"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Know your opponent: Q/A with theTar Heel Fan Blog

Heading into the Sweet 16 we're pleased to welcome The Tar Heel Fan Blog to our blog for a fan's take on one of college basketball's most storied programs. Enjoy ...

There were a number of times this season where UNC overcame big deficits in the last 5-10 minutes to win. What is different about this team offensively and especially defensively in clutch time that makes them so effective at the comeback win?

I wish somebody knew so they could play the whole game that way. There is a tendency for this team to come out slow. It happened several times earlier in the conference schedule, went away then reared its head again in the ACC Tournament. The easy answer is the players are not focused until the win is at risk then a switch flips and they find enough offense to dig out of whatever hole they find themselves in. The fact UNC plays a faster pace and is very good defensively makes rallying a little easier. The surprising part is UNC is not a good three point shooting team except when it really needs a few threes to make up ground as was the case versus Miami in the ACC Tournament.

UNC has a great defense and an effective, yet comparatively mediocre offense. How do you see the match-up happening against a Marquette team with a good offense and a mediocre defense?

UNC's offense hinges on scoring in transition and working the ball inside first in the halfcourt. It suffers when the team loses focus and starts shooting quick shots. The key for UNC is to be patient especially if the Marquette defense is mediocre. On the flip side UNC is very good defensively but does not turn opposing teams over that much. Providing that remains the case, Marquette will get some looks, it becomes a matter of hitting them.

UNC opponents have shot well (>50% eFG%) in three of the last four games. Why do you think that is, and/or what's the UNC kryptonite defensively?

UNC's troubles in the past few games were less about the defense and more due to the offense turning the ball over too much. I also think UNC's defense is less effective when the other team wants to run with the Heels. In the past, UNC was so good at the faster pace it was suicide to try and match them. This season the offense is less powerful which means running with UNC is not necessarily a bad idea since teams can get to the hoop before the Tyler Zeller and John Henson set up shop. Once in the halfcourt it becomes a tougher proposition of either shooting threes or risking blocked shots on the interior.

UNC's strength lies with its defense, which carries the Tar Heels even when the offense struggles. When the offense struggles it seems that the Tar Heels are prone to the turnover, poor shooting or both. What's the inside scoop there?

It is usually turnovers though poor shooting has been an issues especially from beyond the arc. Much of the poor shooting results from settling for outside shots instead of getting the ball inside to the bigs or working for a better shot than a quick three.

UNC started the season 4-3, then endured the mid-season transfer of starting point guard Larry Drew ..... yet the Tar Heels rolled in the last ten weeks of the campaign. What were the drivers in the unexpected Tar Heels surge?

Kendall Marshall is given a lot of the credit for moving the team up a notch. Harrison Barnes is shooting better since Marshall entered the lineup. The way he runs the offense and passes the basketball adds a different dynamic. Chemistry is underrated as a factor team success. Larry Drew did not mesh with the team and there is a sense his leaving really put everyone on the same page. Plus it put Marshall on the court more which ended up being a good thing.

What type of opponents tend to give the Tar Heels trouble? (...and do you foresee trouble from the Warriors)

Generally it has been three point shooting teams or teams with physical big men. Not many teams have the size to match UNC's interior play so generally teams that can shoot threes are problematic. However if a team has players who can push Zeller and Henson around while controlling the boards it makes life difficult for UNC if the offense is sputtering. Oftentimes even if the shot is not falling, UNC can collect offensive rebounds for putbacks.

Thanks very much!

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