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Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina Tar Heels’

Bummer yes; disappointment, no

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 27, 2008

So, I just got home from the restaurant. I’m not going to go too in depth, because we all saw what happened, but here are just some general thoughts to wrap up the final game of the season.

(Dang, it sucks to write that. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t sunk in yet.)

First of all, if there was any doubt about how good North Carolina is, those doubts should be firmly put to rest now. They just ran through and over the second-hottest team in the tournament with ease, mostly on the strength of that unbelievable offense. I’m not sure I can think of a college offense in recent memory that has had that kind of firepower.

We certainly didn’t help our cause; shooting 32 percent from the floor is bad no matter who you play. But when you’re depending on made buckets to keep a team from getting into its transition offense and you miss that many shots — not to mention turn the ball over a few times — that’s just death.

I suppose I might feel a little better about this loss if North Carolina had done anything special on defense to cause that 32 percent, but I just felt like it was nothing more than a bad shooting night. We can talk about not getting the ball to Aron Baynes enough, or not going hard enough to the bucket, but really what it came down to was that it was an extremely poorly timed bad shooting night. Nothing more than that.

Of course, that’s really all it takes with a team such as North Carolina.

To be sure, North Carolina’s defense is predicated by its offense — something no other team in college basketball can say, except for maybe Tennessee. And their offense is so darn good, it works for them. I mean, we held their All-American to two points in the first half … and were down 14 at the break. When you give the Heels a crack in the door, they kick that freaking thing down, whether it’s Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson or Danny Green, who just happened to exceed his season average with his 12-point first half.

A two-point game all of a sudden becomes a 10-point game, putting tremendous pressure on your offense to catch up. You start getting a little tight, you miss a few more shots … all of a sudden it’s a 17-point game. And it’s absolutely over from there, because the pace you must play to catch up doesn’t favor you, it favors North Carolina.

While I’m bummed out that we didn’t compete a little longer than we did, I’m hardly disappointed. This has been such an awesome ride, how can any of us be disappointed? Losing seven times to your in-state rival and getting bounced in the first round of the CBI with top 25 recruiting classes is disappointing. Spending the better part of two seasons ranked in the Top 25, going to consecutive NCAA Tournaments and making it to the Sweet Sixteen is not.

I’ll probably have some thoughts in the next couple of days to wrap up the season, once I’ve had some time to collect my thoughts and put it all in perspective in my mind, but now’s not the time. The only thing this is the time for is this:

Thank you, Cougs. You’ve brought immeasurable joy to our lives, something we can’t say enough. I know this isn’t the way you wanted to go out, and this probably won’t make you feel any better right now, but we love you just the same.

Posted in Game Analysis, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

GAME THREAD: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 WSU

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 27, 2008

Tar Heels (34-2) vs. Cougars (26-8)

Bobcats Arena (Charlotte, N.C.), 4:27 p.m. PDT
TV: CBS

All I’ve heard this week over and over and over again are questions about just how the Cougars think they’re going to be able to stop the juggernaut that is North Carolina. And quite frankly, I am sick and tired of it.

In that vein, I’m going to kick this game thread off by going in a different direction and asking a simple question that probably wasn’t asked even once to Roy Williams in the past week.

What in the heck is North Carolina going to do to stop us?

In terms of adjusted offensive efficiency, the Cougs are the second best offensive team North Carolina has faced this year — right behind Duke.

The defense gets all the play, but the offense is what has made this team a legit Final Four threat. And I hope Carolina thinks they’re going to stop us the same way Winthrop and Notre Dame thought they were going to. I hope they think they’re going to run on us the same way Notre Dame did — the same way Gonzaga, Cal, USC and Oregon thought they were going to. Because unless they figure out a way to stop our offense, they won’t be able to.

What people don’t realize is that we don’t slow it down to give ourselves a fighting chance, like we did four years ago. We slow it down because that’s how we beat you. We slow it down to wear you out. We make you work for 35 seconds, only to give up a Kyle Weaver layup or an Aron Baynes dunk.

We slow the game down because we use it to break your will to beat us. Unless you play in the Pac-10, and are committed to winning this battle of wills — as UCLA and Stanford were — you have no concept of what that’s like.

Until you play us. And then, by the time you realize what is happening to you — that it’s so much more than some gimmick to stay close with more gifted teams — it’s usually too late. You stand there and think, “We’re losing to these guys?” (Just ask the Fighting Irish, who I think still are probably baffled as to how they lost that game.)

Carolina is not a team that wants to play defense for 35 seconds. Carolina is a team that wants to end possessions quickly by either inducing its opponents into quick shots and securing the rebound or getting a steal. In either case, it usually leads to a fastbreak for them, the heartbeat of their offense.

And therein lies the key — the reason why I think this is the most beatable No. 1 seed for the Cougs, despite the athletic disadvantage. We are the 20th-ranked shooting team in the country and the ninth-ranked team in the country in turnover percentage. Carolina has not played even one team that ranks that highly in either category this year. Take care of the basketball and make some shots — which the Cougars absolutely can do against this porous defense — and the Tar Heels can’t run. No matter how badly they want to.

Roy Williams thinks his team can be equally effective winning a halfcourt game. But when he says, “I wouldn’t say I’m not a fan of (the Bennett style). I’m a fan of basketball going up and down the court,” he actually is communicating a much different thing. He’s telling fans and his players that the Heels don’t want to win the way we want to win. And if we force them to win that way, they won’t believe they can do it. They think they’re above winning a half-court game. To the end, Williams and the Heels think they’re better than us — not just athletically, but in every measurable respect.

And that tells me one thing: They’re not convinced that we really can beat them. Heck, I’d be surprised if they really thought we could even hang with them. The fawning in the national media, the adoring home crowd at the arena yesterday, the belittling of our style of basketball … it all sends the message that WSU doesn’t belong on the floor with North Carolina.

But we know we do. We’ve proven it in the past. You want to know why UCLA played the way it did in two games this year against the Cougs? Because we spent three years banging on the Bruins’ door. You want to know why Arizona came out so fired up in its two games this year? Because we beat those Wildcats twice last year.

You think the Heels are going to have any clue about that kind of desire on their first try?

Me neither.

Bring it on.

Posted in Game Threads, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Can the Cougs overcome the fear factor?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 26, 2008

I’ve said since the beginning of this tournament that North Carolina might be the most beatable No. 1 seed in the Dance for the Cougs. A lot of people thought I was nuts (and I must admit, I’d probably rather be playing Memphis right about now), but nothing that happened in the first two rounds of the tournament has led me to believe that the Cougs can’t beat the Heels.

The question, though, is this: Do the players believe they can beat the Heels?

You would hope that the answer would be a resounding yes, but unfortunately, history this season suggests that it’s at least valid to ask the question.

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Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

In their own words: Sweet 16 Sound Off

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 26, 2008

from sports.espn.go.com posted with vodpod

Posted in NCAA Tournament, Video | Tagged: , , | Comments Off

So, about that road contest

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 26, 2008

A lot of people have come up with a lot of reasons why the Cougars won’t be able to hang with North Carolina, and a lot of them are valid.

Then, when they run out of rational reasons (if they had any to begin with), they throw this in for good measure: “Well, North Carolina just has to get on a bus and drive down the road; those Cougars, they have to fly aaaallllllll the waaaaaaay from PULLMAN — which, incidentally, is in the middle of nowhere — to North Carolina to play in front of a hostile crowd. That’s just too much!”

Hogwash.

There are a lot of things this Cougar team has proven this season, and one of them is that they simply are not phased by traveling to another team’s arena.

No decent non-conference opponent wanted to come to Pullman this year to play a game in a style that’s been compared to a root canal. Scheduling was difficult, so Tony Bennett did the only thing he could to toughen his team up: Play a lot on the road. It was lamentable early in the season, but it has paid dividends, as statistics show that the Cougs learned to perform equally well in both friendly and hostile confines.

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Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The two best teams in the tournament: UNC and WSU

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 25, 2008

The two best teams in the NCAA Tournament are meeting on Thursday night at 4:27 p.m. in Charlotte, N.C.

It might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But it’s not as ridiculous as it might first seem to some outsiders: Statistics from the first two rounds suggest that, at the very least, North Carolina and WSU are the two most impressive teams of the first weekend of the tournament.

All the media pundits are talking about how great the Heels have been in this tournament, and the recognition certainly is deserved. After all, they’ve scored 100-plus points in their first two games, something nobody had done in nearly 20 years. But what if I told you the Cougs — of “they can’t possibly compete with North Carolina” fame — have been nearly as good as the Tar Heels through the first two games, and better than every other team in the tournament?

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Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

Getting a read on North Carolina

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 24, 2008

This seems to have become a pretty popular feature, so here we go again. The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming up on Thursday, and as befits one of the glamour programs in the country, there is no shortage of sites for your scouting pleasure.

And if you missed the awesomeness that was UNC’s first two victories, here are a pair of videos courtesy of CBS. You also can watch the games in their entirety at the MMOD site, if you’re so inclined.

North Carolina 108, Arkansas 77

North Carolina 113, Mount St. Mary’s 74

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament, Video | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Surprise! It’s North Carolina

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 23, 2008

Jo~Jo said in a comment on one of the previous posts that he’s officially scared of North Carolina.

We should be: UNC just posted an offensive efficiency rating of 160.6.

That is not a typo. The Heels scored 108 points in a 67-possession game, which is beyond ridiculous. An average rating is around 101. A normal team gets pretty excited about something above 120. North Carolina shrugs is collective shoulders and scores 1.6 points per possession.

The good news is that they haven’t done that all year — their previous high against a major conference opponent was 135.2 (Miami FL) — and their defense hasn’t been all that great in the two blowout wins. Really, it hasn’t had to be. But it will have to be on Thursday against us.

It’s tough to identify weaknesses in a team that has only lost two games all year, because that means the team won a lot of games even when it wasn’t playing at its best. But I think the key is that you can’t try to run with North Carolina, and you have to play outstanding transition defense so the Heels don’t get easy buckets. Arkansas really tried to push the tempo early and got buried. Obviously, the Cougs won’t make that mistake.

The other key? Keeping the Heels off the offensive glass. Kenpom.com shows a pretty strong correlation between offensive rebounding percentage and UNC’s offensive efficiency, which makes sense — Tyler Hansbrough is an absolute rebounding machine, 80th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.

There are a lot of other things Hansbrough does well, and while you’ll get dang tired of hearing about “Psycho T” this week, there’s a ton of substance there.

You know we’re not big fans of traditional stats around here, so here’s one for you: Hansbrough is second nationally in kenpom.com’s individual offensive rating among players who have used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions (meaning at least 24 percent of his team’s possessions end with him doing something with the ball). That’s really, really good — better than guys such as Kevin Love (third), Ryan Anderson (eighth), Stephen Curry (11th), Michael Beasley (12th), Roy Hibbert (17th) and Chris Douglass-Roberts (23rd). For perspective, the only player for the Cougs to rank in the top 100 is Aron Baynes (93rd).

Hansbrough also ranks in the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (80th), which leads to a ridiculous free throw rate (36th). In short, it’s nearly impossible to stop the Tar Heels, but in the effort to slow them down, keeping Hansbrough off the offensive glass and off the free throw line would be a really good place to start.

Oh, and he’s also in the top 100 in turnover rate (70th), so don’t expect those double teams to work against him like they did against Luke Harangody.

I could go on and on like this about the rest of the Heels — they’ve got three other players in the top 151 in offensive rating — so the message is clear: The Cougs have a very tall order in front of them. But the reality is this. You want to go to the Final Four? You want to win a national championship? There are no easy roads there. You’ve got to beat great teams to get there, and this is one of them.

Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Cougs’ draw not as tough as you might think

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 18, 2008

Raise your hand if your thinking on Sunday as the bracket was unveiled went something like this.

“Sweet! We’re a No. 4 seed! That’s even better than I thought. … Winthrop, huh? Didn’t they beat Notre Dame last year? That sounds like a trap waiting to happen. … Crap! We’re in the same region as North Carolina. Bye-bye Elite Eight. …”

Based on the responses I’ve seen over at SportsLink and heard from friends, most believe we didn’t get a favorable draw.

I happen to totally disagree. Let’s start with the opener.

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Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

 
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