Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Perspective On This Season

Eddy Landreth provides some perspective on this season.

I agree with everything he says. Here are the highlights.

So, once this team can put some distance between Sunday's disappointment, some indisputable facts should surface.

1) Almost any other team in the country would have collapsed under the weight of losing its top seven scorers from a year ago while carrying the flag of being the defending national champion.

2) Rather than collapse, the Tar Heels thrived.

3) This group did not win a national championship, but it did add the next level to the foundation of Williams' program.

4) The freshmen on this team turned out to be superior ballplayers to what many people expected.

5) Hansbrough is one of the finest collegiate players to wear Carolina blue.

Duke finished first in the regular season, won the ACC Tournament and has advanced further in the NCAA Tournament than UNC did, all expected results from a team with two first-team All-Americans and a bench full of McDonald's All-Americans.

But Williams took his freshmen and unlikely veterans and defeated the Blue Devils in Durham on Senior Night. UNC should have beaten Duke twice, but inexperience got the better of the Heels in Chapel Hill.

What this season has shown is the rivalry is level again. From here on, Williams and the Tar Heels will look at Duke eye-to-eye and not blink. Carolina hasn't been able to truly say that since 1998.

Never Satisfied, Always Successful

Roy Williams recognizes the accomplishments of this team, but that loss to George Mason really stung. Is there anything better than having a coach who is never satisfied?

"...that’s the toughest thing about coaching – the highs don’t come anywhere close to how low the lows are. And it sticks with you so, so long. We won the national championship and 24 hours later I was on the road recruiting. And this loss will stick with me for a long time."

The quality of never being satisfied is why Roy was recognized as The United States Basketball Writers Association's coach of the year the year after he won a National Championship.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Looking Back On A Fantastic Season

Rather than recapping a performance that was about as bad as any other all season I would rather look back on some of the bright spots from the season. This team did so many suprisingly fantastic things it is hard to list them all, but I'll give it my best shot:
  • David Noel hitting a game winning three in our 1st contest of the season. Paving the way to a season where we would see one of the all time best Tar Heel leaders.
  • The comeback against Illinois. Although we came up short in that one, that is the first time this year I truly thought we could do something special.
  • The win at Rupp Arena. We got to see the balanced attack this team had to offer and we got to see the Reyshawn Terry that UNC fans have been waiting 2 years to see.
  • Against UNC Asheville Tyler Hansbrough had 8 steals tying a Smith Center record. You knew this guy was special.
  • In this young team's first ACC performance we got a huge second half from Frasor and proved that we were here to compete...even against the teams in the "top" of the league like State.
  • Then against Duke on February 7 we got to see this team's true heart. Despite being down 17 in the second half UNC came back with the help of the blue team to give Tar Heel fans tremendous hope. Although the Heels fell short in the end, the hope was planted for the rest of the season.
  • One week later against Georgia Tech there was Hansbrough breaking all types of records...scoring 40 in an amazing comeback win against the Jackets.
  • Then the utter domination that Carolina displayed going into Raleigh and beating State by 24 to help lock up second place in the league.
  • Finally, there was the incredible performance where Roy Williams led UNC into Cameron and knocked off #1 Duke on Redick and William's senior night. Hansbrough showed every reason he is the Freshman of the Year in that game.

Every win after that was gravy. As much as I hoped (and thought) we could make a national championship run, it wasn't in the cards. Now I will just relish in the fact that this team made this one of my favorite seasons of all time.

Other highlights: Miller's consistent effort and performance, Thomas' improvement, Roy's ACC coach of the year, Hansbrough's lock on freshman of the year nationally, a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, another 20 win season, finishing 2nd in the league, etc.....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Better Matchup With George Mason

Brett Friedlander of Fayetteville Online thinks UNC got a nice matchup.

As it turns out, the 11th-seeded Patriots of the Colonial Athletic Association may actually have done UNC a favor by knocking off the sixth-seeded Spartans.

But not for the obvious reason that it gives the Tar Heels what figures to be a clear shot to the Sweet 16 in Washington, D.C., and whatever else lies beyond.

In Michigan State, the Tar Heels would have had to face a physical, experienced team that looks and plays a lot like Boston College - the one opponent with which they had trouble matching up against this year.

I agree that MSU could have posed a tough matchup, but would have loved to see the rematch.

As a result, UNC will now face a George Mason team that plays an uptempo, athletic style much more to its liking. At the same time, the Tar Heels have to be careful not to like their situation so much that they forget the lessons they learned in their debut against Murray State.

The Log 5/Pythagorean winning percentage method of predicting odds agrees that the Patriots are a better matchup...but barely. UNC has 71.54% chance of beating George Mason and would have had 71.07% chance against MSU.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

George Mason: Got Questions? Here Are Answers.

Link for detailed breakdown of the Tar Heels matchup with George Mason.

ESPN's take:
The Patriots were one of the most interesting at-large cases in this year's event. They were co-champs of the CAA, the No. 10-ranked conference, and have a win over MVC champ Wichita State in their pocket as part of a very strong non-conference schedule. That said, they lost twice to CAA rival Hofstra in the last 10 days of the season and will be without suspended guard Tony Skinn for their first round game. Even without Skinn, this team has four other double-digit scorers and is one of the stingiest defensive teams in the nation -- one that could be even tougher with the additional minutes defensive stopper Gabe Norwood will receive in Skinn's place. Every year, there is a team (like UAB last season) that people are surprised was included, and more often than not, that team performs very well in its opening-round game.

Inside Carolina
The Patriots are ranked among the nation's best in a couple defensive categories. They entered the NCAA Tournament at 9th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and 13th in scoring defense. In addition, GMU is one of the country's best shooting teams, ranked No. 11 in field goal percentage (48.7%).

I Hate Him To This Day

From Chip Alexander on the News and Observer's Blog:

Texas coach Rick Barnes is a native of Lenoir who grew up watching ACC basketball. Asked Saturday if it was true he had been an N.C. State fan, Barnes wouldn't quite own up to it."I was like any kid growing up in the late '50s and early '60s in that state," he said. "Whatever team that seemed to be doing well, whether it was the Wake teams early, Duke, Carolina, I was just a big Atlantic Coast Conference fan."So at one point, he could be classified a Tar Heel fan? Barnes smiled."At one point," he said, chuckling. "That was a long time ago."Barnes is best remembered for challenging former UNC coach Dean Smith at the 1995 ACC Tournament. Barnes, then the Clemson coach, went face-to-face with Smith, angry that Smith had said something to one of the Clemson players.

On that note here is a random anti-Barnes link.

Update: Sunday's Game Time (2:20 pm)

I errantly posted earlier based on CBS's early schedule.

UNC will play George Mason at 2:20pm on Sunday.

D.C. Region Update #3

Computer problems, thus the belated update and lack of posts. So here are last nights and today's updates to the Washington D.C. region.

Side note...good games this afternoon since the first two.

Murray St. (Thank God)
Michigan St. (Figured they would lose, but the Final 4 rematch would have been interesting)
George Mason
Witchita St. (They await if we win)
Seton Hall
Winthrop
Tennessee (Felt that loss coming)
Connecticut (They have been suspect the last couple of games...waiting for them to win by 40)
Albany (Could have been the first)
Kentucky (Enjoy that win...it's your last)
UAB
Washington (I am sorry I had you out early in one bracket)
Utah St.
Illinois
Air Force

UNC 69, Murray St. 65 - Got The Job Done

UNC got the job done, but it sure wasn't a pretty one. In the opening minutes I had the feeling that the Tar Heels were going to run away with it. The pressure defense seemed to be there, Reyshawn smoothed a three pointer, the pace of play seemed to favor UNC, and Miller even found a couple of open spots for threes...the problem was he didn't hit either of those shots. I felt as if he had hit those bombs the momentum would have built and they could have started the buses.

That didn't happen of course and the Tar Heels had a serious test. Fortunately, they passed.

The "scared" freshmen saved the day:
  • Scoring 52 of UNC's 69 points
  • Scoring the last 29 points of the game for the Tar Heels
  • Carrying the team (Hansbrough - 24 pts, 9 rbds)
  • Providing much needed scoring (Danny Green - 15 pts in 14 minutes)
  • Icing it. Marcus Ginyard's clutch free throws with 16 seconds left
  • Keeping it going. (Frasor - 9 pts and key three with just under 3 minutes to go)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Congrats To Roy's 17th Staight

Congratulations to Roy Williams!

He tied Dean Smith for 17 consecutive years with a first round win in the NCAA tournament. Roy had to stress more for this one than he did for many of the others...but regardless the Heels are on to the round of 32.

I'll come back with more tomorrow morning...for now I just feel lucky to come out with a win.

Go Heels!

Roy Is Going For The Record Books Tonight

With a win tonight, Roy Williams will tie the legend, Dean Smith, for the most consecutive years (17) with at least one NCAA tournament victory.

Here are Roy's past 16 first round wins. Impressive!
2004-05, Oakland, 96-68
2003-04, Air Force, 63-52
2002-03, Utah St., 64-61
2001-02, Holy Cross, 70-59
2000-01, Cal St. Northridge, 99-75
1999-00, DePaul, 81-77
1998-99, Evansville, 95-74
1997-98, Prarie View, 110-52
1996-97, Jackson St., 78-64
1995-96, South Carolina St., 92-54
1994-95, Colgate, 82-68
1993-94, Tenn.-Chtanooga, 102-73
1992-93, Ball St., 94-72
1991-92, Howard, 100-67
1990-91, New Orleans, 54-49
1989-90, Robert Morris, 79-71

Here are a few more "Tournament Tidbits."

Uhh!!!

Can't wait to see a few of these this weekend.

Here are a couple of articles on UNC's practice yesterday which turned into a slam session. Adam Lucas comments on it in his Dayton Notebook and Robbi Pickeral does on the N&O's blog.

Reyshawn Terry appeared to have leapt farther above the rim than any of his teammates.

More Info On The Murray St. Racers

What you need to know about the Racers.

Coaching pedigree: Third-year coach Mick Cronin, Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, has been an assistant at power programs Cincinnati and Louisville, serving under Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino. The Racers won the OVC Tournament in Cronin's first season and lost to Illinois in Columbus, Ohio.

The Heels face coaches better than this every night in the ACC...except for maybe when they play Wake.

Experience: Murray relies on five seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman for most of its minutes. Junior forward Shawn Witherspoon was a reserve on the NCAA team two years ago and was the lone Racer on the 2006 All-OVC first team.

Definitely an experienced team. But it hasn't always been good experience: Murray has been in 11 of the last 19 NCAA tourneys (six of the last 10) and has won once.

Statistic that might help: The Racers are 18-3 when they hold opponents to 45 percent or less from the field, and they're 10-2 when they hold foes to fewer than 60 points.

UNC averages 48.2% from the field and 80.4 points.

The "What If?" Bracket

The "What If?" bracket. No...not "what if" I picked Montana instead of Nevada..."what if" recruits actually showed up in school and stayed 4 years? What would this NCAA Tournament look like? Note: I saw this "what if" bracket referenced on Heelsblog.com today and had to check it out. His post has some interesting stuff in addition to this "what if" bracket mention.

Based ont he "what if" scenario here is what UNC would add to this year's roster:
Dwight Howard ('08), J.R. Smith ('08), Marvin Williams ('08) Sean May ('06) Raymond Felton ('06) Rashad McCants ('06).

Obviously that puts UNC as a #1 seed...and in my opinion the best team in the country. Especially if you throw in a "what if JamesOn Curry wasn't dealing" clause. For some reason I don't remember Dwight Howard being in the picture ever...but I'll take him on this fantasy squad.

Other one seeds were:
Duke: Adds: Luol Deng ('07), Shaun Livingston ('08) Shavlik Randolph ('06)
Memphis: Adds: Kendrick Perkins ('07), Amare Stoudemire ('06) Sean Banks ('07) Ricky Sanchez ('09)
Connecticut: Adds: Charlie Villanueva ('07) Andrew Bynum ('09)

D.C. Region Update #2

A quarter of the teams are headed home, a quarter of the teams are moving on.

Murray St.
Michigan St.
George Mason
Witchita St.
Seton Hall
Winthrop
Tennessee (Big time shot...they'll be done in the next round by a mid-major nonetheless)
Connecticut
Albany
Kentucky
UAB
Washington (Too late...didn't see it)
Utah St.
Illinois (Struggled a little against Air Forces unique offense, but pulled it out as expected)
Air Force

Thursday, March 16, 2006

D.C. Region Update #1

Scratch one potential opponent in the D.C. region off the list.

Murray St.
Michigan St.
George Mason
Witchita St. (Moves on to 2nd round)
Seton Hall (Not a good start for the Big East)
Winthrop
Tennessee
Connecticut
Albany
Kentucky
UAB
Washington
Utah St.
Illinois
Air Force

Cuse We Can

Who was the last team to win the NCAA tournament as a 3 seed? It was Syracuse in the 2003.

There are a lot of similarities between the ’03 Syracuse team and this year’s Tar Heel squad, which gives me a lot of reason for hope that UNC can get it done in 2006.

What do these two teams share in common? Well, to name a few…

#1 Freshman Phenoms:
Most notably the thing that makes these teams similar is that they are led in production by freshmen studs. Both Carmelo Anthony in 2003 and Tyler Hansbrough in 2006 were named by The Sporting News as Freshman of the Year. In addition, they both made The Sporting News’ First Team All American.

Both freshmen led their teams in scoring and rebounding.
22pts, 10rbs – Anthony
19pts, 9rbs- Hansbrough

For UNC to make their run they’ll need Hansbrough to show up in the tournament like Anthony did several years ago.

#2 Balanced Attacks:
Although both the 2003 Syracuse team and the current Heels squad were both centered around star rookies, both teams demonstrate tremendous balance that is crucial for making a 6 game run.

UNC has 9 players that average double digit minutes, while Syracuse had 8. However, their 9th guy averaged 8.4 minutes per on the season. Also, Syracuse had 4 guys average over 9 pts per game. UNC has 3 that average double digits, but 5 players with over 7 pt averages.

UNC will need to utilize their depth to neutralize individual lapses and to keep the pressure defense turned up for the entire tournament.

#3 Threats From Deep:
UNC has many players that can hurt you from downtown, but the primary assassin is Wes Miller shooting 46% from three on the year. Syracuse in turn, had McNamara who led the Orangemen with 35.7%, but made over 85 threes on the season. And while his percentage wasn’t exceptional, we all know McNamara dropped timely threes throughout the tournament.

UNC actually has an edge over Syracuse with three players shooting over 39% from three (not including Tyler). If the Tar Heels continue to knock down shots from the perimeter they will be hard to control with Hansbrough controlling the post.

Sources:
UNC Stats
Syracuse Stats

I Always Love a Good Conspiracy Or Two

K denies keeping UNC out of Greensboro

Backlash may have hit ACC

Back To Low Expectations (From National Media At Least)

It's amazing how things can change so quickly with the national sports media. A little over 1.5 weeks ago we beat #1 Duke in Cameron and the world was in love with UNC. Andy Katz and media across the nation began jumping on the bandwagon after UNC impressively locked up 2nd place in the ACC. Things changed 6 days later when UNC lost a heartbreaker to Boston College. Not that BC didn't look great against the Tar Heels (twice nonetheless), but I am amazed at how quickly everyone hasn't forgotten UNC's solid team play. Instead, BC is the new media darling.

Of the 7 ESPN experts, 4 picked BC for the Final Four. None of them picked UNC.

On CBS.sportsline.com their experts had the same trend. Of the 5 experts, 2 picked BC in their Final Four, while 0 picked UNC. In addition, 3 of the 5 had UNC going out in the 2nd round.

The point is...UNC is back to somewhat low expecations from a national perspective. All season the Tar Heels have proven the naysayers wrong. Here's to doing it again!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NCAA Tournament TV Schedule

As you know by now, the Heels tip-off their tournament at 9:40 pm on Friday.

If all goes to plan they will then play on Sunday (March 19) at 4:50 pm.

For the complete schedule of games for the first 2 rounds click here.

Taking Them, But Not Dishing Them Out

There has been a lot of talk this season about Hansbrough and his propensity for getting to the free throw line. To back that up here are some stats:

  • Tyler is 13th in the country with a free throw rate of 75.5%. This measures a player’s ability to get the line using the number of free throws shot per 100 field goal attempts. That coupled with his 73.7% FT shooting has made him extremely efficient and 2nd in the league in scoring.
  • Tyler is 8th in the country in free throws attempted (tied with Redick and right behind Shelden Williams).
  • Hansbrough leads the ACC in free throw attempts per game. He averages 8.4% (243 in 29 games) versus Shelden Williams who averages 7.4% (245 in 33 games). This link provides some perspective on where Hansbrough falls in ACC history.
  • I can't find an up-to-date stat on his traditional three point plays, but as of Feb. 26 he had 38 opportunities. Since then, he hasn't slowed down.
  • Finally, against NC State on Jan. 7th he shot (and made all) 14 free throws.
On the flip-side, Hansbrough has been extremely good at keeping his opponents off the line and keeping himself in the game. Barry Jacobs makes note of how seldom Hansbrough gets called for fouls.

Freshmen ordinarily draw officials' attention, yet Hansbrough has been called for remarkably few fouls considering how physically he plays. Despite ad nauseam talk of officiating favoritism, Duke big man Shelden Williams, who has blocked 122 shots this season, had three or more fouls in 28 of 33 games.

Hansbrough was called for three or more personals in 17 of 29 games. You can bet this won't escape mention by opposing coaches next season.

Tyler Hansbrough has done an excellent job of staying out of foul trouble. In fact, he has only fouled out of one game all year and that was in the final minutes.

I am sure other coaches will be complaining next year, but if Hansbrough stays the aggressor (which he will) I don't think there is much opposing teams can do to stop Tyler from winning the foul/free throw battle.

Terry's Terrific Season

Ken Tysiac of the Charlotte Observer has a piece on Reyshawn Terry's "vast improvement" since last year. To see more about Terry's success and importance to the Tar Heels check out my previous posts on his player rating and his role as a scorer.

Terry interpreted that as "bad criticism," and grew resentful, but assistant coach Steve Robinson took him aside and explained. "He sees a lot of potential in you," Terry said he was told.The "bad criticism" became "good criticism" in Terry's mind, but because of the talent in front of him, it took two seasons for him to display it.

Since [Christmas with Danny Green's family], Terry has scored at least 10 points in 18 of 21 games and averages 14.7. His long arms and explosive leaping ability at 6-foot-8 have made him one of the best wing players in the ACC.

North Carolina junior forward Reyshawn Terry is the most improved scorer in the ACC over last season:

Player, School; 2004-05 ppg; 2005-06 ppg; Improvement
Reyshawn Terry, North Carolina; 2.3; 14.7; +12.4
Anthony Morrow, Georgia Tech; 5.7; 16.0; +10.3
Zam Fredrick, Georgia Tech; 1.6; 10.6; +9.0;
David Noel, North Carolina; 3.9; 12.8; +8.9
Cedric Simmons, N.C. State; 3.5; 11.8; +8.3

Also, as noted on Tar Heel Blue, Terry is currently the most improved scorer in UNC history from one year to another.

With a 12.4 point per game increase over last season, Reyshawn Terry currently has the highest one-season increase in points per game in Carolina history (Donald Williams was the previous leader with a 12.1 ppg increase between his freshman and sophomore seasons).

SportsCentury: Dean Smith

A must see:

ESPN Classic debuts "SportsCentury: Dean Smith" today at 8 p.m. The TV program chronicles the life and career of UNC's legendary coach, who took over a team on probation, won a record 879 games and coached the Tar Heels to two NCAA championships and one NIT title.

The show includes interviews with Smith and his wife, Linnea, as well as comments from Williams, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, former Georgetown coach John Thompson, New York Knicks coach Larry Brown, former UNC player Sam Perkins and others.

D.C. Exposure (Philadelphia & San Diego)

ESPN summarizes all 65 teams in the Big Dance. We'll look at just the ones that UNC has the best shot of facing...the D.C. region. Here are the teams that UNC could potentially meet in the Elite Eight.

To see the Dayton and Greensboro (for D.C. region) team weaknesses check out this post from yesterday.

According to ESPN these teams will lose when...

Philadelphia
Williams gets bottled up and the pace slows down. UConn likes to push the ball, and anything that gums up the works will be to the Huskies' detriment. (UConn #1)

The selection committee makes them a 15 or 16 seed. (Albany #16)

They shoot a lot of 3s and don't make many. That sounds elementary, but when the Wildcats become overly reliant on 3-pointers and neglect Morris in the post, they have trouble scoring. (Kentucky #8)

They shoot a lot of 3s and don't make many. That sounds elementary, but when the Wildcats become overly reliant on 3-pointers and neglect Morris in the post, they have trouble scoring. (UAB #9)

San Diego
The Huskies entered the postseason on quite a roll, but they could stumble in the NCAAs if they meet a team able to defuse their transition game and make them defend size at the other end. But UW likely won't go down quietly. (Washington #5)

Carroll and Harris aren't getting enough offensive help. The Aggies aren't going to roll up a lot of points, and the consistent contributions of Matheus, Spicer and Peterson have to be there. (Utah State #12)

The team's X-factors (Rich McBride, Randle, Smith and Shaun Pruitt) are all held in check. Seniors Dee Brown and James Augustine are most likely going to score in double figures, so keeping the 1-2 of the other guys from joining them is the key to beat the Illini. (Illinois #4)

They can't control the pace. A team that can control the defensive boards and is willing to push the ball in transition can, to some degree, negate the matchup zone. And Air Force is anything but explosive, so playing from behind is not easy. (Air Force #13)