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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.

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10 Responses to “GAME THREAD: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 WSU”

  1. Nuss said

    Hey everybody. I am so fired up beyond belief right now. (I hope that came through in the post.) I’ll be watching the game from a local establishment, so I won’t be on the game thread posting throughout the night, but I’ll be with you in spirit.

    GOOOOOOOOOOO COOOOOUUUUUUUUUGS!!!!

  2. CougBeliever said

    Say “I believe” if you believe…

    I believe.

  3. Longball said

    I Believe!!!

  4. TiltingRight said

    To rob a line from someone in the news a lot…

    “Yes we can!”

  5. Michelle said

    I BELIEVE!!

    …and YES WE CAN

    and one step further in the words of Caleb Forrest

    “WHY NOT US?”

  6. CougBeliever said

    So we’re down a pretty significant amount at halftime. Nuss, comfort me like a small child – tell me we’re still going to pull it off, and how…

    I believe.

  7. Ptowncoug said

    TOs!!!!! Low can’t find his stroke. Wonderful!!!

  8. nwsportsblog said

    You cant win if you shoot 30 percent, especially against the #1 team in the tourney.

  9. Bradley Logan said

    The worst part of that loss is that we beat ourselves. Our defense did its part, but we only hit 18 of 57, we just couldn’t get it in the basket. And that was more our own fault than UNC’s doing. UNC is a great team, but it should have been a much closer game than that.

  10. ChristianK said

    Nuss – I think you can skip a recap of this game. We’d be better off with an overview of the season in general or something else of your choice.

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