Friday, February 24, 2012

game preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: Saturday, February 25; 4:00


Record against the Heels: 49-126

Last matchup: UNC 70, UVA 52; 2/11/12; Chapel Hill

Last game: UVA 61, VT 59 (2/21); UNC 86, NCSt. 74 (2/21)

Opposing blogs: Tar Heel Fan, Carolina March

KenPom breakdown:

UVA: 60.4 (#337)
UNC: 73.0 (#8)

UVA: 105.5 (#96)
UNC: 116.0 (#11)

UVA: 85.9 (#6)
UNC: 88.2 (#14)

UVA: .8918 (#22)
UNC: .9432 (#6)

Projected starting lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (7.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Sammy Zeglinski (8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.8 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (17.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
F: Akil Mitchell (4.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)

North Carolina:

PG: Kendall Marshall (7.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 9.8 apg)
SG: Reggie Bullock (8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Harrison Barnes (18.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
PF: John Henson (14.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C: Tyler Zeller (15.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.0 apg)

Rematch time, and the first of two home-court opportunities to make the tournament bubble nothing but a memory.  Win either this or the FSU game later on this week, and I think it'll be safe to call the Hoos a tournament lock.  Playing for seeding sounds like a really great idea.

UVA hung with UNC last time out for about two-thirds of the game, and then their superior athleticism took over.  That and foul trouble with the referees calling a very, very, obnoxiously tight game.  With UVA forced to back off a smidge on defense lest we be forced to dip into the walk-on ranks, the Heels took full advantage and simultaneously clamped down on defense.  This time, I don't think UVA needs to do much different, with the exception of maybe retraining the refs so they don't call fouls for gentle caresses.

-- UVA on offense

Length in the opponents' backcourt is the #1 thing that's given UVA trouble this year, what with our starting guards being six feet tall on tiptoes and all.  And UNC has plenty of it; they were able to harass our shooters into 3-for-16 shooting from three in the last game.  Only Joe Harris had an acceptable night (2-for-5) and he made zero twos, that being the realm of even taller players in UNC's frontcourt.

Truthfully, it's impressive that we were able to hang despite missing all those threes.  We were much better in this game than I thought we could be from two.  This was due mainly to two things: Jontel Evans developing a driving game, and Mike Scott's jumper.  This is great stuff because if they're working, UNC (or anyone) is essentially powerless to stop it.  Kendall Marshall isn't a top-notch defender, and when he decides to drive, usually even Jontel doesn't know what he's gonna do before he does it.  And Scott's go-to move these days is a thing of beauty.  He catches the ball near the baseline and he's like a cat.  He lulls his defender to sleep.... just kind of swings the ball high to low.... and then quick as lightning, shoots the jumper.  It's nigh-automatic.  You're already dead if he catches the ball in position.

Howeva, UNC is probably happy to let this go on, as long as they're able to block, harass, and generally prevent the three-point shot.  It's pretty obvious that, aside from the occasional Evans or Brogdon drive to the rim, everything in a six-foot radius from the hoop will belong to them.  That's just what all that height will do.  So I reiterate my admonition from the last preview: we've got to make it rain, or else.  That's the great equalizer.  And don't expect a lot of open ones, because it's amazing the kind of close-out a 6'7" defender can have on a (generously listed) 6'1" shooter.  We're talking coming off a screen and hitting, no thinking.

-- UVA on defense

You can't complain much about this aspect of the game last time.  UNC was held to 1.06 points per possession - not a season low, but close, and I just bet it was lower than 1 before they began their second-half run.  Harrison Barnes was almost completely ineffective.  Reggie Bullock was a brick machine from three.  UNC's offense was largely comprised of Tyler Zeller going over the back getting offensive rebounds and putting them back.  At this he was unstoppable.

Unfortunately I know of no way to prevent this.  The refs called every foul in that game except for over-the-back, which would have fouled out Zeller.  (Can't have that.)  And sometimes he was just there, in position, and friggin' tall, and what are you gonna do?  Being half a shade over 5'7" myself, I sympathized with the UVA defenders reaching up and being totally unable to reach the ball.

Can the pack-line at least stop Barnes again?  I think so.  It was designed exactly for guys like him, who do a lot of their best work between the paint and the arc.  Same for Marshall, who thrives on entry passes to scorers like Barnes.  He was "limited" to six assists last time, which is pretty good considering.  UNC will also have P.J. Hairston available, unlike last time, but I don't think that's much of a factor; if somehow you stop UNC's frontcourt, Hairston isn't suddenly gonna be the guy who blows up on you.

If we aren't being hung with fouls for every little thing, we can hang on this end.  We might have to play the kind of basketball that leaves Heels fans blaming ACC refs for allowing assault and battery, but it can be done.  The pack-line is the great equalizer that way.  Find a way to not be murdered on the offensive glass and otherwise follow the same script as last time and this game can and will be close at the end, which is all you can ask for.

-- Outlook

Very often the talk is of "imposing the tempo" and whoever does it best, wins.  Who did it last time?  Both teams.  It was a 66-possession game; our third-fastest of the season and UNC's fourth-slowest.  You could say UVA did a better job because that number is closer to our average than theirs; you could say UNC did because they won by 18 points.  Neither team was really in their comfort zone.

I expect something similar this time.  I expect a closer game, too, despite going into this game with a veritable MASH unit of a roster.  But.... I still don't expect a win.  40 minutes is a long time to try and hang with a team that just has a massive, massive physical advantage.  UNC is just too big.

-- Final score: UNC 69, UVA 61

Weekend note: With the lacrosse team on ESPN3 at noon and this game going on at 4, and beisbol in between, it'll definitely be a Twittish kind of weekend.  Follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for microthoughts on Saturday.  Lax takes on a Stony Brook team that'll be kind of a shadow of its former self, and the baseball team will have game 2 of a weekend series against what looks like a terribly overmatched Monmouth squad - as I type, we're up 17-3 in the opener.

Also, if you're planning on submitting a guest column entry, this weekend would be the perfect time to work on it.  I'll be writing a few things for advance posting, but I can't fill an entire week and a half while I'm in Peru.


Anonymous said...

Did I just see that? We lost to unc by 3 and mike was quite literally the worst player on our roster? (Ignoring how badly we needed his height on defense....) Le sigh.

Anonymous said...

"If we aren't being hung with fouls for every little thing"

Very prescient, Nostradamus.

We had a chance though, and it's not like we played our best game. So I feel good about that.