Tuesday, January 30, 2007

5 reasons UNC won't win national title

The talent North Carolina coach Roy Williams has put together is nothing short of amazing.

That was the assessment of an assistant coach with a top-25 team last week, offered as an observation during a discussion on a different topic.

This assistant fell in love with the character and skills of North Carolina guard Marcus Ginyard during recruiting. He couldn’t believe the Tar Heels are so good that Ginyard is playing just 16 minutes per game.

He is part of a chorus whose membership grew after North Carolina’s 92-64 thumping of Arizona in Tucson. A lot of experts consider the Tar Heels the favorite to win the NCAA title because Williams has recruited excellent players and expertly uses his depth to wear down opponents.

It says here that those predictions are off base.

Here are five reasons North Carolina won’t win the NCAA title:

1. Lack of experience. Gerry McNamara and Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse demonstrated in 2003 that it’s not impossible for a team to win an NCAA title with freshmen in leadership roles.

But experience is extremely valuable in the NCAA tournament. Nobody knows that better than Williams, who was asked Monday to compare this team to the 2005 NCAA champions.

“This team is very gifted,” he said, “but boy, that team was really gifted and had great experience, also, and I’ve always thought the way to be great is to have experienced talent.”

Williams needed the experience of senior Jawad Williams and juniors Sean May, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants to edge senior-dominated Illinois in the NCAA title game in St. Louis. Reyshawn Terry, Wes Miller and Quentin Thomas aren’t in the same category as the 2004-05 team’s upperclassmen.

2. Three-point woes. North Carolina is best when it bangs the ball into the post to Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright, and Roy Williams does a great job making sure the ball goes inside.

But the Tar Heels eventually will run into an opponent that can at least slow down Hansbrough and Wright and force North Carolina to shoot jump shots. After last weekend’s games, North Carolina ranked sixth in the ACC in 3-point percentage (.370).

That’s not bad, but the Tar Heels get more wide-open 3-point shots than almost anybody else because overmatched opponents are doubling down on Hansbrough and Wright. North Carolina eventually will run into somebody with big men who can hold their own defensively to allow pressure on the Tar Heels’ perimeter.

3. Point problems. The return of sophomore Bobby Frasor from an injury to his right foot is critical to this team.

Freshman Tywon Lawson is a tremendous talent with remarkable speed and has been a better perimeter shooter than expected. But he still has been turnover prone in some big games, notably the loss at Virginia Tech, and there are times when North Carolina needs a steadying influence in the backcourt.

Some fans and media members think Thomas is that steadying influence. They ought to watch more carefully. He makes some highlight-caliber passes, but turns the game into a helter-skelter affair while he does it.

Frasor is the steadiest point guard on the team and a valuable perimeter shooter. The Tar Heels need him.

4. Enigmatic leader. Reyshawn Terry, North Carolina’s only senior starter, disappeared in last year’s NCAA tournament after earning third-team All-ACC honors by averaging 15.1 points.
Terry is the best athlete on the team. He makes acrobatic dunks on the fast break and is a good 3-point shooter at 6-foot-8 and 232 pounds, causing matchup problems for small forwards who aren’t as tall or strong.

He is the type of guy who should want the ball in important situations during close games, but he rarely demands it.

5. Florida. The Gators aren’t as deep as North Carolina, but they’re deep enough.
They will lose some regular season games because they are bored. They even lost to Florida State.

Don’t be fooled.

Joakim Noah, Al Horford and the rest of Florida’s players are better than last season, and their experience should make them the favorite in the NCAA tournament. It was popular for experts to pick against Florida during the preseason because no team has repeated as NCAA champion since Duke in 1992.

Using that reasoning to pick another team demonstrated a ridiculous lack of understanding about statistics. The probability that Florida will repeat is slim because there will be 64 other teams in the NCAA field with a chance to win.

So don’t listen when the experts tell you how smart they are if Florida doesn’t win. Instead, ask them which one team they would choose if their life savings were at stake.

Under those circumstances, it would be difficult to choose anybody but Florida.

The same logic that applied to Florida at the beginning of the season applies to North Carolina now. Pick the Heels? Or pick the field?

Even Tiger Woods has only won about a quarter of his golf tournaments.

Take the field. Every time.

-- Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

#2,3,4 are still correctable because there is plenty of basketball left to be played. #5,no guarantee Florida makes is back. and you said yourself in # 1 that a freshman team can win.

bottom line is there is too much basketball season left to predict who wins and loses in March.

Anonymous said...

Take the Heels or take the field? Oversimplify things much?

FYI - I will take the field against Florida too.

There is a lot of basketball left to play.

Anonymous said...

no. 3 - "point problems" is way off. lawson, frasor, and qt are about as good as a trio of pgs as you can have in college basketball. i have a hard time seeing pg as being considered a weakness for this team. and aside from the vt game, lawson has been very good about not turning the ball over. the best i've ever seen for a freshman pg. the heels may not win it all - but the solid pg play (and depth at pg) is one of the reasons they are the favorite.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Carolina lost to Gonzaga and VT "because they were bored."

I think Florida loses when they don't play well, not that they are an invincible juggernaut that only loses when they tire of being the best team in the history of history.

Centerpiece said...

What bothers me about his arguments is that they aren't backed by good statistical arguments.

For example he says you need experienced talent to win national championships (except sophomore-laden UF last year... and freshman-heavy Syracuse). Of course he lists UNC and Illinois from 2005 as examples of 'experienced talent'... but it's not like UNC and Illinois emerged from hiding during tournament time, surprising some more talented freshman squads. Those were the best two teams all season long... and in the end talent beat out experience.

Maybe what he should have argued is - experienced teams are more consistent... and consistency is important to stringing together 6 straight wins. Highly-talented, experienced teams are more likely to win than highly-talented, unexperienced teams because the experienced teams are less likely to play worse than their opponent on any given night.

Of course, all of this is belied by UNC's "consistency" rating by Pomeroy, which has them as, SURPRISE, more consistent than both Wisconsin and UF.

As for three point shooting and big men - he overestimates the importance of three point shooting to this team, and underestimates the consistency of our big men, because he fails to recognize how our high pace style affects the ability to stop us from scoring.

Let's consider the Gonzaga game. Many folks suggest that we lost that game because (1) bad defense and (2) they handled us in the post.

Just to put to the side for a second, our defense is much better now so I'm not so worried about that.

But what about the post? How great were they in containing us down low?

Our pace makes it so the only way you can keep us from scoring easy buckets inside is to either give up on offensive rebounds altogether, or foul in the transition game. Gonzaga went for the fouling method. And they got VERY lucky that (1) we had a poor FT shooting night and (2) their fouls were evenly distributed.

FIVE of the eight players they played that night had 4 or more fouls! Pargo fouled out, and Ravio, Heytvelt, Mallon, and Kuso each had four fouls. If any of Heytvelt, Mallon, or Kuso picked up a 5th, the dynamics of the inside game would have changed dramatically.

Even in the worst defensive game we played all season, when we shot the worst we've ever shot from three, and when we shot poorly from the FT line, we were within striking distance at the end... because of the pace we play.

A fast pace is a HUGE plus in tournament play. Consider how teams like UAB, with their frenetic, up tempo pace, have traditionally fared in early competitions. Consider how much our depth will matter when we're playing our second game in 3 days!

I love our chances in the tournament. Of course you take the field over us. But UF or Wisconsin? I'm not biting. Not yet.
As per: "Anklesbroken" Inside Carolina

Anonymous said...

For starters the other posts here have already pointed out as to the ignorance of this blog, but I want to add I find it extremely tacky as to why in Jan. a wrter would even start such an article as to why an in state school won't win the national title. Was it really necessary? Good to know that new editor you've got there pays less attention than the last eh?

Anonymous said...

This writer is a giant douchebag. He's just a Tarheels hater, plain and simple.

#3 - Has this guy not been watching the emergence of QT?

The Heels will dominate the tourney in March. Slow them down or try to play fast-paced, the opposing team is still in for a beating like they've never seen.

Anonymous said...

completely unbacked statements...

he's forgetting one thing - carolina's "inexperience" obviously has led them to 19-2 and beating ranked teams....we're not playing a chump schedule and yet we're still winning....our two losses have come by less than a combined 20 points...Florida's #1 ranking is completely crazy...they're good but not #1, top 3 or 4 but not #1...wisconsin is only up there because of their record...point guard is solid...frasor will be back...but lawson is great talent...not as good as felton but he's good

these players won't crumble under pressure....wait til march...he'll be biting his tongue...

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the other posters ... this could have been phoned in. No analysis whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

This paper has for the most part been anti-UNC for a long time. It seems to write things like this just to fill in the gaps of their poor journalism. GO HEELS...win or lose!

Anonymous said...

I love it. The writer makes this statement: "Using that reasoning to pick another team demonstrated a ridiculous lack of understanding about statistics." and in the same article touts the outside shooting of Frasor and a "turnover-prone" Ty Lawson. Exactly WHAT statistics are you reading, moron? Frasor has little outside shooting statistics to even consider and Lawson has one of the better assist-to-turnover ratios in the country. Please give us better writing than this...just b/c you can't think of a good topic to write about doesn't mean you need to feed this BS to the masses.

Anonymous said...

Ken Tysiac. Graduate of ND. Spent 8 years covering Clemson, who last won a basketball game in Chapel Hill when the Titanic was state of the art. This expect analysis is full of holes and maybes. I agree that experienced and talented is better than just talented. But we have a team the likes of which has not been seen in college ball in several decades, if ever. And after this year it will be a long time probably before one like this comes around again. This much talent can offset a whole bunch of experience. Just look at how much better they are now then they were in November. Give them a month of ACC play, and the ACC Tourney, and then look out. I agree they may trip up, but I don't think it will be because of any of the reasons he listed. I think it will be more psychological. If they keep their head on straight, play unselfishly, focus on the big prize and listen to what Roy tells them they absolutely can not be defeated. They just have too many weapons and too many replacement parts to plug in if one or two guys are in foul trouble or having an off night. That is a luxury that no one else in the country has, the Gators included.

Anonymous said...

Can the writer be any more generic in his analysis? Why pay this guy - all he does is bite "conventional" wisdom from smarter talking heads. Yes, there are many reasons why Carolina won't win it all - but right now they have more going for them then any other team. The scariest part is that they are only getting better - they are the most talented team in the country and they are all upside. Nowhere close to peaking in defense or chemistry.

And I think the Fab 5 from Michigan would have a few things to say about your "freshman can't win theory", (as if your own contradiction with the Syracuse team didn't damn the article).

Thank goodness I cancelled my subscription - I have no problem with people stoking the rivalry flames, but I have a big problem when it is done unintelligently.
This level of depth is insulting to your readers.