Ken Pomeroy says UNC handles it just fine.
You hear this all of the time. UNC will not be as successful in a slower tempo game. Pomeroy says the numbers do not support it.
In the final minute of the first half of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Oklahoma, Clark Kellogg noted that despite the Sooners being dominated on both ends of the floor, the game was being played at the Sooners' preferred pace. Kellogg made the seemingly logical connection that other analysts before him have made throughout Roy Williams' tenure at UNC: the Tar Heels are very good and play at a very fast pace. The conclusion then must be that an opponent should not play at a fast pace against them.
As noted in the Sweet 16 log5 analysis, UNC is 29-1 in games played with 71 or fewer possessions in the Tyler Hansbrough/Ty Lawson era. Make that 30-1 after the victory over the Sooners. The lone defeat was to Florida State in this season's ACC Tournament, a game in which Ty Lawson did not play. Carolina is actually 26-0 in such games with Lawson in the lineup. For full disclosure, UNC has played in at least one overtime game that deserves to fall into this category--their Elite Eight loss to Georgetown in 2007--and it's possible that overtime losses to Maryland this season and Florida State last season[THF: UNC won the OT game at FSU last season] do, too. Regardless, the point still stands. UNC is at least as likely to win a slow game as a fast one, perhaps more likely.
In fact Pomeroy goes on to say that running with the Heels is not actually that bad of an idea because the Tar Heel transition defense can be suspect. What the stats do not account for in that is the ability of teams to run with UNC. Getting out in transition is not as simple as it sounds. UNC does it because that is how they play. If a team is not accustomed to doing it then they might get tired or simply not execute as well. Pomeroy's ultimate point is this:
Look, Nantz and Kellogg have to fill two hours of game time, and the crew in New York has to fill 20 minutes of halftime, so I can't hammer them for focusing on the pace of the game now and then. But as it has seemed to be throughout Ty Lawson's stay in Chapel Hill, tempo has little to do with Carolina's chances of winning. They are as good at scoring against a set defense as any team in the country, and longer defensive possessions increase the chance that they can turn defense into quick points.
In other words they are just plain good offensively no matter what the pace.