Five Keys To A Tar Heel National Title

Winning six games in the tournament is extremely difficult but UNC comes in with Tyler Hansbrough leading the team and a HOF coach in Roy Williams on the sideline.  The question is who else needs to step up to make it all work.

1. Ty Lawson’s Health

There was a point over the weekend, I think during the Virginia Tech game, that I was not sure Lawson would ever make it back to 100% this season.  And he still might not but he looked a lot closer to it on Sunday.  Now UNC has the cupcake in Mount St. Mary’s on Friday, Lawson is afforded a few days of rest and another live game to make progress towards normal.  If UNC is to win the national title, it is likely they will have to knock off a team or two with top flight PGs and that is the primary reason why Lawson has to be in top form.  UNC also could use another weapon on offense.  Earlier when we all discussed the offense with Quentin Thomas running the show and how much better Hansbrough was, I think some of that discussion omitted the fact that Lawson is a another scoring option where QT is not.  I think you are always better off having one more player who the defense has to worry about as demonstrated by Wayne Ellington’s game winner against Clemson made possible by Lawson drawing the defense.  Lawson at top form is a must both on offense and defense.

2. Paging Deon Thompson

I think it is easy to forget that Thompson may not be completely healthy which might serve to explain the level of his play.  I reached a point on Sunday where I preferred for Thompson pass the ball after he rebounded it rather than shooting since he seemed wholly incapable of making a shot of any kind.  This is perhaps my biggest issue with Thompson right now is he is not presently hitting shots that he should really make given the proximity to the goal.  What really frustrates(him more than anyone else I am sure) is that he was playing much better and he had the knee problem which slowed him down.  Needless to say, UNC could use another low post threat and Thompson has more mobility and better offensive moves than Alex Stepheson does.  Having him to keep interior defenses honest would benefit Hansbrough and the entire UNC offense given who productive Hansbrough has been.  If Thompson can hit his share of shots while mixing in some toughness and energy on the boards, UNC is a much better team.

3. Ellington and Green

This is the simplest of all of the keys.  When Wayne Ellington and Danny Green play huge games, UNC wins.  If they do not then UNC is in major trouble.  In the NCAA Tournament I expect this to be magnified somewhat.  There is a good chance UNC will run into teams that will test Hansbrough and limit his looks. When that happens it will be on other players to step up and that generally means Ellington and Green.  Of course the first Duke game proved that even if Hansbrough scores 26, UNC still needs this duo to perform.  Ellington has evolved into a scorer to go along with his deadly jumpshot.  This kind of versatile offensive game makes him difficult to guard.  Green can play all over, run the court and hit threes.  Both of them are key to creating offense on the perimeter to keep opposing defenses honest.  It also should be pointed out that there is one common flaw among several high seeded UNC teams that failed to win the title and that was the MIA status of key perimeter shooters during huge games.  Whether it was Michael Jordan in foul trouble in 1984 or Jeff Lebo going 0 for 5 from three point range in the 1987 East Regional Final down to the atrocious performance of Shammond Williams in back-to-back Final Fours.  The shooters have to show up as Donald Williams did in 1993 and Rashad McCants and Jawad Williams did in 2005.  If Ellington/Green can score consistently in every game, UNC will be in for the long haul

4. Defense

At one point this season UNC was ranked by Pomeroy as the 40th best defense in the country.  As it stands now, UNC is ranked 20th in defensive efficiency.  In this respect UNC has significantly improved on the defensive end.  The quesiton is can that step it up another level as Roy asserts the 2005 team did once the NCAA Tournament started.  I think so and it will be imperative since no one knows how the offense will respond on any given night.  The Heels have shown they can play quality defense.  They did so at Duke and I maintain that ACC Championship was a good defensive effort.  It is more of a constant than the offense and hopefully each player will take ownership of the defense making it championship caliber.

5. Intangibles

Intangibles usually covers all those things we really cannot quantify like toughness, heart and intensity.  However another part of intangibles is the way the ball bounces, the shot that bounces out from halfway down the cylinder or the loose ball that falls just off your hands.  Things like officiating also enter into the picture whether it be the style in which a crew calls the game or bad calls at the wrong time.  All of these things enter into the picture and even if the four keys above are executed as well as they can be it still might come down to one or two intangibles.  Last season UNC did most everything right against Georgetown until the final six minutes when they allowed the Hoyas to come back and tie the game.  And with all of that happening, Wayne Ellington was a scant inch or two from having his game winning three drop through.  The same has been true this season except UNC is winning those games instead of losing them.  This version of the Tar Heels has won many games that hinged on a play or two going differently whereas last season those games did not break in favor of UNC.  When you are talking about six games the number of shots and possessions has been reduced to a fairly manageable number.  Somewhere in that group of plays one or two could be a deciding factor between winning a national title and going home for the summer.

And that is what makes it the most maddening and exciting sporting event in the country.

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21 Responses to Five Keys To A Tar Heel National Title

  1. C. Michael says:

    With respect to #3, I would UNC is in major trouble when both WE and DG are off. As long as one of them is playing well, and UNC is getting the norm from everyone else, then this team can play with anyone. When both are on, I agree, this team is a cut above everyone else. In 2005 the saying was that when UNC was playing at their best no one can beat them. I still think that holds true, but the divide between them at their best and KU/UCLA at their respective best, is much, much, smaller.

  2. thesportsidiot says:

    I would like to take a second and thank the gracious fans I run into on Thee Tar Heel Fan Blog. You guys are always kind to me, and it’s appreciated. That being said, your crappy team is losing in the second round.

    I keed, I keed. It will be a fun ride for you guys, and I think a title is in the picture. My official brackets will be posted on my site tonight (at least that’s the plan), and you’ll see your boys in San Antonio on my sheet.

    I think the main factors are covered well by THF above in regards to what UNC needs to do in order to hang a banner. Good luck guys, I can honestly say that I’ll be pulling for your boys this time around. Down with the Pac10!!!

  3. […] work in progress. Carolina March watched last night’s game. I agree with Tar Heel Fan’s first four […]

  4. Will says:

    Watching the ACC tournament, I wondered if Ty was holding himself back or if the coaches were telling him not to press it. After the press conferences, it seems that Ty was holding himself back.

    My guess is that he was playing scared because he didn’t want to get reinjured before we got into games that really mattered. Once we get into the round of 32, I think he will forget his fears because he knows it one-and-done.

    As for Deon, he has just not been playing well. He needs to get his head in the game, and, at the very least, take better shots.

  5. C. Michael says:

    Fortunately, Deon should get lots of easy attempts against MSM. Nothing like a few strong dunks to get the confidence back up!!!

  6. Will says:

    I’d like to see Deon pull a Marvin Williams vs. Oakland circa 2005.

  7. Asheville Heel says:

    I agree with THF’s analysis. I am especially concerned that Deon’s recent play will keep this team from matching some of the inside consistency that will be necessary against the higher seeds as we move along. He is definitely still not 100% physically and that has got to be affecting his confidence, but, he has got to start fighting through that. I have questioned his “toughness” since day one. He has undeniable tallent and the best low post moves on the team. However, you only have to watch him seemingly, always try to avoid contact around the rim. I understand that this is partly his nature and I know that the coaching staff has worked hard to get him to be more aggressive. I am not “down” on Deon (even though it sounds that way). I just happen to think that raising his level of play is the one thing that has the most potential to really seperate this team from the field! I would love for his Momma to have another “get tough” conversation with him as we head into Friday.

  8. Josh Bowling says:

    In my analysis, number 3 is key. Lawson can afford to not be 100 percent if those guys are playing great. I still prefer Stepheson over Thompson. It seems as if he compliments Hansbrough better. Defense has obviously improved, especially throughout the acc tournament, I just hope that Q is able to continue his ability to create and score when the lane is open for him. Ginyard will have his hands full on stopping some good guards (if we should play them), especially in Eric Gordon and Chris Lofton.

  9. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Or maybe Lil Mama can talk to him about getting loose or something like that.

    (Only those subjected to the Raycom broadcast of the ACC Tourney will get that joke)

  10. Asheville Heel says:

    “Shawty” Thompson, I like the sound of that! Good one THF!

  11. 52BigGameJames says:

    THF: twenty lashes for even referencing that! makes me hurl!

    per Thompson: I think part of the problem on offense is he’s often setting up too far from the basket. On defense, he’s very unreliable–the occasional make-up block or rebound, but also the predictable breakdown. Roy seems to be employing Stepheson, Cope and Graves more and more to compensate.

    I do like the look in Green and Ellington’s eyes of late tho!

  12. Josh Bowling says:

    Me too BigGame!!!

  13. thesportsidiot says:

    Um, you guys are looking into these kids’ eyes?

    I keed, I keed!

  14. william says:

    I just took a look at the 2005 team’s three point shooting stats compared to this year and it is not pretty. We definitely had an advantage that year compared to this year, although we do defend the three slightly better.

    Not relying on the three should theoretically make us more consistent, which is a good thing, as long as we don’t need to make any comebacks. It is surprising to me that although Danny Green seems pretty good from outside, he is no better than Jawad, with basically even stats. Ellington is a little worse than McCants. The real problem is that Ty is not even in the same area code as Felton, but rather down in Melvin Scott country. I am not sure if the pro’s are ready for a 5′ 11″ guard who only shoots 35% from the short college line. Ty needs to come back and work on his shot and his defense.

    Although they don’t shoot that many, Ginyard and Graves are our highest percentage three point shooters, which is surely why Roy seems to be playing them when we need some quick points.

  15. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Ah…doesn’t matter. According to Pomeroy we only have a 4% chance of winning the title anyway…probably should not even both to show up at those odds.

  16. william says:

    I think he has lost his mind. He has begun saying stupid things:

    “The Cardinals edge UNC for Sweet 16 probability honors because of the perceived strength of Indiana, a potential second-round foe for the Tar Heels. I’ll vouch for Indiana’s physical ability to test Carolina, but their mental strength appears to be shot under Dan Dakich. However, they’re playing an Arkansas team in the first round whose coach spent the better part of the first half against Tennessee last Saturday having a profanity-laced conversation with the Vols’ JaJuan Smith. So I’m not sure which team will be the least prepared to advance.”

    Uh, Ken, didn’t Arkansas beat Tennessee in that game?

    One thing is, THF, that computer models are actually not as good in many ways as just good old human watching of games. His system is based only on past results and has no way to incorporate injuries. He has stopped providing 5 and 10 game trends.

    He claims that he correctly picked the ACC tournament, when in reality he did not. His system said that it was more likely than not, 59% to 41%, that someone besides Carolina would win the ACC tournament, but now he claims that he picked things well, but he just couldn’t account for Georgia. Honestly, I agree with 99% of what I read on Baseball Prospectus, but these guys are making claims that they do not have the data or science to back up.

  17. 52BigGameJames says:

    well, I must say I’m glad I was never married to Pom in the first place, so I don’t have to go thru a nasty divorce. You guys are “stat-guys”, and that is truly needed to give a blog it’s legitimacy, but as you stated william, I prefer the good old peepers for my “evidentiary synopsis”.

    I think Ty represents the biggest gap in this team and the 05 version, but how he will perform is the $10,000 question isn’t it? Age-wise he’s still a year away from Raymond, and the injury probably kept him from getting there developmentally this year. I think the overall competition may be stronger this year too. I don’t think this team would beat the 05 team head-up, (although how’d you like to see a Felton/Lawson—May/Hansbrough showdown), but that 05 team rarely played up to full potential imo. But—they don’t have to beat the 05 team, just this field, and when they’re on their game, I think they’re capable.

  18. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Just giving it a cursory glance it appears the probabilities are connected to being highly rated in Pomeroy’s stats on both offense and defense, especially on defense. Of course John Gasaway has a new article up and talks very highly of UNC when discussing efficiency margins and compares UNC to Florida last season:

    North Carolina, Conversely, Is Just Plain Scary

    The Tar Heels have shown an ability that might be even more frightening to opponents than the earthling Jayhawks’ mere “offense” and “defense.” Roy Williams has a team that’s proven it can win while taking on different personalities. They’ve had to. Carolina did without point guard Ty Lawson for the better part of seven games in the heart of their season. The fact that Lawson’s absence put more of a dent in UNC’s per-possession numbers on offense than it did in their won-loss record speaks volumes. Without Lawson, Carolina’s scoring per possession dipped significantly but their efficiency margin experienced only the tiniest decline, thanks to a defense that picked up the slack. True, a negative read of the same facts would be that UNC plays better defense without Lawson. However, I think recent history suggests a different spin.

    Like North Carolina this year, Florida last year was very good but certainly not preeminent in terms of EM. The Gators had kind of a movable dominance: I couldn’t have told you before the tournament last year how Billy Donovan’s team would excel, exactly, but everyone just assumed they would. (I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated that a team blessed with Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer would shoot, and make, a flurry of threes in their six tournament games.) By necessity, Carolina this year has shown that same kind of flexible hegemony: the Heels will simply do what it takes. No, they’re not the defending national champions, but sometimes they act like they are. I mean that in a good way–they have the proverbial swagger.

    http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=258

  19. 52BigGameJames says:

    good stuff–fwiw, Pitt seems to have that swagger too–or at least they did Sat. night.

  20. nathan says:

    Great point by Gasaway. he sums up why i just have a good feeling about this team. they don’t have as much blow-away talent, but they have played a multitude of styles and always come up winners. for a team like Carolina that plays an up-tempo style, there will always be that one game in the tournament where the other team succeeds in slowing it down and keeping the score in the 60s. If we can win that game, we’ve got a great chance to take back an ’08 banner.

  21. william says:

    This is hard work, defending our team, James, lol. Some of them might be reading Pomeroy and we can’t let them think they only have a paltry 1 out of 25 chance of winning it all….

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