They are going to be tough to beat. Sorry, I know that I should throw all the stats out there and spin it in an optimistic way, but in all honesty the UNC Tar Heels are a great basketball team. And they are running like a well oiled machine right now. Such teams are usually tough to stop.
People will start arguing that OU is playing their best basketball right now. I would actually agree, I think that the game against Syracuse was our most complete game and the best we've played against a real quality opponent. We seem to be in sync. But let's not forget that Syracuse absolutely did not play up to their potential. Want proof? The Orange shot a dismal 6% outside the lane in the first half. That's unusually bad for any team.
Give credit where credit is due though, OU played an amazing game on both ends of the court. While Syracuse still shot a high percentage, they were harassed, forced into committing turnovers and taking a few bad shots.
A more in-depth preview will hopefully get posted sometime tomorrow. For now, here's my initial thoughts:
- This will be a battle of two talented offensive teams that play very average defense. KenPom has the Heels as the most efficient offense in the country, and the Sooners 4th. Neither team made the top 20 in defensive efficiency - an attribute common among many championship teams (Kansas was #1 in defensive efficiency last year, for what it's worth).
- The Heels are so good offensively because they have so many scoring options. Using the KenPom breakdown of North Carolina, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson are all in the top 30 players nationally in terms of offensive efficiency. They, along with Danny Green, all shoot over 40% from beyond the arc. Wow!
- As Ty Lawson goes, so do the Heels really. They have a talented offensive team, but they aren't the same without Lawson who is the most efficient offensive player in the country and one of the top assist men too. He is a big key to their offense and he is a spark plug.
- I wish I had the stats to back me up on this, but I have no clue where to find them. The Heels get a lot of their opportunities and points off of fast breaks - not just on turnovers but also on missed shots and even made shots. Lawson will push the ball up the court. Transition defense will be key.
- They tend to fall when the other team can get some defensive stops on good man to man defense and the other team shoots over 40%. Outscoring the Heels from beyond the arc also helps out a lot too.
- I see Willie needing to guard Ty Lawson. I don't think any of our other guards match up well size-wise and have the lateral speed to keep Lawson out of the paint. Jonny Flynn managed to get into the paint a lot against us, but I think Lawson will be much better at converting opportunities.
I think the key to the game will be slowing down the tempo and limiting the possessions. UNC's offense is so efficient that you need to limit their opportunities. A frenetic game will give them more opportunities and that's bad - it gives them more chances to score (which they do well). Their KenPom adjusted tempo is 6th in the country. Obviously, OU should fast break when they can, but getting the game into more half-court sets and then getting back on defense quickly after misses could be the right strategy. You stand a better chance of defending them if you are able to square up to them defensively, rather than let them run their fastbreak offense. Slowing down the tempo will hopefully minimize turnovers. I think that the Griffins would work well in the post in a half-court set. Blake should win the battles down low.
In any event it will be an interesting game. While I think it will be tough to beat the Heels, they call it March Madness for a reason and our team has certainly proved they are a contender.