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William & Mary: UNC Built, and Ready to Win

Never say the NIT doesn't have a sense of drama. Not only does UNC's first round opponent already have two wins against ACC teams, they also have two UNC alumni on the coaching staff. Johnthan Holmes, an assistant, was on the Heels' bench from 1999 to 2003, but it's the head coach you really want to be concerned about. Tony Shaver was a walk-on from 1972 to 1976 at UNC, where he just missed overlapping with Roy Williams, who graduated in '72 and returned as an assistant coach in '78. Shaver coached high school for ten years after graduation before taken the reins at Hampton-Sydney. There he became a force in D-III ball, winning eight conference tournaments and making 11 NCAA appearances in 17 seasons.

In 2003, he took the job at William & Mary, a school whose basketball history can best be described as hapless. The Tribe are one of five original D-1 teams to never make the NCAA tournament; they've made the NIT once, in 1983. Since Shaver took the job, William & Mary has twice made the Colonial Athletic Association championship game and had their first winning seasons since 1998. So how have they done it?

By slowing the tempo way down. The Tribe averaged 69.7 possessions per 40 minutes in Shaver's first season; in the last three that number has been 62.3, 62.2, and 61.2, respectively. This season there are only 13 teams playing slower. Shaver's tenure has been based around improving the defense, but this is the first season he's been able to pair it with a decent offense. They're a small team, but they shoot very well, especially from behind the arc, where almost 40% of their points come from. And the guys doing the bulk of the shooting are David Schneider and Quinn McDowell.

Schneider, a 6'3" senior guard, is the team's primary shooter, most of the time from three-point range. He takes twice as many threes as twos and makes a respectable 33.6% of them. He's also a strong rebounder on an undersized team. McDowell, a 6'5" small forward, is an even better shooter both from outside and driving in the lane. And neither of these players or senior forward Danny Sumner rattle easy. They're all among the Top 100 in fewest turnovers per possession. The Tribe is incredibly careful with the ball, and Carolina can't expect much in the way of fast break points.

UNC's best weapon is their size. The Heels will need to dominate the boards, which shouldn't be too difficult, as the Tribe only play two players 6'9" or taller. Their zone defense will tempt the Heels to try shoot over it, but they'll probably have more luck pounding it inside to the bigs. UNC has been burned by hot-shooting teams a lot this season, but they've all done it a fast clip, early on to crush Carolina's spirit. I don't think the the Tribe will move nearly that fast, but Carolina will have to get out on their perimeter shooters, while still leaving their frontcourt at home to defend against the backdoor cuts. If UNC can do this, they can continue to play in the postseason. If they don't, well, it will look something like this.