Shooting Your Way To A National Title

A historical glimpse at UNC’s shooting in previous Final Fours

If any of you are like me there is a chance that at some point this week you will wake up with a cold sweat in the dead of night having had a nightmare similar to this:  UNC is in the Final Four but because this is a dream and you ate ice cream at 10 PM it is an odd Final Four.  The Tar Heel team has a bunch of different guys on the roster from different teams.  Shammond Williams and Dante Calabria along with Rick Fox, Pete Chilcutt, Antawn Jamison, Jason Capel, Joe Forte and Serge Zwikker.  The team is playing in the national semifinal against Kansas and no one can hit a shot.  Everything they throw up comes up short or rims out.  Sure, they find the bottom of the nets every once and awhile but shot after shot bricks hard off the rim and after seeing Shammond Williams miss his 35th shot in a row you bolt up off your pillow screaming “NOOOOOOO!!!!”

That might be a little over the top but there is some hard data floating around out there that says when UNC goes to a Final Four it is either hot or cold for them.  Looking back at the Final Fours starting with 1981, if UNC wins a game on the final weekend it is a result go very good shooting around 50% or better.  When UNC loses a game in the Final Four the shooting is downright pathetic.  Obviously this is not earth shattering analysis on my part.  Shooting well wins games while missing shots loses game.  However the issue here is when the shooting goes south for UNC in the Final Four it really goes south which is shocking considering UNC averages around 50% during the course of most seasons.

Year Result FG% 3P FG% Season FG% Season 3P%
1981 W vs Virginia 53% N/A 53.7% N/A
  L vs Indiana 42% N/A 53.7% N/A
1982 W vs Houston 42% N/A 51.5% N/A
  W vs Gtown 53% N/A 51.5% N/A
1991 L vs Kansas 38% 16% 50.2% 39.8%
1993 W vs Kansas 53% 71% 50.6% 37.2%
  W vs Michigan 49% 45% 50.6% 37.2%
1995 L vs Arkansas 37% 35% 50.8% 41.0%
1997 L vs Arizona 31% 19% 47.9% 37.2%
1998 L vs Utah 39% 13% 51.8% 36.2%
2000 L vs Florida 35% 22% 49.1% 34.3%
2005 W vs Mich St. 49% 30% 49.9% 40.3%
  W vs Illinois 51% 56% 49.9% 40.3%

As I stated above, there is nothing surprising in the fact UNC lost games they shot poorly in versus winning games in which they shot well.  The startling stat here is in six Final Four losses UNC has broken 40% shooting exactly once and that was the title game loss to Indiana in 1981 when the Heels shot 42%.  In the other five losses UNC shot below 40% and the three point shooting has even bee more atrocious which likely contributes to the down overall FG% stat.  The Heels have had some incredibily bad perimeter shooting games in their losses.  Aside from the 35% against Arkansas in 1995 which included 10 made three pointers, UNC could not hit the broadside of a barn with a sawed off shotgun against Kansas(1991), Arizona, Utah and Florida from beyond the arc.  The sight of Shammond Williams going 1-10 versus Arizona and 2-12 against Utah is nightmare fuel of the highest order for the die hard Tar Heel fan.

What I have found fustrating in watching these shooting implosions happen(and it is far worse for the players themselves) is you get accustomed to watching the Heels shoot so well all season. Then comes the biggest game of the year and the shooting is nowhere close to what the average has been.  This is the maddening aspect of the previous UNC losses I have witnessed is the degree to which they falter in shooting the ball.  It is not that they average 50% from the floor and shot 44%.  The shooting is often 10-12% worse in the Final Four than it has been on average all season.  I am sure opposing defenses have something to do with that but you also get the impression that UNC players get tight in these huge games and as a result miss shots they normally make.

The flipside to these numbers is when UNC decides to shoot the ball well, they tend to do so with great efficiency which leads to the cutting down of nets.   In four wins at the Final Four, UNC has shot 71%, 45%, 30% and 56% from the perimeter which averages out to hitting half the three pointers taken.  The Michigan State game in 2005 is the only game what fell below the season average for three point shooting.  In the others UNC exceeded the average, making the perimeter shots a key part of the offense, especially in terms of achieving offensive balance.  This is important in terms of solving a tough defensive team if you can get all of your weapons firing with accuracy.

What does this all mean?  Simple.  Wayne Ellington and Danny Green in particular need to be locked and loaded starting on Saturday night.  Ty Lawson shooting well from outside will help too but I am not so much looking to his shooting given the PG matchups.  Deon Thompson and Tyler Hansbrough will have their hands full on the post facing a good Kansas defense and should they advance more of the same from either UCLA or Memphis.  This makes what happens on the perimeter key for opening up the entire offensive set along with getting out in transition.  Any team UNC faces now will be a good defensive team able to stop parts of the Tar Heel offense.  It will be extremely important to demonstrate too many offensive options for any one team to handle during the course of the game.

UNC is playing well right now and for the first time that I am aware of has won their first four tournament games by double digits.[Correction: I should have known better than to trust my memory.  Heels won the first games in both 1995 and 1998 by double digits.  1998 was a curveball because I knew the 2nd round game was in OT.  The margin of victory was the higher this season]  If the Heels can play some solid defense and have the offense clicking I like their chances.  If we see anything similar to the shooting percentages from the perimeter indicated in the losses above it might be a long night Saturday night and a short stay for the weekend.

45 Responses to Shooting Your Way To A National Title

  1. Will says:

    Tywon, Wayne, and Green are obviously our main scoring threats other than Hansbrough. Against Louisville, here were the results:

    Green – 2 for 6, 33%
    Wayne – 5 for 14, 35%
    Ty – 2 for 5, 40%
    Combined – 36%

    That is not going to get it done against Kansas. The good news is that these guys should be even more motivated and focused because of this result.

  2. william says:

    Well. I think we are getting to another level, here, THF. This is going to end up being Carolina’s second best season ever, and arguably best year ever if they close out. If they don’t, it is not going to be like losing to Kansas in 1991 or Utah in 1998. Those were pretty good squads, but they were not worldbeaters. Kansas was only kind of in that game against Duke, trailing by 6-12 points most of the second half and I dare anyone to name Kansas’s center in that game, or even really anyone not named Jamison.

    Utah was perhaps a more talented version of Davidson, coached very well, but that 1998 team was maddeningly inconsistent(Maktar?) and very small down low. They had to hit from outside.

    This team now has the second best record in Carolina history and will achieve the all time record for victories by a champion if they win out, adding to their record of all time victories by a champion without a loss. We have seen what they do every game and while outside shooting and mid-range to short-range shots by Alex and Deon are what turn games into laughers, they seem to still be able to win, even if the shots from outside are not falling.

    No one from Carolina is going to shoot 1-13 from outside because no one from Carolina on the perimeter is going to shoot 13 shots. Secondly, unlike some Carolina teams, you really cannot guard us all that close because we do not miss free throws. If you notice lately, (maybe somewhat due to the refs) teams are not fouling us. The word has gotten out that it is useless to foul anyone by Ginyard and Thompson and Stepheson because Carolina doesn’t miss free throws. Kansas will need the perfect game to beat Carolina and I don’t see it. I really don’t. Sasha (tough name) Kaun is not David Padgett. I don’t think he is even as good as Serge Zwikker.

    Now, the game against UCLA in the finals may be a game for the ages: fast against slow, arguably the two greatest programs of all time, Davis Love against Tyler Hansbrough, oops, I mean Dennis Wilson, oops I mean Stan Love, well, whatever that guy’s name is. Do any of you see Tyler Hansbrough allowing our team to miss its goal? I don’t. In all of my life, I have only seen one play with a will to win like that guy and his name was Michael. I know it is still one and done and anything can happen, but there are 3 guys who have written their names all over this tournament, Steph Curry, Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough and only two of them remain. My money’s on Tyler.

  3. william says:

    Mea culpa as I see Ellington did shoot 14 shots on Saturday. He did make 5 though and we seemed much more comfortable going against a zone than the 98 Heels.

  4. Bleed Blue says:

    Thanks for the research THF. What I see from your spreadsheet is that the Heels are 3 for 4 on Monday night games in the Final Four. After watching Kansas almost get put of the tournament by Davidson I am confident we can win. That puts us back with the percentages on Monday night.

    This team has displayed more heart, guts and pure desire to win then any other UNC team I can remember. As tough as it will be I do think we will prevail.

  5. william says:

    Most insane tournament fact: Greg Oden and Curry are the same age. Both 20. It’s just that one looks 40 and the other looks 12.

  6. Josh Bowling says:

    Love your post William. Yes, our peremiter will have to be less Shammond, and more Donald Williams. But like you said, there is no reason for any one player to be shooting 14 shots, we are just too good offensively team-wise to do that, unless Danny/Wayne are Donald Williams’ for us. I really expect us to lead most of the game and have a comfortable win. They will want to slow us down, and I think they will foul in trying to do so. I want to know what Kansas’s point of view is for this game. They should have more fear than us. What does their message boards say they should do for this game. Stop Tyler? Stop dribble penetration (Lawson)? Stay out on the wings (Danny & Wayne)? Control the big guys? WE HAVE answers for all of the above. We need to play our usual game. High defensive effort will be needed here because all of Kansas’ players can score. But so can we, and better at it as well.

  7. Josh Bowling says:

    Amazing how skin complection can be so deceiving isn’t it William?

  8. C. Michael says:

    “Most insane fact: Greg Oden and Curry are the same age. Both 20. It’s just that one looks 40 and the other looks 12.” – Pat Forde,

  9. william says:

    Big 8/Big 12 has one title in the last 50 years. In spite of Roy, they do not play the same caliber basketball that the ACC does. People touted Texas the last two years and they went out pathetically both years. And I mean that. Texas’s performance yesterday was once of the worst Final Four appearances ever, worse than MSU in 2005 and up there with Marquette in 2003 or 2002, whichever year. Maryland basically had its way with Roy’s team in 2002 and then he lost to Syracuse, when nobody on his team could make a free throw, to SYRACUSE! Perhaps the greatest choke team of all time.

    I loved Roy’s 1997 team but in retrospect, was it really such a surprise that they lost to Arizona. Arizona was a back-to-back finalist and beat UNC twice in 1997, so that was much less of an upset than people think. Roy’s teams in 1991 and 1993 had essentially zero chance of winning it all and did great just to get there.

    I would put our 1991 and 2000 teams in the same category and wouldn’t include them in your table, THF. I was in Europe in 2000 and came back shocked that Carolina beat Stanford. After that, it was only Tennessee and Tulsa that we beat. Arizona had already beaten us once in 1997 and I guess I was guilty of overlooking our defects that year. In 1998, I thought we were really good, but we had little depth and were inconsistent, being very fortunate to get past Charlotte in the 2nd round.

    For the most part, when I felt that Carolina was at least one of the top 4 teams in the country, in 1982, 1993, 1997, 1998 and 2005, we have done pretty well. The other years, well, UVa was probably better than us in 1981, with Kentucky better, if not Arkansas, in 1995, and 1997 was just a very strange year in general, where UNC probably overperformed as a whole, but were not that different from the following year’s team, once they found themselves.

  10. william says:

    The thing about Tyler, who along with me, might me the whitest boy on Earth, is that the first 30 times you seem him play, you sort of keep thinking how lucky he is that so many awkward looking shots that other guys wouldn’t take, happened to go in for him.

    Then, after about a season, you realize that it is not luck. Those shots are not going to suddenly start not falling in. This guy simply plays to a different rhythm, or marches to a different beat, if you will.

    Blacks dominate the NBA and probably always will, but that has to do with the vast middle. At the top, you are by nature, talking about supremely differently talented individuals and I think you could do quite well with a team of Pete Maravich, John Havlichek, Larry Bird, Rick Barry, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Dave Cowens, Kevin McHale, Billy Cunningham, Jerry Lucas, Bill Walton, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki against virtually anybody.

    This is where I think so many of the kids get mixed up. On the other hand, I fear that there are about 200 guys or more in the NBA who have roughly the skill set that say, Julius Hodges has. I don’t remember anyone saying that Julius Hodges was going to be a mediocre pro, but almost everybody in the NBA is a mediocre pro. That is how freaking good those guys are, but Hansbrough is no Hodges. At the very least he will be a Laettner, who had a fine pro career and made lots of money, if not quite as successful as at Duke.

  11. I think Tyler will be a better pro than people think. I remember him not getting any hype his first year in Chapel Hill from the national talking heads, and here he is a three-time All American and now a National Player of the Year. I’m not saying he’s going to be the a;;-time leader in points scored or rebounds, but he’s got the hustle and desire which you really only see in about five percent of pros out there.

  12. william says:

    Healing: Q. Five years after the fact, how would you describe, I guess, the feeling that’s left there? Or do you care? What kind of feeling do you have with those guys?

    COACH WILLIAMS: I definitely care. I gave some school, some basketball programs, some state, whatever you want to call it, and especially the players, 15 years of my heart, body and soul. So I’m never going to lose that. Some of the greatest memories in my life were at Kansas. I’m never going to lose that. I’m never going to lose their appreciation for basketball, their passion for basketball.

    I’ll always appreciate that and love that. Each and every year it gets different because the players that I left there are gone. We recruited Jeremy, but everybody else is gone. And we knew Darnell, he used to come up to games. We knew Darrell used to come up for games. But this is Bill’s team. This is the University of Kansas’s team without Roy Williams.

    I can put it to you this way: In my summer camp we have a lot of little kids running around and they’re instructed on the first day they can wear North Carolina stuff or they can wear Kansas stuff, but they can’t wear anybody else’s stuff.

    And that’s the way I’m always going to be. I’m going to be always be a huge Kansas fan. There were some things said or done that hurt at first, but time has a way of healing things and I am hopeful it will heal with some people that still may have some bad feelings.

    But the good news is it’s a wonderful Kansas team playing a wonderful North Carolina team on college basketball’s biggest stage. And I wish it would be Monday night as opposed to Saturday.

  13. william says:

    Isn’t it Kansas University, Roy?

  14. william says:

    Roy and his staff have now made four of the last seven Final fours, similar to what Dean and his staff did between 1991 and 1998, with Carolina going five times in 8 years. I am proud to say that there really has not been much of a tail-off since Williams took over for Guthridge.

  15. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    Was the 1995 Final Four the one with Stackhouse and Rasheed? I dimly recall a lot of back screens and dunks by Stackhouse and not much else…

    After watching Kansas play I’m not so convinced the outside shot will be crucial, at least initially. Their guards (do they play three at a time – seems like it?) really swarm the perimeter but if we can have success inside and make threes in transition (and pound the offensive boards a la Lousville), UNC should be fine against KU.

  16. Santiago says:

    william forgot about about Matt Doherty. Can’t say that I can blame him, but let’s stop giving Guthridge a free pass on what he left for his replacement.

  17. william says:

    1995 was when Carolina had one of its greatest final 8 games when they took number one seed, Kentucky, easily by 13, I think and Pitino had to cancel his already booked and caterred victory party and was yes with Sheed and Wallace. We also beat Iverson and Georgetown that year. And no, I didn’t forget Doherty, it was more of an elision….

  18. TxTarheel says:

    KU’s best player is probably Brandon Rush when he’s on. From what I’ve seen Chalmers is the best shooter but can get streaky in both directions. Self has a deep bench and will be using it. UNC should push the tempo to generate quality shots but I don’t think we can run them out of the building.

    I’ve thought Self coached a little tighter in late season games, seeing how his Illinois teams reached very good, not exactly great, status while he was there. KU defended Davidson well in the last 2 minutes, though I would’ve preferred Curry driving the lane for a better percentage shot.

  19. william says:

    I think it could be Mario Chalmers. I have broken out all four teams’ data here:

  20. william says:

    TXTarheel, I think that Davidson felt that it had to go for the win because Lovedale had fouled out and it was going to be tough to win in extra time without him. Lovedale should have been more careful but some of those fouls were ticky-tack.

  21. Tar Heel Fan says:

    McKillop was on 850 this afternoon and he said the play they called was the one they used against Gtown off which Curry hit a three to give them a five point lead. He said it would give them the option to go for three or two but he pointed out that Rush falling down actually helped the Jayhawks since one of the Davidson players got confused as to what he should do and it sort of fell apart. He also said he was fine with Richards taking the shot, thought it was a good look but it just did not go down.

  22. william says:

    What about that other kid who had hit a couple of three’s.

    Interesting interview with Bill Self, where he says, basically, I can’t throw any stones at Roy since I did the same thing to Illinois:

  23. TM says:

    Interesting points … As a big fan of the heels, i have often wondered why UNC continues to have so many “role players” … If you go back and look at many of the NCAA loses, the opposition has simply shut down the go to guys and make the Dante Calabrias of the world beat them

    UNC has seldom if ever had players that could create their own shot on a consistent basis, look at the two possesions late in the game Sat vs Louisville ,,, the first, a poor shot by Ginyard then Green got the ball down low and never got a shot off

    The tournament is simply a different game, aside from the ’93 team that D Williams made shots from the first row, the other championship teams had multiple threats and players that could get their own shots … UNC is not very good in the half court, imagine if theycould run Davidson’s offense with it’s current talent

    As much as i hate to say it, UNC has played 2 or 3 on five too many times in the tournament … Why you haven’t recruited more shooters is beyond me, surely there are players that could fit “the carolina way” that are good shooters, our neighbors in Durham seem to do it on a regular basis

    Hopefully they will play as well as they did the first weekend in the tournament … if they play like they did in the first half against Wash State or the 2nd half against Louisville, it could be a long weekend

  24. william says:

    Well, the 1982, 1995, 1997 and 1998 teams had guys who could create their own shots, namely Worthy, Jordan, Stackhouse, and Carter. I think McCants was able to create his own shots, but of course a lot of people criticized Carter, Stackhouse and McCants as selfish, so sometimes, there is no winning for losing for these guys.

    Beyond that, TM, you have me sitting here scratching my head. Ray Felton led the ACC in 3 point shooting and Wayne Ellington has had a pretty good year from outside. Will Graves is an outstanding 3-point shooter.

    UNC led Washington State 35-21 at the half, so if that is your standard for a long weekend, then I hope for a really long one.

  25. william says:

    In terms of go-to guys going cold, you guys can check the box score but I seem to recall that Vince Carter was the only one playing his normal game against Utah, while Jamison and Shammond were off. I honestly don’t remember the 1997 game against Arizona well, except that we lost a big first half lead.

  26. 52BigGameJames says:

    which “poor shot” by Ginyard are you referring to?

    we have 4 very legit “shot-creators” in Ty, Tyler, Danny, and Wayne. just because the other team played good defense on them doesn’t mean there’s a dearth of play-makers.

  27. Tar Heel Fan says:

    You are correct about 1998. Carter had a big game but Williams and Jamison could not hit. Here were the stats:

    Carter: 10-16, 1-4 3P, 21 points
    Williams: 2-12, 1-9 3P, 7 points
    Jamison: 7-19, 0-1 3P, 14 points
    Cota: 4-9, 0-4 3P, 8 points
    Okulaja: 3-8, 1-5 3P, 7 points
    Ndyiae: 0-3, 0-0 3P, 0 points

    They also only took seven FTs total and missed five of them.

    These stats were largely the same in 1997 except Zwikker got more time and was 4-12 with 8 points. Carter was 8-15 with 21 which is to say Carter stepped up in his two FF appearances. Jamison was 7-17 with 18 points. Cota and Okulaja were off.

  28. william says:

    Boy, that day against Utah must have been just about the worst day of Maktar’s life, 0 points and then he makes an embarrassing false racial allegation.

  29. william says:

    Well the Lady Heels went down in flames. I try to watch the women’s game but honestly, the play is about at the same level as boy’s junior high ball and what I mean by that is that you are never quite sure what they are going to do. They force bad pass after bad pass and lay-ups are about a fifty-fifty proposition of the ladies. The Tar Heel women must have missed about five lay-ups in the last five minutes and must have thrown about five intercepted passes during that period trying over and over to force the ball inside.

  30. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Even when they do the split coverage during the early rounds UNC’s game seems to go to most of the country.

  31. william says:

    Jayhawks have four high school McDonald’s All-Americans, but no player ranked among the top 12 in the Big 12 in scoring or among the top 20 in minutes played.

  32. Russell says:

    william @ 10:00pm
    The Tar Heels are America’s Team! The State of North Carolina (“A vale of humility between two mountains of conceit.”) invokes a personal, internal MindState of Carolina. Folks recognize their true nature in that reflection.

  33. william says:

    So true….

  34. Russell says:

    It is now.
    All the chat about the 90’s squads is as useful as wet toilet paper. Comparing stats from past teams is non-factoring reality, per se.

    Louisville bested UNC by two point in the second half. Check the stats; they beat us for 20 minutes. Danny Green’s defense was a KEY FACTOR in the Heels holding on so that Tyler could do his do. Green’s pulling the chair from freshman Scott – twice – was determinate in the outcome of that game. And that was despite Pitino’s mastery of making the absolute right modifications to their defense at the half which has been clearly deciphered by Johnny in a previous posting. Roy was noticably purturbed during the press conference after the L’ville game. Reason, in my opinion, he was soured by the facts of the second half. Heels played sorry team defense. Again, check the stats. The overriding problem with that is other coaches now have a clue/key to defending the Heels transition.

    On the other hand, it has been noted by others that Kansas has displayed a tendency to “…stall in the half-court offense,” reputedly as a result of lacking the so-called “go-to” guy. Now, THAT may open some very intriguing possibilities….like, for the first time this season, Carolina may have some advantage (?) in the the HALF-COURT GAME. Does that have legs? And, if so, Will Roy take advantage?! Stay tuned!

  35. william says:

    You read more into that than I do. The Heels were a bit cold from outside in the second half and Louisville had to play better. I don’t think Padgett even scored in the first half. Louisville is darn good. Were we supposed to win by 20? That was the best team we have played all season. I guess we will see if they still are after next week. My bet is that Louisville will probably end up being the second best team we face this year but I am not sure yet who will be the best among Kansas, UCLA and Memphis, but I suspect it could be either UCLA or Memphis.

  36. Russell says:

    ^Vegas had Heels giving 8 1/2. Do don’t know where “…supposed to win by 20” is coming from. Padgett – most inscrutable player I have ever read about! Certainly a non-factor in the game as far as I could see.

    If L’ville is the best we’ve played, then OK!
    I love your “suspicions,” William. Mine is Memphis at this point.

  37. 52BigGameJames says:

    could OUR defense possibly have been a factor on Padgett? hmm-our defense is the most scrutable I have ever read about.

  38. heels1fan says:

    THF wrote:

    UNC is playing well right now and for the first time that I am aware of has won their first four tournament games by double digits. If the Heels can play some solid defense and have the offense clicking I like their chances. If we see anything similar to the shooting percentages from the perimeter indicated in the losses above it might be a long night Saturday night and a short stay for the weekend.

    According to Tuesday Talking Points on the official site:

    This year’s team joins just two other Tar Heel teams that have won their first four NCAA Tournament games by at least 10 points. The others are the 1995 team (which won four straight before losing to Arkansas in the national semifinal) and the 1998 team (which won four straight before losing to Utah in San Antonio in the national semifinal).


  39. william says:

    And what player featured on both the 1995 and 1998 teams?

  40. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Oops! I should have check..shame on me! Of course I remember the 2nd round game in 1998 against UNCC went to OT so I assumed, incorrectly, it was not a double digit win. I guess the dominance level is high this season than those two because I did not recall either of those being double digit wins during the first four games.

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