Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Game Recap: UNC vs. UAB

Obviously, I intended to have the post up earlier, but a combination of problems with Blogger, and, you know, actual life stopped me from getting this out. Anyway, here it is, as for what's next: no scouting report for URI, but I'll post a brief recap and then a quick report on Dayton.

A late recap on this one, but let me assure you, it was good.

We played some incredible defense, taking a series of terrific stands and forcing them into the type of game they didn't want to play. We won this game through good defense, superior strategy, and a surprisingly effective half-court offense.

UAB came to play their game, and their main offensive scoring weapon, getting to the line to shoot free-throws, was working all game long. The shot 26 free throws, which doesn't seem like that many, until you realize that UAB only took 52 field goals. I'll buy that you maybe don't frequently stare at FTA/FGA rates, but take my word (or at least Ken Pomeroy's) when I tell you that only four teams have averaged a percentage greater than the %50 that the Blazers achieved in this game. The point being is that the Blazers executed this part of the game plan quite well, and honestly, we countered as well as we could, playing them smartly and not fouling nearly as often as we might have been tempted too. We played this correctly, but we have to give a check to UAB for executing this strategy better than we stopped it. So what did we do right to slow down their offense?

Well, we did, in fact, bait them into a bunch of threes. And you know what? They actually shot slightly better than their season average from the three point line, but it doesn't matter, because playing the percentages worked: They are a terrible three-point shooting team, and shot an anemic 31.6%. If they had taken their normal proportion of threes that wouldn't have been so bad, but, of course, they did not take their normal proportion. Typically, UAB shoots 31.5% of all shots from the three-point line, but we induced them to take 36.5% from downtown. Anytime you get a team to go away from it's strengths and play a game based on their weaknesses, that is some kind of victory. On the other hand, this whole discussion of their three-pointing and foul-shooting has been a little bit silly, because it hides the real story of our defense against their offense.

UAB shot 28.8% from the field. On a night when they were shooting three-pointers at their usual mediocre rate, it turns out that the long-ball might have been their best option. UAB was shooting an incredibly anemic 27.3% from inside the arc, and our front court managed to collapse the middle, stay in front of their man and force terrible shots. Our guards were quick and prevented the drive. Howard Crawford, Kenneth Cooper, and Aaron Johnson, 60% of the starting line-up for UAB, made only a single field goal out of 20 shots and turned the ball over 8 times. For basically, the last ten minutes of the second half, they didn't score a field goal.

That is why we won.

On offense, we played well: Deon is playing as well as he ever has, John Henson is playing about three times as well as he did at the beginning of the season, Marcus Ginyard has taken it upon himself to prove that his defensive reputation is completely merited (near shut-out of Elijah Millsap in the first half), and Larry Drew is playing with a ridiculous level of swagger. Dexter already had that swagger, but now he executes, and if Tyler Zeller is going to not score so much in one game and still contribute defensively, that's perfectly okay; dude was just coming back from that nasty shot to the head. Yeah, Graves and McDonald kept putting up bricks, but you know, we live with those so that we can enjoy the games where they don't miss. It was weird to watch us play this slowed down game. We are running plays, people are making cuts, setting screens. It's not that the Carolina teams of the recent past didn't ever run plays, it's just not something we ever relied on, or really, could rely on. Even last year, I would get nervous to see our half court set, but knew I could count on Ty Lawson spinning a broken play into gold or the startling and seemingly unstoppable efficacy of the "get-the-ball-to-Tyler-and-let-him-draw-contact" play. All those teams wanted is fast-breaks and chaos, and don't get me wrong, it totally ruled. This year though, we execute. Sure there are turnovers (though those have thankfully plummeted), but finally, I trust our guys to run our stuff, and that sure is nice.

We are playing as well as we played all year, including those blow-outs at the beginning of the year, and, I must say, the NIT has grown on me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Scouting Report: UAB

This is a team that doesn't shoot the three-pointer. After the bomb-happy William and Mary and Mississippi State, I was beginning to worry that the NIT field might be solely populated by "live-by-the-three-die-by-the-three" fanatics whose inconsistency was problematic enough to stop them from making the NCAA field, but still occasionally deadly enough, and, likely to kill some good teams every once and a while. UAB takes a little less than the average number of threes, and, fortunately, they shoot them pretty terribly, averaging around 31.1% as a team.

So, they are distinctly different from William and Mary and Mississippi State. Well then, what are they like? Let's go to the numbers.

In essence, UAB is Elijah Millsap, a dynamic small forward who scores in a myriad of ways, but mainly by putting his head down and getting to the free throw line. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and steals. The rest of the team's job is to play superior defense and hit open shots or draw a foul and then take that open shot at the free throw line. If you are looking for an NBA comparison, the UAB Blazers have a stat profile a bit like the early-Lebron-era Cavaliers.

Millsap is good, and we are by no means done talking about him, but the main obstacle with the Blazers is the defense. Ken Pomeroy places them as the 25th best defense in the country, which is way better than the majority of the teams in the NCAA field. Their defense is good on every front. They stop 3's, they stop 2's, they stop offensive rebounding, and they force turnovers. They do this all by playing stifling man to man defense and not fouling terribly often (with some exceptions). Our offense has looked pretty uninspired against quality defenses, and against a quality defense that forces turnovers, there is a chance that we will look completely impotent.

They key here seems to be hammering it inside when we can. The second banana on this team is Howard Crawford, a talented power forward who does a good deal of scoring (though, weirdly, not too much rebounding). Crawford is foul-trouble prone. So is Kenneth Cooper, their starting center. This means that it's Deon time. Deon's crafty post-moves and ability to draw fouls can get their front line in a lot of trouble and give us scoring opportunities at the line. In this case, the best defense might turn out to be good offense: While UAB has a relative amount of size on the bench, none of their reserve big men are big scorers, rebounders, or really much of anything aside from bench warmers. Now, in the event that Ovie Soko or Cameron Moore end up burning us, I want to apologize for jinxing everything.

Now let's talk about their offense: It works because they get to the line. They are as good at getting free throws as any team we have played this year. In fact, they are way better at it than any other team we have played this year. Here's the comparison: Deon has taken 148 free throws, Ed Davis has taken 132, and Larry Drew has taken 96. It drops off steeply after that. On UAB, Millsap has taken 230, Crawford has taken 140, Aaron Johnson has taken 139, Cooper has taken 112. Look at Millsap's alone and you know they do this way better than us. If you want to get all picky and look at tempo-free FT rate, you get to learn some fun facts like, 5'8" Aaron Johnson draws fouls at a rate equivalent to Ed Davis (who, you might recall, isn't playing due to injury). The point remains: They draw fouls and get to the line. The question is, how do we stop them?

Well, some good news. Carolina doesn't foul. Hardly ever. We are ridiculously good at not fouling. Marcus Ginyard, who will undoubtedly get the task of guarding Millsap, happens to be the very best on the team at not fouling (how you feel about this match-up depends a lot in if you still believe Marcus is an elite defender). So, who knows, we might actually be able to neutralize some of their foul line advantage simply by virtue of the way we play. But, just in case, I have a gambit:

We stay back to prevent the drive and allow a number of open looks at the three for basically every player on their team but designated-sharpshooter Jamarr Sanders. Fouls are often committed when a player is playing real close on a ball handler who then uses his quickness to get by; once he's slipped by, the only recourse is fouling them. So, we play them for the drive, staying back and staying in front of them, while generally conceding the three-point shot. In fact, in most cases, we should bait them into taking the three.

Jamarr Sanders is basically Will Graves. He's a good, but not great shot, and over the course of the year has jacked up and made about the same number of threes as Will. We'll guard him closely, hope he doesn't get hot, and take our medicine. Aaron Johnson is a pretty good shot too, but it's clearly secondary to his driving prowess, so the best we can do is hope that Drew and Strickland's can stay in front of him and that their size bothers the little guy, and keeping him off his game. But let's talk about the other three-point shooters on their team: George Drake is UAB's sixth man, and a gunner off the bench. He has taken 107 three-pointers on the season, which would make him the second-leading shooter if he were on UNC. He has taken 107 shots; he has made an anemic 24. He is shooting 22% from beyond the arc. That's a shot that we can live with, and should potentially encourage. Even more interesting is that while Milsapp likes to play like a mini-Lebron a lot of the time, he apparently also has the instincts of a mini-Josh-Smith. Milsapp, who has the ball on most plays, apparently has a problem with ill-advised threes. He has taken 77 three pointers this season and converted them at a not-exactly-blistering rate of 24.7%. So, all I'm saying is that we take a step back and clog the lane when we can. If driving becomes so frustrating that Millsap falls in love with his long shot, then, well, we stand a good chance at winning.

It's admittedly risky. If they get hot, we got burned. That said, taking away the shot they are good at shooting and forcing them to take bad shots is, over time, a pretty good strategy by the numbers.

In summary, we need to hammer the ball inside, focus on stopping the drive and avoiding fouls, and exploit their thin bench by getting their starters in foul troubles and speeding up the game (I didn't talk about this, but this team plays at a slowish pace and hardly plays any of the bench players so the more we can wear out the starters, the better). We still are the underdogs in this one, but if we execute our game plan smartly, if Marcus Ginyard is actually as good on defense as we've seen him be in the past, and, frankly, if Tyler Zeller is able to play (season winning percentage with Zeller: 66%; without Zeller 20%: (!)), I like our chances better than I did against Mississippi State.

So there's that.

And here's this: Things John Henson Should Eat This Summer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Game Recap: UNC vs. Mississippi State

Is Larry Drew a clutch player? Would you have truthfully answered yes before today? I don't think I would have. This is a guy who Roy had to take out of a close game trying to protect a lead after Drew missed free throw after free throw. Larry Drew, however, is now, officially, clutch.

Do you realize what he did? With limited time on the clock, Larry Drew drove right on the best shot blocker in the history of college basketball, a man who obliterated Shaq's old SEC single season shot blocking record. He took it right into the teeth of a guy who had nastily and, with extreme prejudice, blocked four shots already. He did this, knowing that Jarvis Varnado usually averages FIVE blocked shots a game and was patiently preparing to leap into the air and knock that ball into the upper deck and the game into overtime. Larry Drew, a man who barely ever finishes at the rim, who almost always prefers the pass to the shot, who prefers the long shot to the acrobatic drive and finish, who gets nerves so bad that he can't seem to hit free throws when the game is on the line, was going right at Varnado.

The arc of the layup was so high. A left-hander. Off the glass, and, miraculously, in.

Now, is Drew anymore clutch after the shot than he was before it? After Dean Smith won his first National Championship, he famously turned to Roy and said, "I'm not that much better a coach now than I was two and a half hours ago." Larry Drew remains Larry Drew, but let's appreciate the sheer audacity of his play, the ballsy moxie that won us a game that we could have very well lost.

This was a tough game.

In terms of offensive efficiency, this game was almost the converse of how we played against William and Mary: No one was all that efficient except for Will Graves. Will was sensational, and really, everyone else played pretty well enough. As a team, UNC shot 48.5% from the field, which is, all things considered, fairly blistering. Unfortunately, we only made one three pointer outside of Graves, and shot a measly ten free throws (Mississippi State kept with its rare fouling policy, as opposed to William and Mary who abruptly abandoned it). The point being that, while we didn't play great, we played well-enough. Hopefully we'll make that leap from well-enough to great pretty soon, but for now, well-enough is all I ask.

John Henson was dominant in the first half with ten points, seven rebounds, two blocks, and two steals including some nasty throw-downs and clever post moves. Trying to play him on the perimeter was a clever idea, born of our abundance of post players and the belief that Henson was too skinny to be effective. It was a nice experiment, but let's be honest: It failed and based on a shaky premise. Right now, having seen how Henson plays down low, it feels like a sin that we haven't been playing him down low all year. How many extra games do we win if we had let him play at his natural power forward position all along? It seems like at least one or two. I feel pretty good watching him get better and better every game.

Oh, Dexter Strickland played really well too. His hyperspace drives give me Ty Lawson flashbacks in the absolute best way.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Scouting Report: Mississippi State

In a weird way, Mississippi State is a lot like William and Mary, and some of the scouting from that game is still relevant and hopefully some of the keys to our success against them will hold constant as well. As always, the bulk of the scouting information comes from the wise Ken Pomeroy (namely, here). Like W&M, Miss St. relies on three pointers to a ridiculous extent, and is in the top ten of all college basketball team in terms of jacking up the three, making them at a slightly better clip than W&M. In the more similarities department: They rarely turn the ball over, rarely force turnovers, and rarely foul. The tempo is a little faster than the pokey Tribe, and they don't adhere quite so dogmatically to Tony Shaver's offensive efficiency system, but, when push comes to shove, Miss St. is basically running the same offensive style as William and Mary with all the same weaknesses (live by the three, die by the three).

What's the difference? An elite defense anchored by Jarvis Varnado. While William and Mary tried to show tough defense, the truth was that they were soft, and like I said, Deon and Tyler got what they wanted basically at will. Varnado changes that. Jarvis Varnado is the all-time NCAA leader in blocked shots. In the SEC, he holds the single season record that had been set by Shaquille O'Neal. He is a one-man wrecking crew on defense and this season he has Miss St. first in the nation of percentage of shots blocked. This, combined with superior rebounding, means that Mississippi St. has the seventh best two-pointer defense in the nation. They are elite.

A commitment to man to man defense and quick guards mean that they have decent three-pointer defense, and more importantly, seem to try to deny the three and funnel the guards into the paint, or as they call it, "Jarvis's Killing Grounds." Note: I don't know if they actually call it that, but they probably should.

So how do we counter? At first it seems like this team is custom made for destroying us, and on some level, they probably are. Their offense assaults a known weakness: three-point defense; while their defense takes away our primary method of scoring: post-play. That said, I think there are some things we can do.

First, we have to go at them in the post anyway. While Miss St. as a whole doesn't foul that much, their big men do seem to foul at an average to above average rate. Having four legit big men to send against Varnado and their power-forward Kodi Augustus could get Miss St. in foul trouble: They are very thin on the bench, especially in terms of quality forwards. And, while it might be a sore topic, the foul line is a good place to earn easy points (even if this year they aren't particularly easy). On a similar note, I think we have a potentially okay match-up with Augustus on defense. Augustus is a stretch-four who pops outside to shoot lots of three-pointers (in a weird coincidence, Augustus and Larry Drew have shot and madethe exact same number of threes). Against lots of teams, opponents probably have a hard time finding a big who can match up with him and guard him effectively on the perimeter, but Henson and Wear are able to defend the perimeter when needed.

Second, we shouldn't try to overcompensate and shoot more threes, especially not in the half-court game. Pull ups in transition, open looks, and off of offensive rebounds only. We try to do more and we force things ineffectively and Will Graves shoots us out of the game.

Third, we have to figure out how to shut down their shooters. Marcus has to live up to his old Reddick-killer reputation, Drew needs to strive towards his slower-Lawson-with-better-defense reputation, and Dexter Strickland needs to do whatever voodoo he was using on Tuesday to be so seemingly effective. Will Graves, do your passable thing. My roommate and I used to joke that Will Graves was only good for random hot streaks and for playing really mediocre defense. Well, we need that mediocre defense.

This is a hard game, and there is an argument to be made that Mississippi State is the best team in this tournament. We need to win it. Also, NC State needs to win their game. If they do, we will get to play against each other Carmichael. That needs to happen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Game Recap: UNC vs. William and Mary

Let me say this first: Carmichael rocked. The smaller, historic arena was sold out and the crowd came to cheer. It was hot, loud, and filled with energy. Wearing the throwback uniforms, and playing potentially the last game of the season, UNC played hard. The crowd, the whole crowd stood most of the times. At various points in the game, I would see students go down to the Rams Club section where the older, richer, more staid, and frankly disinterested alumni sit and basically deliver short sermons, demanding that they too stand. And they did. It was truly remarkable and I hope that UNC investigates the possibility of playing more games there in the future. The fans, players, and Roy himself all just absolutely loved it.

Now, that said, let me slip in this: The Dean Dome is mostly perfect for UNC. The more students, alumni, and fans that can attend UNC games in person, the better. The Dean Dome is, in some very basic sense, about equality and giving everyone a shot to see the game. I really like, for the sake of the comprehensive polar images, that UNC plays in the Dean Dome and Duke plays in Cameroon Indoor. One is large, open, affordable, and welcomes all. The students get their tickets by open and fair lottery, and most students, in their time, get to come and participate in Carolina basketball. At Duke, tickets are limited, ridiculously expensive, and the right to buy them directly from the university is basically done exclusively through a complex system of monetary patronage where you buy your rights to even think about buying tickets (I know the Rams Club exists at UNC, but it has nowhere near the prominence of the Iron Dukes system). The students basically get tickets through displays of who has the most resources: either time or money. Many Duke students won't get to go to a game through the normal ticket distribution process. So, as much as I liked Carmichael, a large venue suits Carolina. It just feels right. Now, they still need to let more students closer to the court at the Smith Center, but that's another issue.

Now, let's talk about the game.

William and Mary is a smart team. They shot 43 three-pointers (making 37.2% of them) over the course of the game, out of 62 total shots. I believe all but two more of the shots were taken directly at the rim. No mid-range floaters, no tough penetration, just pure high-efficiency looks. This is an unconventional strategy, but it's smart as hell and you'd like it if more teams had the guts to play this way. Despite some lock-down moments in the first half and one very nice stretch at the end of the game, Carolina was mostly unable to stop their offense from executing. Fortunately, they had the same problem.

North Carolina's offense looked right for the first time in some time. Efficient, balanced scoring from almost everyone on the team. When I look at a box score, one of my favorite things to do is check total points divided by field goal attempts, which can provide a quick and dirty way to check on the offensive efficiency of a particular player. It's a nice little cheat because it gives some weight to good shooting, getting to the line and hitting threes. What you look for when you make this comparison is for the player in question to score significantly more points than they take shots. This is a long way of saying, when I looked at the box score, I was delighted. Our team is normally terribly inefficient on offense, getting to the line at a good clip, but not really shooting that well from there or anywhere else and not taking enough threes. It was a delight to see that Deon had 20 points on 13 shots, that Zeller had 13 points on six shots, while Drew, Henson, and Strickland also posted fairly efficient games. Even Marcus and Will, who were, admittedly off offensively weren't really terrible offensively, and didn't shoot us out of the game, and, at this point, that's all I ask.

The key to our efficiency was what it always has been: getting to the line. In an effort to play tough and make up for the lack of size, William and Mary fouled far more than you might expect from a team that normally makes a habit of not fouling. They were trying to keep our big men off their spots and to hassle our guards on the perimeter, and the refs seemed content to let this style of play go on without too many whistles until UNC started to force the issue by taking the ball right at the rim. William and Mary uncharacteristically fouled and we did our best to take advantage.

As was expected, we took serious advantage of our size in the post, and as I noted earlier Deon and Tyler basically rampaged in the paint, scoring at will. While the overall rebound totals might indicate only a slight advantage for UNC, we mostly owned the glass when it counted. Single-handedly, Henson had six offensive rebounds, compared to seven offensive rebounds for the entirety of William and Mary. Henson, for the record, did have a field day: ten rebounds, nine points, two blocks, an assist and a steal in only 23 minutes, and the way Deon and Tyler were playing it's hard to blame Roy for not playing him more.

Tyler Zeller, for one night, almost made me forget how much I miss Ed Davis. He was simply stellar on offense and defense making big plays that kept the crowd fired up. Not once, but twice, he stole the ball on the perimeter and took off down the court dribbling as best as he could. It was awkward, but you can't help but love that hustle from a seven footer. Those steals also are emblematic of another one of the keys for this game: winning the turnover battle.

All season, we have been really bad at getting steals. It's sad, but true. This game, against a team that rarely ever turns the ball over, Marcus Ginyard alone got five steals, and, in total, William and Mary turned the ball over 17 times. UNC won the turnover battle. I'm as stunned as you are. It's amazing how that will put you in a good position to win ball games. Wait, no, that's not amazing; that's really obvious. Whatever, I'm going to enjoy it for this one game.

Let's talk about Larry and Dexter. Neither shot well from the field, but both made a positive impact on the team. They both played tough defense, shadowing the ever-screening guards of William and Mary and closing out on shooters quickly (Dex even got the rare block of a three-pointer and you are out of your mind if you think this didn't cause Carolina fans to lost its collective shit). Drew was the classic floor general in this one, utilizing the power of his deadly pull-up three in transition and even putting the ball on the deck and driving (finally!). As for Dex, man, this is one of the few times all season I have seen a player on our team make an earnest effort to take over the game. In the last few minutes, Dex was driving with lightning speed and keeping William and Mary on their heels. He got to the line with regularity and iced the game by hitting his shots with cool aplomb, which was a refreshing change from what Carolina fans have seen at the line all season. It was more than that though. Dex sparked the rest of the team, and somehow, his brand of kamikaze defense based on quick feet and rapid close-outs was somehow super effective against William and Mary. I may be wrong about this, but he seemed like the best defender on the team at times. When I was watching the whole game I couldn't help but think, "I bet his plus/minus is really high," and sure enough, he led the team with a whopping +21. The best is yet to come with Dexter Strickland.

I loved this game. The whole team played with a lot of heart and played well. Deon was diving on the floor, scoring at will, and seemingly loving this game more than anything I've ever seen him play. Throughout the game he would encourage the fans and they would respond wildly. I can't help but love his post-game comments:

"I have played a lot of game in this North Carolina jersey, including a couple Final Fours, but being out there on that floor tonight with those fans and all the history in Carmichael, is something that I will always remember... It was what college basketball is all about, enjoying wins with the kids you get to go to class with every day. I really enjoyed playing in this place tonight."

If this is what playing in the NIT means, then let the NIT roll on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scouting Report: William and Mary

Listen: I've been patiently waiting for this season to end so I can write up the post-mortem of the season, looking at all the ugliness of the past season and hopefully showing how it points to a bright future. That has to wait for at least one more night. After an embarrassing final game at Duke and a flame-out in the first round of the ACC tournament, the prophetic taunting of our opponents has come true: North Carolina is in the NIT.

There has been some thinking that the NIT is beneath us. This is ridiculous of course, and honestly seems to be mostly driven by the fear that we lose early on in that. This is possible of course, but at this point in the season, you would think that we've gotten over the embarrassment of losing. My thought is simple: Our team is young and the more practice our team gets in tough competitive games, the stronger we will be in the long run. It took Tyler Hansbrough and company, four years to get enough game experience to be ready to win.

Finally there is one other motivating factor, simple and delicious: Revenge. Who was one of the primary taunters of "NIT"? Virginia Tech. Who has been reduced to being nothing more than the favorite in the NIT? Virginia Tech. Who would it be so sweet to beat in the NIT? Virginia Tech. If petty vendettas are all that remain for us, aside from the dubious honor of actually winning the NIT, then petty vendettas shall rule the day. To our petty vendetta!

The first step in this process is beating William and Mary in Carmichael. Let me get this note out of the way quickly: We're playing in Carmichael! That's so awesome! I've been excitedly talking to my friends about how cool it would be if we ever would play one or two games a season in the House Where Jordan Played. The Dean Dome, as big and nice as it is kind of sucks. Most of the students sit too far away and the wine and cheese crowd that fill the lower bowl never stand and leave with five minutes left in close Duke-Carolina games. It's just disgusting. I'm so excited about the possibility of a packed and loud Carmichael.

Okay, now: William and Mary. Checking out their breakdown at the Pomeroy Ratings (something you should all be very familiar with as you fill out your brackets for you know, that OTHER tournament), you get a really clear picture of this team. They shoot the three. They shoot the three a lot. More than all but two teams in all of college basketball. They never turn over the ball. They play slower than almost every single team in college basketball. William and Mary plays a style that seems the polar opposite of UNC's offensive style. This should concern us. This should concern us, because William and Mary is playing very smartly.

The mid-major recipe for college basketball success has focused on maximizing a number of advantages that other teams undervalue and that are fairly coachable and achievable regardless of the fact that your team has inferior athletes or less overall "talent" than the other team. Slowing down the the tempo, not turning over the ball, and shooting a lot of threes are how the Davids have been slaying the Goliaths in March since the dawn of the Tournament. William and Mary are very good at all of these things. If they shoot well, they will win a lot of games, because they have done an excellent job maximizing their offensive efficiency. They are a more efficient offensive team than UNC.

So there's that. Now, how do we beat them:

William and Mary does not turn the ball over, but they also don't force opponent turnovers. This means they will have a hard time taking advantage of UNC's greatest weakness this season. They also rarely foul, which while usually a key to efficient play, may be a secret blessing considering UNC's other Achilles heel.

William and Mary's other weaknesses seem to mostly stem from the curse of a large portion of the mid-majors: lack of quality big men. Despite having one of the nation's best offensive rebounders in Marcus Kitts, as a whole, William and Mary are terrible at rebounding both offensively and defensively. Less critical, but more embarassing, the team gets blocked at an extravagant rate.

John Henson should have a field day.

What it comes down to is this: William and Mary is pretty good offensively, but North Carolina is far better defensively. If their talented, sharp-shooting guards get hot and are allowed to bomb from long range, they will win. Carolina wins if the game becomes an ugly scramble, where defensive pressure on the perimeter forces them to try their luck against the still stout Carolina front-line and John Henson blocks trigger Carolina fast-breaks while a Drew and Zeller combo force the issue by taking the ball to the hoop again and again, kicking to Graves when needed. They mostly play zone, and if they've done any scouting, will likely happily cede us some open three-point shots: Graves and Drew must make them pay, so that we can open up the post for Deon and Zeller, where, given the front-line of William and Mary, they should get us some of those buckets we've struggled with for much of the season.

We can and should win this one. I won't be surprised if we lose, but Marcus is playing with a lot of pride in the final games of his career and maybe the House of Jordan will inspire the team to new heights. Maybe. I hope.