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.
The Elevator Speech: The State of the Team
After the final week of the regular season, things were looking a bit questionable. A last second loss to Miami and a second-half meltdown at Duke left plenty of room for pessimism.
That seems like a long time ago.
The ACC Tournament proved to be a bit of a mini redemption tour. The Heels took care of business against Syracuse behind Theo Pinson’s double-double (16 and 11) and a strong effort from Kenny Williams (17 points).
Pinson had a stellar game against Miami with a second consecutive double-double (25 and 11). Carolina was a meager 6 of 25 from three but still shot over 40% from the field for the victory.
Friday was the rubber match against Duke and the battle for Charlotte. A fantastic defensive effort overcame another shaky perimeter night for the Heels. Despite only scoring two points in the final 5:34 (those two being Pinson free throws with 3 seconds left), the lead was too much for the Blue Devils to overcome.
I celebrated all day Saturday.
Saturday night brought a true struggle against Virginia. The second half fatigue was noticeable particularly in a handful of late empty trips. Nevertheless, it was a great run in Brooklyn.
By Saturday morning, there was a growing debate over whether a UNC win would mean a number 1 seed. I believed that our seed was set as the top 2 regardless of the outcome on Saturday night. That is an impressive turnaround.
Words of Wisdom: A Thought from MGD
“We have a pretty good region. It was a good tournament run and they were rewarded.”
I certainly agree. Honestly, I was elated to see Michigan State come up as the 3 in the Midwest, because I was convinced that Duke would be the 2 in that region.
The NCAA tournament is all about matchups, so let’s take a look at what Carolina will face.
Lipscomb comes in as the champion of the A-Sun. The Bison have a 23-9 record, are ranked 101 in the RPI and have the 231st strength of schedule. They score over 80 points per game and are led by Garrison Matthews at over 22 points per game and a nearly 40% mark from three. This will be an up and down high scoring affair.
Waiting on Sunday in Charlotte will be the winner of Texas A&M and Providence. Both are around a 30 RPI and both have top 10 strengths of schedule. The Aggies may have more talent (Robert Williams) but the Friars are a balanced scoring team with senior leadership in Kyron Cartwright. They just pushed Villanova to overtime in the Big East Championship. I look for Providence to meet the Heels on Sunday.
Survive this week, and next week’s West Coast trip could include games against a streaking Michigan team (again) and then a Regional final against Gonzaga or Xavier. Of course, given this year’s parity, its also possible that Carolina could face Houston and Florida State.
Lying In Bed, I Am Worried About. . .
The defense is coming together. The rebounding continues to be solid. The bench showed up in a solid way over the weekend with Garrison Brooks emerging as a sixth man star.
The scoring droughts, however, are a concern. Seven scoreless minutes to start against Miami. Five scoreless minutes to close against Duke. Four and a half scoreless minutes late in the second half against Virginia, which put the game out of reach.
This year’s version of the Tar Heels is not an offensive juggernaut, but they are certainly capable of putting points on the board. They have to do so in a continuous manner to advance toward San Antonio.
Looking Ahead . . .
Luke Maye has to score and Joel Berry II has to finish at the rim. Cameron Johnson needs to be more selective in his shooting and Kenny Williams has to hit open looks. Theo just needs to keep being Theo.
Final Thoughts . . .
There is only one mantra this time of year:
Survive and Advance.