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MBB Game 21: UNC 80 at FSU 77

FSU: 3 ACC:3

Saturday afternoon, we rolled into Virginia and took care of business, defeating the Cavaliers 73-62. Delvidas Dulkys put it well when he said, "I think that's the way it's supposed to be."

Tonight, we take on the Tarheels. Bring it...

N.B. Heartbreak...

I like the fact that at 4:18 to go in the game, we sealed the victory but continued to look for ways to score. Unfortunately, we got a little too agressive and sloppy at time, resulting in late turnovers and easy scores for UVA. On Saturday night, the Noles put up their second best Offensive Efficiency and eFG% of the year. We also did an excellent job on the offensive boards, racking up our second highest OReb% of the year. We held UVA to only 39% eFG%, remember this is a stat weighted for 3 point baskets; they were 17-48 from the floor and only 4-14 from 3 point land. This game was not as close as it seems. Plus, if you look at the free throw advantage they had, it really wasn't that close. UVA has been succesful getting to the line all year; we can't allow that to happen in the upcoming games.

Tonight, we take on the talented team from UNC and it is going to be an uphill battle all the way. However, I think it could be a win-able game if we play a complete basketball game, meaning we don't go on any mental lapses.

UNC came into the season with high expectations. In the early going, things looked good. UNC was beating big time opponents with ease, but their run fell short when they faced Boston College, who then flopped to Harvard, and again to Wake Forest. Two early losses in the ACC is not what any UNC fan expected, nor did the rest of the country. Let's take a look at some scary numbers:

The Tarheels have scored over 100 points 5 times already this season. The last time we did it was against Campbell in 2006. Their two losses were by a total of 10 points. They already have huge win over Kentucky, Notre Dame, Michigan St, Miami and Clemson. They beat UVA 83-61 just as a reference...and that was on the road as well.

Sat Nov 15 (234) Pennsylvania W, 86-71 75 Home 1-0
Tue Nov 18 (20) Kentucky W, 77-58 74 Home 2-0
Fri Nov 21 (194) UC Santa Barbara W, 84-67 74 Away 3-0
Mon Nov 24 (NR) Chaminade W, 115-70 81 Neutral 4-0
Tue Nov 25 (140) Oregon W, 98-69 85 Neutral 5-0
Wed Nov 26 (48) Notre Dame W, 102-87 73 Neutral 6-0
Sun Nov 30 (282) NC Asheville W, 116-48 83 Home 7-0
Wed Dec 3 (21) Michigan St. W, 98-63 83 Semi-Away 8-0
Sat Dec 13 (67) Oral Roberts W, 100-84 88 Home 9-0
Thu Dec 18 (151) Evansville W, 91-73 82 Home 10-0
Sat Dec 20 (243) Valparaiso W, 85-63 72 Neutral 11-0
Sun Dec 28 (154) Rutgers W, 97-75 75 Home 12-0
Wed Dec 31 (114) Nevada W, 84-61 71 Away 13-0
Sun Jan 4 (81) Boston College L, 85-78 75 Home 13-1 0-1
Wed Jan 7 (174) College of Charleston W, 108-70 84 Home 14-1
Sun Jan 11 (12) Wake Forest L, 92-89 89 Away 14-2 0-2
Thu Jan 15 (96) Virginia W, 83-61 74 Away 15-2 1-2
Sat Jan 17 (34) Miami FL W, 82-65 73 Home 16-2 2-2
Wed Jan 21 (22) Clemson W, 94-70 77 Home 17-2 3-2

This is a solid early season schedule. In fact, UNC has the 26th most difficult schedule in the country according to Ken Pomeroy. This is an aggressive basketball team that likes to attack the basket and forces you to try and keep up with them. Our style is completely different. Dave Leitao, the UVA coach, said that the way we play basketball is that we "systematically and methodically wear you down. I thought they worse us down physically and mentally."

How do we do that? We force teams to play basketball, meaning we force them to settle into offenses and try to run specific sets. We try to prevent teams from getting early quick looks at the basket; we force them into bad shots and turnovers. We challenge shots. UNC likes to take the ball from you and run or if you miss, the ball is going up the court extremely fast. Take a look at the differences in possessions per game:

UNC Possessions (Opp) vs FSU Possessions Avg (Opp)

Huge difference between the teams and it shows in each of their tempos: 75.9 for UNC and 68.3 for us. That is an average of 7 possessions per game and a minimum of 14 points differential. Clearly, these stats do not work when you actually play the game, think about it...the possessions should be equal, plus or minus 1 or 2 depending on the beginning or end of the half. So...who wins this battle? I think we do. We did it to Duke, slowing them down a ton, forcing them to play our game. However, Duke can generate turnovers, UNC doesn't. They run the ball off your missed shots. Look at their turnover percentage on defense:

Offense Defense
Raw Efficiency : 117.6 ( 1) 89.8 ( 18)
Adj Efficiency : 120.4 ( 2) 86.7 ( 12)

Effective FG% : 53.5 ( 34) 44.3 ( 32)
Turnover Pct. : 17.1 ( 13) 21.8 (117)
Off. Rebound% : 39.4 ( 19) 30.6 ( 84)
Free Throw Rate: 40.7 ( 65) 27.3 ( 25)

3-Point FG% : 37.0 ( 57) 31.5 ( 62)
2-Point FG% : 52.8 ( 31) 42.9 ( 36)
Free Throw Pct.: 75.2 ( 18) 69.2 (199)
Block Pct. : 9.4 (208) 14.1 ( 21)
Steal Pct. : 10.0 (188) 11.7 ( 59)

3PA/FGA : 27.7 (288) 32.5 (168)
A/FGM : 61.1 ( 39) 52.4 (122)

They force turnovers on 21.8% of their opponents possessions, this is above national average. We turn the ball over about in in every 4 possessions and have been improving. Duke creates turnovers on 24.5% of their opponents possessions. Subtle, but important difference.

UNC Turnovers Avg (Opp) vs DUKE Turnovers Avg (Opp)

In this graph, you would say TC, you're crazy, they generate the same number of turnovers per game. Look at it when you compare the possession, Duke is forcing teams to fewer possessions, thus the significance of the Turnover percentage.

UNC Turnovers Avg (Opp) vs DUKE Turnovers Avg (Opp) vs UNC Possessions Avg (Opp

Where do we sit?

FSU Possessions Avg (Opp) vs FSU Turnovers Avg (Opp)

Crappy graphs...looks at the three turnovers percentages on the same graph:

FSU Turnovers Pct (Opp) vs DUKE Turnover Pct (Opp) vs UNC Turnover Pct (Opp)

Again, subtle, but important when playing elite teams. Think about games that come down to 1 or two possessions. This is where those differences can be generated. Clearly, this is just one variable that determines the out come of a game, and is the converse of one of Ken Pomeroy's Four Factors

UNC does a lot of things extremely well and this is going to be a battle from start to finish. They shoot the ball extremely well, they clean up the glass and they don' turn the ball over. They do allow you to block shots and steal the ball on them. Interesting...we are one of the best shot blocking teams in the country and Toney Douglas is an absolute thief. The crazy thing is that of their 5 starters, who essentially play most of the game now (they didn't in OOC play), their highest turnover percentage is 15.8% by Danny Green, who is a guard/foward.

Size is one area that UNC has been criticized for this year. Their tallest starter is Hansbrough at 6'9. The tallest player on their team is Ed Davis, a 6'10 Freshman. They rank 74th overall in average height at 77.2". Our average height is 79". Their effective heighter is +1.9 inches, meaning they play bigger than expected. Guess, what we play at +5" in effective height. Connecticut is number 1 and is closely followed by Wake. Advantage us...sort of. Can Alabi hang with Hansbrough...probably not in a man to man defense. If Alabi is in the game, look for us to sit in some form of zone, likely a 1-3-1 due to the athleticism of our wing players. However, Hamilton loves to rely on man to man pressure. Our 7-footer won't be able to keep up with UNC for long periods of time. Echefu, Reid and Demercy will have to take on the burden of keeping up with their "big men."

So how did Wake and BC beat UNC? They challenged shots and held them to their lowest eFG% of the year. However, Wake chose to run with UNC, allowing for a high paced game, while BC slowed them down and allowed a better shooting percentage. Wake and BC also shot lights out in those two games. We can slow UNC down. We can force them to take bad shots and challenge every shot. Our team is all about hustle. Unfortunately, we take a lot of bad shots ourselves and it is unlikely that we will shoot over 50% against them, which is what Wake AND BC did. Other teams have done it against UNC this year, but didn't have quite the success on the defensive end, allowing UNC to score easy baskets in transition. In order to be successful, we must make quick decisions about getting back as shots are being made. Our perimiter players need to make the decsion about crashing the boards versus staying with their man or any UNC player who breaks down the court on the jump shot. If Toney puts up a long three, the rebound will be a long one and the players on the opposite side of the court must recognize whether the ball is likely going in or going to rebound to their side off a shot that was too long or go back to Toney on a shot that may have been to short. Anything that looks in or short, they should seriously consider turning and running up the court. If they don't, they will be looking at the back of jerseys all night.

Let's take a look at our numbers:

Offense Defense
Raw Efficiency : 99.7 (185) 91.3 ( 26)
Adj Efficiency : 101.8 (143) 88.1 ( 18)

Effective FG% : 48.6 (181) 43.8 ( 25)
Turnover Pct. : 23.8 (305) 23.3 ( 42)
Off. Rebound% : 37.4 ( 44) 34.7 (235)
Free Throw Rate: 42.4 ( 47) 36.1 (166)

3-Point FG% : 33.4 (188) 32.3 ( 91)
2-Point FG% : 47.8 (173) 41.1 ( 16)
Free Throw Pct.: 70.7 (101) 65.5 ( 55)
Block Pct. : 7.1 ( 66) 17.0 ( 6)
Steal Pct. : 10.4 (220) 12.9 ( 20)

3PA/FGA : 33.0 (161) 35.8 (262)
A/FGM : 52.9 (199) 46.6 ( 24)

I won't continue to harp on the turnovers...but it is getting ridiculous. Worst in the ACC, one of the worst in the country. We have to protect the ball against UNC or it will continue to be a long night. Fortunately, we cause as many turnovers as we allow. However, we don't take advantage of the opportunities of the transition game. We have discussed this before. We don't push the basketball, yet we appear rushed. To me, that is the inexperience kicking in. Fortunately, we have already played Duke at home so playing a big opponent at home is not an unfamiliar experience for our team. I disagree with our friends at Carolina March in that this will not be as easy a game as he thinks it will be. We may not see a lot of Alabi tonight but look for our guards to play the game of their lives to keep us in it. TD has to show that he is an all-ACC candidate.

The man said it himself. FSU has to limit the transition game and get back on defense. We have the athelticism and talent to keep up with this team. UNC does not do well when they are forced to play in an offensive set; it isn't in their comfort zone. We take teams out of the comfort zones. Could we beat UNC? Yes. Wake and BC have shown that it is possible. It will take a amazing team effort of 40 minutes of hustle and concentration.

Here are the likely starting line ups (taken from the FSU Athletic Site):


F #31 Chris Singleton (9.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg; First career game vs. North Carolina)
F #41 Uche Echefu (7.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg; 14 pts and 3 rebs vs. North Carolina, March 4, 2008)
C #32 Solomon Alabi (7.4 ppg, 2.0 bpg; First career game vs. North Carolina)
G #22 Derwin Kitchen (7.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg; First career game vs. North Carolina)
G #23 Toney Douglas (19.6 ppg, 2.1 spg; 18 pts and 3 stls vs. North Carolina, March 14, 2008)


F #14 Danny Green (12.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg; 19 pts and 5 rebs vs. Florida State, Feb. 3, 2008)
F #21 Deon Thompson (12.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg; 11 pts and 5 rebs vs. Florida State, Feb. 3, 2008)
F #50 Tyler Hansbrough (22.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg; 22 pts and 21 rebs vs. Florida State, Feb. 23, 2008)
G #5 Ty Lawson (14.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg; 14 pts and 8 asts vs. Florida State, March 9, 2007)
G #22 Wayne Ellington (14.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg; 19 pts and 5 rebs vs. Florida State, March 14, 2008

This should be an outstanding game. It should be an absolute dog fight and I think it will be closer than most people think. We cannot allow the runs to occur and we have to limit Hansbrough's touches, not only for the points he scores but for the fouls he generates, 9.2 for every 40 minutes of game play...that is number one in the country. It's up to you to decide if those are legit fouls or not.

On the offensive end, UNC boasts having 4 of the top 100 players in offensive rating: Hansbrough (30) Lawson (3) Ellington (89) and Green (21). The have 2 players in the top 100 in eFG%: Lawson an Green. Lawson is 13th in the country in Assist rate. And all 5 of their starters are in the top 500 in TO rate. We don't have a single player in the top 500 in turnover rate. Only Toney Douglas ranks in the top 500 in ORtg and is the only player in the team with a rating over 110. Outside of their 5 starters, Ed Davis is their only significnat contributor off the bench. His specialty: rebounding and blocking shots. He is their tallest player, but only plays about 12 minutes per game, usually to spell Hansbrough. This is the time for Hamilton's defense to shine.

What are your thoughts on the game?

The game will be televised on Raycom and it can either be found here or here for radio feeds.

Random fact of the day: The Tucker Center cost 33.8 million dollars to build.