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Archive for March 27th, 2008

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.

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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 »

Why we love WSU basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 27, 2008

We’ve all heard the story about Taylor Rochestie giving up his scholarship next year so the Cougs could pick up another recruit. But I guarantee you’ve never heard it told quite like this.

This is why, no matter what happens tonight, we love this team. And it’s why I count it an absolute blessing and privilege to have a man like Tony Bennett and the men that will take the floor tonight representing my university. It’s why I do what I do with this blog.

The beauty of a selfless act is that it begets more selfless acts. Tony Bennett gave Rochestie a chance when no one else would. Rochestie gave up his scholarship when the team needed it. And everybody on the team knows it, which means when it comes time for the next selfless act — showing up for extra workouts during the offseason, sticking around for an extra hour to help a struggling teammate shoot jumpers, staying up and talking with a teammate who had a particularly rough day, giving a guy a ride — they’ll do it.

Not because they have to. Because they want to.

Thanks to Longball for passing the link along. 

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »