Rushed Reactions: #1 North Carolina 88, #6 Notre Dame 74

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 27th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina Heads to Houston as the Favorite (USA Today Images)

North Carolina Heads to Houston as the Favorite (USA Today Images)

  1. It will take a monumental defensive effort to beat North Carolina. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that simply wasn’t its style. The Irish were one of the worst defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, winning games with an ultra-efficient, spread offense that exploited mismatches with shooters. Against conservative, defensive-minded teams, the strategy worked. But against a team with an even better offense that the Irish were forced to defend, the outcome was far different. Notre Dame shot 27-of-49 from the floor, including a lights-out 50 percent from beyond the arc, but it simply couldn’t generate enough stops on the other end of the floor. The result was a shootout where the team with the better firepower won.
  2. North Carolina’s hot shooting remains an anomoly, but its impact cannot be ignored. The Tar Heels ranked 284th nationally in perimeter shooting (32.1%) coming into Sunday’s game, but the sneaky-hot shooting of Marcus Paige and Joel Berry has taken a lot of teams by surprise: Paige went 6-of-9 from three-point range against Indiana on Friday night and started 2-of-2 against Notre Dame before cooling off this evening. Making jump shots forces defenses to respect the Tar Heels’ perimeter game — something Tom Crean and Mike Brey didn’t expect — and it completely changes the dynamic of its offense. When the jumper is falling, Paige can more easily navigate into the lane and create high-percentage shots for himself and his teammates.
  3. Notre Dame was a deceptively good team this season. Tucked within a loaded conference, Notre Dame didn’t exactly stand out with an 11-7 record and sixth place finish. But along the way the Irish snagged some quality wins against Duke, Iowa, North Carolina and Louisville. Over the course of the season, with Zach Auguste –– one of the best rebounders in the country — manning the paint, Brey figured out how to best spread his players along the perimeter and run dangerously effective pick-and-rolls. The graduation of Auguste will undoubtedly hurt this team going forward, but assuming there are no other NBA Draft declarations, the remaining core will return next season in search of another nice NCAA Tournament run.

Star of the GameBrice Johnson’s 25-point, 12-rebound effort says it all. He was often paired with another UNC big man, allowing Johnson to slide to the four where he capitalized on a significant height advantage. At other times, with the Irish’s Auguste in foul trouble, the 6’10 forward shot over defenders and finished around them on his way to a 10-of-15 shooting performance. Most importantly, he proved difficult to keep off the glass, acting as a major factor in UNC’s 23 second chance points and 42 points in the paint.

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Can North Carolina’s Offense Compensate for Its Porous Defense?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 22nd, 2015

Free throws, threes, layups and dunks — the distance or form didn’t matter. For much of the second half in Saturday’s game against UCLA, it felt like North Carolina couldn’t miss. And for a crucial six-minute stretch late in the second half, it didn’t. The Tar Heels made 11 consecutive field goals, during which its lead ballooned from five to 16 points. From there, Roy Williams‘ veteran team put the Bruins in the rear view mirror and never looked back. For opponents that have never experienced the frenzy of North Carolina’s offense, the task of slowing it down once it gets rolling can be daunting, and UCLA was only the latest victim to conveniently fall into this trap. Still, for a team that blew the doors off of another quality opponent, questions linger about the quality and legitimacy of the Tar Heels’ defense.

North Carolina Carved Up the UCLA Defense (USA Today Images)

North Carolina Carved Up the UCLA Defense. (USA TODAY Sports)

The North Carolina offense is humming. The Heels boast seven players averaging more than eight points per game and rank second nationally in offensive efficiency. But a heavy reliance on an uptempo attack to generate all those points comes with the caveat that their two losses this season came against teams that are among the slowest in college basketball. Texas and Northern Iowa like to slow down the pace, and both have experienced guards who manage to limit turnovers, and hence, the overall number of possessions. As such, North Carolina stands at 8-0 this season in games with 70 or more possessions and is 1-2 in games where it failed to reach that threshold. While its offense is averaging a robust 14.6 seconds per possession, its defense is using 18.8 seconds per possession — one of the 10 slowest teams nationally. In other words, North Carolina is spending an inordinate amount of time in its games laboring away on the defensive end. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Team Previews: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by ARowe on November 5th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams.  Today’s victim:  the North Carolina Tar Heels.

UNC certainly didn’t end the season like they expected, but the unfortunate timing of injuries to key players was mostly to blame. After Bob Cousy Award winning point guard Kendall Marshall went out with a fractured wrist against Creighton in the Sweet Sixteen, the Tar Heels struggled to recapture the offensive flow that led them to a 27-4 record and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Elite Eight loss to Kansas goes to show that you shouldn’t judge an entire season by that team’s postseason finish, due to the unpredictable nature of a single elimination tournament.

Roy Must Reload Without the Magician Marshall Leading His Attack (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

The more costly losses in Chapel Hill occurred over the summer, as sophomores Marshall and Harrison Barnes, junior John Henson and senior Tyler Zeller moved on to the NBA. The Tar Heels lost four year-long starters who accounted for 57.5% of minutes played, 66% of points scored, 65% of field goals attempted, 69% of field goals made, 70% of free throws attempted and 73% of free throws made. While Roy Williams and staff have an extremely talented roster returning, there are a number of question marks that will need to be answered this season.

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Does Julius Peppers’ Transcript Put UNC in Danger of Severe Sanctions?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 16th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Thanks to the inadvertent release of what appears to be a prominent former student-athlete’s academic transcript, the breadth and time frame of the UNC academic scandal involving its football team has been brought into clearer focus. On Sunday night, a partial grade summary bearing the name Julius Peppers, now a six-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Chicago Bears, appeared on the University’s website. The transcript lists a GPA of 1.824, with nine of the 10 classes in which Peppers received a B– or higher – classes that helped preserve his eligibility– falling under the African and Afro-American studies program that’s long since marked a point of emphasis in the school’s investigation into possible academic injustices. In an internal probe that began in June 2010 following an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic wrongdoing within the football program, the school identified a four-year window (2007-11) during which former AFAM department head Julius Nyang’oro oversaw 54 impermissible classes, with violations ranging from forged grade reports to lack of teacher supervision to classes that, lo and behold, never actually existed. Peppers, who played reserve minutes on the Tar Heels’ 2000 Final Four team, majored in that tainted department. If the school confirms the validity of the released transcript, his participation on both the football and basketball teams in theory could be deemed retroactively invalid. More broadly, the transcript introduces the possibility that the academic misconduct within the AFAM department could have also involved the men’s basketball program and spans back more than a decade, preceding the initial four-year period highlighted by the school’s internal investigation.

The UNC basketball program may face sanctions for possible academic impropriety (Photo credit: Getty Images).

What began as a textbook improper benefits case now has the look of something far more nefarious. The NCAA, operating under its standard procedure, appeared to have delivered a decisive blow in March by docking UNC 15 scholarships over three years and issuing a one-year postseason ban to the football team. The school’s internal investigation revealed that was just the tip of the iceberg, though its focus – mostly football-centric in nature – remained fixed on a four-year period in which academic advisers steered student athletes into those 54 bogus classes. If Peppers’ transcript is authentic, there’s good reason to suspect the academic fraud began long before the school began investigating it. Perhaps more jarring is the legitimate prospect that more players from the basketball program partook in the illegal behavior, which means that, depending on the specifics of who, when and how each player was involved, the Tar Heels’ four most recent Final Four appearances (2000, 2005, 2008, 2009) are well within bounds for any potential NCAA or self-imposed sanctions.

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