Friday, January 7, 2011

game preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: January 8; 12:00 PM

TV: ACC Network; ESPN3

History against the Tar Heels: 47-112

Last matchup: UVA 75, UNC 60; 1/31/10 (video highlights!)

Last game: UVA 84, Howard 63 (1/4); UNC 103, SFPA 54 (1/2)

Opposing blogs: Tar Heel Fan, Carolina March

KenPom stats:

National rank: UVA #100; UNC #18
Offense rank: UVA #83; UNC #40
Defense rank: UVA #123; UNC #11

Finally it's ACC time. That probably won't be as awesome as it should. 15 games in, 15 games to go, starting with Carolina on Saturday. The goal should probably be just to keep our head above water and finish with 16 wins and a winning record; I wanted to shoot for higher, but Mike Scott's ankle told me I couldn't. Finding a way to beat UNC will be a big challenge, and last year's game won't provide many lessons because the lineups will be almost totally different.


- Clog the lane, if we can. UNC had superior athletes last year and they will have them this year. They were beaten by impeccable execution of the pack-line defense. They couldn't slash to the hoop and entry passes were effectively denied. This year, without Mike Scott, there may not be the necessary size and experience for that, but it would be just the thing to slow down the Heels and make them jack from outside.

- Get hot. Nobody has, lately, except for the Howard game in which everyone did all at once. But Howard is among the worst of the worst. Last year, Sammy Zeglinski couldn't throw a brick if he tried - he went 5 of 8 from three and even hit a desperation, shot-clock-beating fadeaway from the wing with a hand glued to his nose. Sometimes you have those days where you just can't miss. UVA will not beat Carolina unless someone has a night like that.

- Take it slooowww, and play disciplined transition defense. They'll go hand in hand on Saturday. Carolina's one of the fastest-paced teams in the country, which is typical of Carolina. They love to run and blow you out with athleticism. Always have. Get back on defense must be the mantra - the moment the shot leaves the shooter's hand, UVA's players must be thinking instant defense. Find your guy, don't admire the shot, make UNC burn shot clock before they shoot.


- Get dominated inside. This is likely to happen no matter what we try. UNC's best scorers are all bigs, and we fortunately missed out on seven-footer Tyler Zeller last year after he broke his foot. Freshman John Henson is a shot-blocking machine. Zeller is the team's scoring leader. Harrison Barnes has gotten a little lost in the shuffle, but he's still as freakishly athletic as he was before the season when he was considered the future #1 pick. This is absolutely an inside-out offense, with point guard Larry Drew existing to find ways to get the ball to someone big. We counter with beanpole Assane Sene and wet paper towel Will Sherrill, who's not even 100%. I expect UNC to have a field day inside, and for proper footwork and positioning to be of little use.

- Lack of discipline anywhere, at any time. The win last year came from 40 minutes of good, disciplined play, which didn't always manifest itself through the course of the season. Had that broken down in, say, the 13th minute, the game likely would have been a loss. This is the kind of game where one big run will submarine the whole thing. Could happen right out of the gate or at any other time.


I hate to be this way but I'm'a be this way: Badly. UNC is washing off the stink from last year. They've had a few losses, but all to quality teams, and they beat Kentucky. They don't let teams ranked outside the top 300 hang around, they go for the jugular and send in Real Blue Steel - the best walk-ons since that guy at Ohio State who started Club Trillion. They probably won't have Reggie Bullock but their guards are mostly interchangeable parts anyway. The real action happens in the paint. They'll kill us in the paint. If we're to win the only time the ball will enter the paint is from directly above, via the net. Keeping this one inside ten points would go a long way toward some optimism, but I'm already preparing myself to shrug it off and focus on....ah shit....Duke.


Anonymous said...

I agreed with your pessimistic prediction going into the game, but ultimately, even though we lost, it was great to see that UNC never outmatched us or overwhelmed us. They beat us, but they had to claw their way to victory. Hats off to the pack line!

Two thoughts kept going through my head as I was watching the game:
(1) Wow, we get to watch these freshmen for 3.5 more years! Harrell in particular has the makings of a superstar. This team is going to be REALLY GOOD.
(2) It's so fun to watch Sene's offensive development! If we could get 10-12 points a game from Sene, which I think he's very capable of, that would very much change the outlook for this team.

Brendan said...

Sene's probably capable of topping out at 10-12 points in an individual game. Doubt very much he's capable of averaging that. If things go well next year I'd like to see him average about six, which would be plenty.

Adam said...