ACC Bracketology: North Carolina’s ResumePosted by mpatton on February 28th, 2012
Over the next week we will be taking a look at the ACC teams whose names should be called on Selection Sunday. The series started yesterday with Duke.
Unlike Duke, though, the eye test is mostly kind to North Carolina. When the Tar Heels are firing on all cylinders, look out. There’s a reason this team lost by one at Kentucky (and had several chances to win the game). Only Kentucky can match North Carolina’s talent, and no team can match its frontcourt depth. But for whatever reason the Tar Heels don’t bring their A-game every night.
It’s not from a lack of effort or preparation. There are just stretches when the Tar Heels become ineffective for whatever reason. I’ve seen people hypothesize it’s because Roy Williams uses his bench too early and too often. That may be true, but the problems seem to start when the team starts looking for jumpers instead of running the offense inside-out. North Carolina has four losses: against (basically at) UNLV, at Kentucky (by one), at Florida State and against Duke. The UNLV game featured a very good, fired-up team that hit every shot it took; the Kentucky game is the closest anyone has come to knocking the one-loss Wildcats off at home in a long time. That leaves the Florida State beatdown and Duke collapse.
The game in Tallahassee could have been a repeat of UNLV. It’s true that the Seminoles (specifically Deividas Dulkys) hit everything they threw at the rim, and hit the Tar Heels in the mouth early. The problem lay in North Carolina’s reaction. Where the Tar Heels stormed back to take an early second half lead against the Runnin’ Rebels, there was no point in the Florida State game where they put together any semblance of a run.
The Duke game showed a team unable to close out another tough team. North Carolina controlled that game from from the under-eight media timeout in the first half until the last two minutes. Then several mental errors struck, Duke’s shots fell and the referee whistles went the other way. Only the combination of those three things made it possible for Duke to win that game. The game pointed to a flaw with the Tar Heels, but that’s been totally overblown.
Now on to the positives: North Carolina’s resume includes wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin (at home), Long Beach State (at home) and an absolute woodshedding of Texas (also at home). The only thing really missing from the resume is a win over one of the other ACC contenders (Duke or Florida State). If the Tar Heels beat Duke in Cameron next weekend, I think that they lock up a #2 seed. There’s an off chance that winning out would move them up to the top line, but I think they’d still need help from Michigan State and Kansas (that said, it’s tough to ignore the neutral-site win over the Spartans). If they don’t beat Duke, a #3 seed is definitely possible if they lose early in the ACC Tournament.