Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s action, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
Why is this a Tuesday morning article? THH hit the road last weekend and headed to Louisville to watch the game, tour the distilleries, and taste the bourbon. A literal THH hangover interrupted the regularly-scheduled article, but boy was the visit fun!
The Elevator Speech: The State of the Team
This team is surging. Two more wins last week including a very impressive road win against a tournament team have helped build the momentum. With two off days last week following a grueling three-game stretch, the Heels looked rested and ready for battle.
I still believe the 16 three-point attempts against Notre Dame is the better course forward than the 27 against Louisville. It is, however, hard to argue with the offensive results.
The bottom-line is that the pressure from a potent UNC offense is going to be a challenge for any opponent moving forward. On their best days, most teams are just not going to be able to keep up. The more diversity in the scoring, the less prone to offensive droughts the team will be. Against the Cards, the longest scoring drought was about 3 1⁄2 minutes early in the second half. Versus the Irish, the longest scoreless period was less than two minutes and four players cored in double digits.
Good balance is leading to great offense.
Words of Wisdom? A Thought from MGD
My Grumpy Dad is very humorous when there is not much to complain about. As true college basketball fans our memories are short, so right now there is not much to take issue with.
“I’m still worried about the bench players. There just seems to be drop-off, particularly when more than two are in at the same time.”
I agree with this to an extent. There is a skill-level difference, as there is with every team, the further down the line the participation moves. I think more to the point, however, is that the team plays differently without the Lightning Lineup. Brooks and Manley turn the half-court offense into a more traditional inside out. This is especially true when combined with Robinson or Woods on the perimeter.
Clearly, substitutions are necessary for rest and foul maintenance. The number of television timeouts mitigates the former somewhat, but fresh legs still win games (maybe this is the key to second half Luke?). The issue is hanging on to a lead versus expanding it when the starting five rotates out.
Lying In Bed, I Am Worried About. . .
Right now there are four teams playing for the two pod spots in Charlotte. Incredibly, all four are in the same conference. Virginia may have one of those spots sewn up, particularly with a relatively easy schedule to close the regular season. That would leave one spot for the best of Duke, Clemson, and Carolina.
A week ago, the Selection Committee stated that the spot would have gone to Duke (as a two seed with Clemson and Carolina as both three seeds). Both Duke and UNC had strong weeks and have likely moved ahead of the Tigers for the time being.
The last three games for the Heels could be the most difficult closing stretch in the country. All three are against tournament teams and two of them are on the road. I actually like playing a late season road game against Syracuse because the big arena experience could be helpful for Regional Finals.
Here is the bottom-line: if the Heels take the last three, then they will be second in the conference and will get a two-seed and thus the second Charlotte spot. If they go 2-1, then they will have to at least get to the ACC Tournament Final (and may have to win it if either Clemson or Duke are the opponent).
Finally, I am going to go ahead and say it: win out through the ACC Tournament and this is a one-seed. They would potentially add a whopping 6 top quartile wins to their resume through that stretch. The hurdle could be the head-to-head neutral court loss to Michigan State.
Looking Ahead . . .
A patience testing road game to face the Syracuse zone on the road on Wednesday.
Following that game, the Heels will get the weekend off. Let’s hope it is the last one until April.