Is A Good Tournament Start Important?

In historical terms it seems to be, at least according to Adam Lucas’ Tuesday Talking Points.

Carolina’s combined margin of victory (70 points) in the NCAA’s first two rounds is the largest two-game combined margin of victory in school history. This year’s total surpasses 1993 (65 points) and 2005 (60 points).  The Tar Heels won the national title in each of those years.

Over the last 20 years, Carolina is 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament’s third round when the Tar Heels win their second-round game by double-digits.

The last five Carolina teams to post a pair of NCAA Tournament wins by at least 15 points advanced at least to the Final Four (1991, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2005).

So UNC started the NCAA Tournament this season the same way they did in 1993 and 2005 with resounding wins by huge margins.  In some ways this might be a correlation that really proves nothing however I think in all three cases the quick starts point to UNC playing their best basketball at the right time of year.   Of course this does not ease the difficult nature of the road ahead.  The 2005 team almost lost in the Sweet Sixteen versus Villanova, then had a tough fight with Wisconsin in the East Regional Final.  In 1993, UNC had a tough game with Arkansas and then needed OT to beat Cincinnati in the regional final.  However, I do think the great start serves to build confidence and spring board the team into the round of tougher games knowing they are playing top notch basketball.

I think all three talking points illustrates the need for a national championship contender to be a dominant team when facing certain competition.  The kind of games UNC had to win, in the past, to advance to the Final Four shows that being able to win dogfights is a neccesity as well.  Basically title teams respond well to the circumstances. They crush inferior teams but adapt to tough games in an effort to fine some way to win.  Sound familiar?  It should because that is what this team has been doing all season.  We have seen, in several games, this team can be tough and win regardless of what the other team throws at them.  Now with everyone healthy and playing their best games this weekend UNC played with a killer instinct from the outset which I think was noticeably missing during the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

Heading into Thursday we will find out if they can continue to play with that instinct and the knack for winning games when everything goes wrong. If they can, I like the odds going forward.


25 Responses to Is A Good Tournament Start Important?

  1. 52BigGameJames says:

    I wonder how our rebounding margin stacks up with previous Tarheel teams?

  2. C. Michael says:

    Ask Coach K…

  3. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    I hope we have a big rebounding edge versus Washington State.

  4. william says:

    How about a big scoring edge?

  5. william says:

    I know this is off topic, but is there trouble brewing in Durham or is this just a spoiled college kid?

  6. Tar Heel Fan says:

    No trouble brewing and he is a bit over the top in his “28-6 is not a great season” meme. However his analysis of the recruiting issues, especially where big men are concerned sounds spot on. I think the NBA age limit and the fact K does not want to contend with guys who might be one and done is pushing him away from elite players. Roy still seems willing to roll the dice with whoever and as long as he can keep loading the train with recruits it should work out though UNC might be a tad young at times.

  7. william says:

    If being a great coach means taking a group of guys and vastly overachieving, then I have to say that I was impressed with their season. I expected about a 10-6 record. They ended up a lot like Matt Doherty’s first year though. I am not sure if they ran out of energy or if everyone just finally figured out how to defend them. I did see an article that the last 12 games or so, everyone was switching off against screens after seeing Wake Forest do it against them. They looked about as strong against WVU on Saturday as the Heels did against Penn State in 2001.

    In terms of the recruiting, K has big problems. Roy over-recruits, perhaps, but ends up playing all the guys a lot. K over-recruited a few years and didn’t play many guys and then the transfers started, which is an issue that no one in NC talks much about but which has dogged K for years. Smith had about 2 transfers his whole career, Lynwood Robinson and Larry Davis, while K has had 2 in a single year and has had some excellent players transfer like Billy McCafferty and one of those kids off the 2000 or 2001 club. Duke has had several players transfer in the last five years and I wonder whether Pocius is about to join them.

  8. zDuB says:

    I do agree that our good tourney start is a great confidence
    builder, but aside from the stats, everyday brings new challenges.
    I believe we’ll be ready for whatever comes at us.

  9. Tar Heel Fan says:


    Dean actually had three. Clifford Rozier left after the 1991 season for Louisville.

    You are correct that no one discusses the transfers from the Duke program and the fact guys like Randolph and McBob went pro when they clearly were not ready to go pro. This points to a program that is obviously very tough to stay in for some players. The fact McCaffery who was the 2nd leading scorer in the 1991 title team decided to transfer knowing what they had coming back says something but I am not really sure what that something is.

  10. 52BigGameJames says:

    there’s something to be said for confidence here too as regards Duke. I felt after the Monday night Ravens-Patriots game, that if a good team were to look them in the eye and not blink, they were beatable. Several got close, but most blinked until the Giants, and they damn near did. Duke has traditionally relied on that intimidation/confidence, and it’s really hard to tell how much of an impact that has on an opposing teams psyche…just ask Clemson re; Heels. I recall there being a similar psychological breakthrough against some of Deans teams. I don’t know if it’s so much Duke, as it is other teams just not conceding to them anymore. As Roy likes to say, at some point in each game, one team gives in.

  11. william says:

    I forgot about Clifford, but basically Dean told him he was transferring. Larry Davis ended up playing for Fogler at USC, but I can’t remember whether that was cordial or not. I believe Roy asked Q if he wanted to transfer and Q said no.

    I am not saying that transfers are always bad, but when you seen handfuls of transfers like at Kansas, since Williams left, or at Duke, it makes you wonder.

  12. Tar Heel Fan says:

    IIRC, there is an urban legend about Rozier complaining to Dean about something and Dean started flipping through his Rolodex. Rozier asks what he is doing and Dean answered, “Finding you a school to transfer to.”

    I think Larry Davis simply wanted more playing time and he was a bit flashy as I recall so Dean sent him to play for Eddie and SCAR ended up a #2 seed in the NCAAT in 1997 with Davis as a senior but lost to Coppin St in the first round.

    Also, I know JR Reid and Jeff McInnis were both encouraged to turn pro early by Dean and not because he thought they were ready for the NBA.

  13. william says:

    I heard a rumor about McInnis but I don’t know if it was true. Apparently, he may have had some issues with one of the assistant coaches.

    J.R. Reid was the Derrick Coleman of UNC. After his freshman year, we were better without him. He may have been the biggest wash-out in Carolina history and to think he started a hair-cut.

    Here is my list of Carolina grads least welcome at official alumni gatherings:

    1. Sheed–never graduated and Dean calls him out in his book
    2. Stackhouse–he and Sheed just up and left and then he fought constantly with MJ while with the Wizards, stating publicly he was glad when Jordan left
    3. McInness–are the rumors true?–anyone seeing a trend with the class of 97?
    4. Bob McAdoo–like Sheed, left the cupboard kinda empty and then called Smith, Dean in public.
    5. Donnie Walsh–came up with the defensive scheme that defeated Carolina twice in 1971
    6. Maktar–Have no idea why they took this guy in, as he wasn’t very good in addition to being a jerk
    7. J.R. Reid–got suspended before big games on two different occasions and stunk in the pro’s
    8. Larry Brown–stole Danny Manning and refused to take head coaching job if he had to interview
    9. Matt Doherty–although I would like to see him back
    10. The entire 2002 squad, except for the freshmen.

  14. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    I thought the article about Duke was pretty good, especially for what appears to be a student newspaper. The point about big men was telling – where would UNC be wthout Hansbrough? Probably still very good but certainly not ranked #1 in the country for much of the season. Personally I think Duke reloads and/or develops their current team more and will be highly ranked again next year.

  15. william says:

    I don’t see a lot of enthusiasm about the guys Duke has coming in over at the Duke forums. And whatever happened to Nolan Smith and Taylor King? Weren’t those guys supposed to be top ten recruits? It seems like K gets down on these kids very quickly, like Boykin, Boateng, and Pocius and they simply never make it out on the court anymore.

  16. william says:

    Supposedly they had the number three recruiting class in the country last year, but only Singler seemed like much of a factor:

  17. Santiago says:

    THF, you’re not saying Dean had ulterior motives, not the players’ best interests, are you???

    The stories of Duke’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The game has not passed K by, any more than it had passed Dean by circa 1990. Of course, if K proves to be stubborn and refuses to, or is unable to recruit a solid post player, it’ll be SOSDD next year and beyond. Doesn’t K have a “lifetime contract” anyway? The point is moot.

    As for the stats (I didn’t think y’all liked “stat guys”), on this side of the Natty, the numbers are just cognitive bias. We’ll have to wait ’til we win it all before we can call it coincidence.

    Of course, it’s not like I’m not doing a lot of the same stuff this spring that I was doing during tourney time four years ago. 😉

  18. william says:

    I think we said he did a fine job coaching this year, but the question is the quality of his players. Every year his recruits are rated as about the best in the country but then they arrive in Durham and they don’t seem so good. Here is there class from two years ago which was rated only four places below Carolina’s monster class with Lawson, Ellington, Wright, Stepheson, Thompson and Graves. I wouldn’t take any of Duke’s recruits that year except for Henderson.

    5. Duke Blue Devils

    Details Gerald Henderson SG 6-5, 210
    Brian Zoubek C 7-0, 250
    Lance Thomas SF 6-8, 200
    Jon Scheyer SG 6-4, 170
    The Blue Devils have Lance Thomas to thank for their jump into the top five. The rising stock of guard Gerald Henderson and center Brian Zoubek – who both earned five-star rankings after impressive senior seasons also sparked their climb. Mike Krzyzewski was saving a final spot for Thomas and after a long recruitment, the four-star swingman from Newark, N.J., chose the Blue Devils over Rutgers in May. Four-star shooting guard Jon Scheyer gives coach K another accurate shooter to utilize.

  19. william says:

    Now look at 2005, where Duke’s class was rated ahead of Carolina’s:

    2. Duke – The Blue Devil recruiting machine continues to roll this year highlighted by the 2rd best player in the country power forward Josh McRoberts and perhaps the top floor general Greg Paulus both five-star prospects. To go along with their inside-outside duo, Duke also signed 4-star center Eric Boateng and small forward Jamal Boykin. The wildcard could be Martynas Pocius who was one of the fastest risers in the last few months.

    9. North Carolina – The signing of combo guard Bobby Frasor and five-star power forward Tyler Hansbrough have many making comparison to a the former inside-outside duo of Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison both who are currently in the NBA. Four-star guards Danny Green and Marcus Ginyard give the Tar Heels plenty of depth in the backcourt.

    Either these guys are all overrated because they are going to Duke or something diminishes them when they arrive.

  20. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    Back to the original topic – crushing the first two opponents in the opening two games of the tournament is nothing but good. In an interview I saw that Q, Ginyard and other players said they thought there was still room for improvement. UNC has some very good teams ahead (starting with WSU) and I really hope they come out fired up and exerting their will both on offense and defense. The only downside to such a good start is a sense of entitlement, but I figure Roy will nip any of that in the bud, to paraphrase Barney Fife…

  21. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    Interesting Seattle Times column on the history between Willians and Wassu coaches and contrast in playing styles. Near the end one of the Cougar players is quoted belittling Carolina’s fast-paced style.

  22. Johnny says:

    I agree the Cougs should not be overlooked. If the Cougs have their way, this will be an uncomfortable and awkward game to watch. I live in PAC-10 country and I expect the Heels will prevail, but I also expect scoring in the low 70s and a fair amount of squirming in the recliner on Thursday. The Cougs do a great job of dictating pace, packing it in and daring teams to shoot threes, and taking care of the ball. The Heels will need to exploit their edge on the boards, be patient, and hit a decent percentage of their threes to win. I don’t expect many fast break opportunities, though those (and good rebounding) will probably will be the edge that pushes the Heels to victory.

  23. william says:

    WSU played UCLA, Stanford and Arizona a total of seven times this year. How many of those games do you think WSU won? They did beat Winthrop and Baylor though, scary. Their coach is already criticizing Roy Williams for criticizing his father’s style of play. That’s right, WSU’s coach is son of the same Bennett who subjected the entire nation to that pathetic 19-17 first half back in the Final Four in 1999, between MSU and Wisconsin.

    It was a sad day for basketball, but Bennett’s son is here to inflict more upon all of us, all the while they guys at basketball prospectus tell us what a great way to play basketball it is. Well, it is legal, but there is nothing admirable about it. Davidson plays the big guys and wins but they don’t take the air out of the ball. Carolina must crush WSU into the dust.

  24. William, I cal tell you how many times Washington State beat UCLA, Stanford, and Arizona. The correct answer is ZERO.
    I know that anything can happen in this tournament, but I also highly doubt that Roy has this team overlooking Washington State. I think the fact that they weren’t able to beat the “class of the Pac 10” ONCE says something about their style of play.
    Truth be told, I was more uneasy about playing Arkansas than I am about playing Washington State. Maybe I’m overconfident here, but I don’t think the season ends for UNC just now.

  25. Asheville Heel says:

    At this time of the year I am nervous about every team that we play. That said, I think it will be important for The Heels to come out focused and play well early. If you get off slow and have to play from behind against a team with this style it can be tough to swing momentum back to your side. If Ty Lawson can beat their initial ball pressure by penetrating into the lane we should be able disrupt their “pack defense” philosphy and get some shots inside. It will be critical to take advantage of our opportunities and not miss easy shots because they will want to make us work hard for points deep into the shot clock.
    We need to impose our will on this team and not let them play in their comfort zone!

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