Can UNC be Beat?

(Photo via chicago.suntimes.com)

The Tar Heels have dominated their opponents this March. As the Final Four approaches, the question arises: Can they be beat?

UNC has to play Syracuse in the Final Four, so it looks like it will be smooth sailing to National Championship. Syracuse has had their fifteen minutes if you ask me, however, they will tell you otherwise in upstate New York. I hate to burst your snow globe Syracuse, but in my opinion, Cuse had one of the easiest roads to the Final Four barring the Elite Eight win over Virginia. I will give them credit where credit is due. The Orange made one of the greatest comebacks we saw this year. However, other than slaying a Goliath in the Elite Eight, all they had to do was play upset winners. So most of the hard work was already done for them.

In the National Championship I think they will be playing Oklahoma and Buddy Heild. Heild has been the most dominant player in this year’s tournament, although Marcus Paige is making a case in the last two rounds. And that is where I believe the “x-factor” is, Paige. If Marcus Paige shoots the ball the way he has lately and the Heels get the performance in the paint that they just got from Brice Johnson, I really don’t see a way that UNC doesn’t hoist the trophy.

UNC’s Recipe for Success:

The Tar Heels are so much bigger than everyone else they play and they are deeper down low. They have been scoring easily in the paint, and have been assaulting their opponents on the glass. They need to continue going down low to Meeks and Johnson for easy hoops.

On top of that, I would be as aggressive as possible on the offensive boards. UNC is a run and gun offense. So who cares if you get a little out of position and give up a fast break once in a while. I have seen them get enough second chance points to know that they will gain more than they will lose in that department. On top of that, most teams try to slow down and control the pace (i.e. Notre Dame). So, if you get the opponent in transition, all that does is create quicker shots and more UNC possessions throughout the course of the game.

Lastly, I think you need to give Paige more touches. Last year and most of this year, Paige wasn’t putting up the numbers that he was his freshmen year. But now, he’s one of the most efficient and lethal shooters in the game. I watched him catch fire early in the past couple games. I was like “this kid’s going to put up 40.” and then it was like he was a role player after that. The bigs did dominate, so I’m not going to say UNC was doing poorly, I just think you have to put the ball in your leader’s hands much more. There is no doubt in my mind that Marcus Paige is the reason UNC has a chance to win it all. I said it in the beginning, if Paige gets hot, then UNC is unbeatable, if not, then they can be beat.

How to Play UNC:

I think Notre Dame played almost as well as they could have. The way to beat UNC (or at least try to) is to slow the game down and limit the amount of possessions. If you get into a sprint, you can just hit the showers at half time. If you make the game a marathon, you will still have a tough time winning the race, but you can always hope they cramp up on mile twenty five. UNC was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the entire country this season, so slowing down their offense and forcing them to work for tough jump shots is the best way to limit their offense.

Notre Dame played great, but they didn’t have the size. You need to have big men down low and you need to box out effectively. Notre Dame did not do that in the second half, that’s for sure. There were multiple plays were two or even three Tar Heels came flying to the rim for the put back. Easy points is the one thing you can not give them. If you are the underdog, you have to play tight defense inside and force your opponent to work for every single point. Bottom line, you have to box out and prevent those second chance points.

Lastly, you have to shoot the three. Chances are you aren’t as big as UNC, so you are going to have trouble getting inside. If you can shoot a good percentage from the three point line, it forces the defense to come out and respect the shot. This will provide more floor spacing and some closer looks.

– R. Ilardi

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