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UNC Basketball: The Brakes

Clap your hands everybody, if you’ve got what it takes

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Brakes on a bus, brakes on a car. Brakes to make you a superstar.

I like to imagine that Tony Bennett features Kurtis Blow heavily in his recruiting. It brings a small smile to my face to think of the unflappable head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers solemnly peering across a recruit’s living room, beating his head as the iconic bass line of Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” floats out of what I assume would be a phone’s small speakers. It’d be a great way to explain his program’s identity; the Cavaliers use their proverbial brakes more often than any other team in the country, putting them dead last in tempo according to the numbers over at KenPom.com. In fact, the word “breaks” (or some homophone or other iteration therein) crops up 84 times in the song referenced above—24 more times than the number of possessions that the Cavaliers get in your average 40-minute game.

Brakes to win, brakes to lose; these here brakes will rock your shoes.

Tomorrow, the Heels will take the floor against the slow-playing Cavaliers, marking the beginning of a challenging string of games to finish the season. This will be the first time playing against the suffocating Cavaliers for the Carolina freshman, the first top-10 opponent, and only the third time this season that the Heels have seen an opponent with a number beside their name at all. Shooting percentage is going to be more important than at perhaps any other point in the season, as the defensive pressure and downtempo pace make each possesion as precious as a certified gold record. The Heels saw two-thirds of their three-point attempts fall a week ago, a number they’ll need to try to replicate against a team in Virginia that will be intent on limiting the amount of shots that the Heels are able to get up in the first place.

Brakes on a plane, brakes on a train; brakes to make you go insane.

A young Carolina team faces a massive test on the road, with fundamental differences in identity on display. The Cavaliers will insist on pumping the brakes, and the Heels have not shown a willingness or ability to really push the pace of a ballgame yet this year. It seems almost certain that the team from Charlottesville will have their way in terms of game speed, and so the onus will be on the Carolina shooters and rebounders to make every opportunity count. If the Heels are careless with the ball or unable to hit shots, it could be a long evening for the boys in blue and white. If, however, Carolina values each possession and is able to shoot at a similar clip to the game on Saturday past?

That’s the breaks, that’s the breaks!