equation, Woods turned in a solid effort. He made several hustle plays, had a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and nabbed two steals. This is a foundation that Woods can hopefully build on as he continues learning to trust his body again.
  • Wofford’s Fletcher Magee, one of the best shooters in the country, had a rough shooting night. He didn’t hit a field goal for the first 16 minutes of the game. His first three didn’t come until six minutes into the second half. Though he finished with 21 points, it took 23 shots to get there.
  • Coach Williams started the same five in each half: White, Kenny Williams, Cam Johnson, Luke Maye and Garrison Brooks.
  • Offensive rebounding numbers were of concern on Tuesday night. While the Tar Heels won the overall rebounding battle 35-27, they won the offensive rebound category only 10-9. Although against a team that shoots a lot of threes, leading to unpredictable long rebounds, Coach Williams will not be happy surrendering that many to the undersized Wofford team.
  • Garrison Brooks had a big game against Mt. Olive and several questioned if it was a one-off or if that level of performance would transfer to the regular season. A career high 20 points and five rebounds later, it appears the answer is “yes”. If Brooks can consistently provide that level of production from the center position, the Tar Heels will be in good shape.
  • On the flip side of the sophomore big equation, Sterling Manley was wholly ineffective. He missed his only field goal attempt and both free throws he took. The Tar Heels will need Manley to step up in the future. History suggests he will.
  • Sticking with big men, Luke Maye led all scorers with 24 points, scoring in a variety of ways as usual. With everything Maye did extraordinarily well last year, the free throw line was a chief area of needed improvement (59.8% career). Maye went 8-for-9 from the line tonight, the most he’s ever made in a single game.
  • Coach Williams has consistently praised the shooting of his team and it showed on Tuesday night as the Heels shot 9-for-22 from deep. Cam Johnson was the key contributor, personally going 5-for-7 from three. Johnson also (importantly) led the team in rebounds with eight, five of which were offensive.
  • Kenny Williams didn’t score a point, but affected the game in a multitude of other ways. Williams played strong individual defense against Wofford’s backcourt, hauled in six rebounds and passed out a team high five assists. Of concern is that Williams appeared to hurt his shoulder diving after a loose ball late in the game. He came back in later, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

  • Though he had a quiet Tar Heel debut, Nassir Little hit a confident three to push the cushion back to six after back-to-back threes from Magee cut the Tar Heel to three. His athleticism is obvious, and it will be fun for Tar Heel fans to watch him develop throughout the year.

Roy Williams post-game press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Elon on Friday, November 9. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPNU.

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The Road Less Traveled

As you look at North Carolina’s 2018-19 men’s basketball schedule, something curious jumps off the page about the first two games. The Tar Heels are beginning their season by playing back-to-back true non-conference road games – against Wofford (who won in the Smith Center last year) and Elon.

“What is Roy Williams thinking?” you ask yourself. “Major programs like Carolina don’t have to take road games. They can get anyone they want to come to Chapel Hill.”

Here’s the thing: playing away from home in the non-conference part of the schedule actually isn’t a strange phenomenon or outlier for Coach Williams and the Tar Heels.

But just how does Carolina’s scheduling stack up against programs of a similar ilk?

Why go on the road?

Of the country’s historically successful major college basketball programs, most only venture away from home when they absolutely have to. Some coaches will argue that conference and NCAA Tournament games are all played on a neutral court, so it’s pointless to schedule true non-conference road games.

To only look ahead to postseason tournaments, however, is to miss the mark. Half of the regular season conference match-ups are true road games. The results of these games play a huge factor in conference seeding, which ultimately helps determine a team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament. To fail to test your team on the road in the non-conference portion of the schedule is to set them up for failure when they go on the road in conference games.

Criteria

To determine how the Tar Heels compare to other programs in this metric, I examined the 10 winningest programs of all time. I looked at the past 10 schedules for each of these programs (from the 2009-2010 season through the upcoming 2018-2019 season) to determine which teams were willing to go prove themselves outside the friendly confines of their home gym. To be included, a team had to have been in a BCS / Power 5 conference for each of those 10 seasons. This stipulation ruled out Temple (#5), St. John’s (#9), BYU (#12) and Utah (#14).

The list is therefore whittled down to these 10 (in order of all-time wins):

  • Kentucky (#1 | 2,263 wins)
  • Kansas (#2 | 2,248)
  • UNC (#3 | 2,232)
  • Duke (#4 | 2,144)
  • Syracuse (#6 | 1,884)
  • UCLA (#7 | 1,870)
  • Notre Dame (#8 | 1,866)
  • Louisville (#10 | 1,825)
  • Indiana (#11 | 1,817)
  • Arizona (#14 | 1,796)

Which teams are willing to consistently schedule true regular season non-conference road games?

What do the schedules reveal?

After studying each program, one team stands out above the rest. Below is the total number of true non-conference road games each of the programs scheduled during the 10-year period evaluated (from most to least):

  • North Carolina – 24
  • Arizona – 19
  • Louisville – 17
  • Kansas – 16
  • Kentucky – 13
  • Indiana – 11
  • Syracuse – 10
  • Duke – 9
  • UCLA – 9
  • Notre Dame – 7

Additionally, there are interesting takeaways concerning these blue-bloods and their scheduling of true non-conference road games (or lack thereof) strewn throughout the research.

In the 10-year span…

  • Carolina is the only team of the 10 to have multiple true non-conference road games in each of the 10 seasons.
  • Carolina is the only team to amass more than 20 true non-conference road games.
  • Carolina has four seasons (including each of the last three) with three true non-conference road games. No other team on the list has more than one.
  • In five of the 10 seasons evaluated, Duke and Notre Dame have scheduled precisely 0 (ZERO!!) true non-conference road games.
  • For the past eight years, Duke has only voluntarily scheduled two true non-conference road games. Those were both at Madison Square Garden, which only technically counts as St. John’s second home arena.
  • Notre Dame has by far the most putrid total of true non-conference road games with seven. Of those seven, only four were voluntary. The other three are all Big 10 / ACC road games.

Take Aways

Last season, I wrote a piece about Carolina’s road success in conference games over the previous seven years. Prior to last year’s 4-5 conference road record, the Heels had recorded seven straight seasons of a winning conference road record. Meanwhile, the rest of the conference fell miserably short of that level of success.

Think that type of achievement is pure happenstance? Think again. The road to success in conference road games is paved in the non-conference portion of the schedule. By exposing his team to hostile road environments early in the season, Roy Williams is preparing them to succeed away from home when it matters most – on the road in the country’s most difficult conference. The road to success is a road less traveled.

For reference, below is a table with each team’s true non-conference road games over the past 10 years: