Tar Heels have a plan to play on and vanquish Villanova: Can ‘Cats overcome UNC?

Posted by Andy Durham on April 3, 2009 at 10:37 am under College | 3 Comments to Read

from tarheelblue.com and the Carolina Monthly:

On paper, Carolina has a decided advantage over Villanova, a team that doesn’t have a regular taller than 6-8. But just ask Carolina how valid that advantage was against Maryland, a team that didn’t have a player taller than 6-7. The Wildcats also bear some resemblance to another familiar rival, Duke.

Both Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Wright acknowledged similarities between their two teams, particularly in philosophy and style on both ends. But the comparison ends when it comes to personnel. “I think they’re more athletic–quicker, faster. Duke is more perimeter-oriented whereas they (Villanova) can get the ball to the basket and finish really well with (Corey) Fisher and Scottie Reynolds,” Bobby Frasor said.

Though Duke might be the closest comparison, Villanova’s roster features another problem that has plagued Carolina–guards who can score. Tyrese Rice, Jeff Teague, Jack McClinton, Greivis Vasquez and Toney Douglas had big games against Carolina more than once. In eight games against those four, Carolina allowed them to shoot 50% (43.1% from beyond the arc) and average 27.8 points.

The NCAA Tournament has seen Carolina improve in that department. It has held three high-scoring guards–Marcus Thornton, Matt Bouldin and Willie Warren–to a combined 39.6% shooting (28% from beyond the arc) and 16.7 points per game.

Still, it has been styles rather than individuals that have plagued Carolina over time. Not all motion offenses have given Carolina trouble, but some derivative of the motion has been a problem for the Tar Heels when run effectively. Bruce Weber’s Illinois squad ran a version of the motion offense; Bill Self’s Kansas team ran a 3-out, 2-in style.

But the version Villanova runs is a 4-out, 1-in style run by Tubby Smith, Seth Greenberg of Virginia Tech, Mark Few of Gonzaga, Paul Hewitt of Georgia Tech and even Jim Larranaga at George Mason. All of those coaches have beaten Carolina at least once. Greenberg and Hewitt are two of five ACC coaches to have more than one win over Carolina since 2005.

There are many varieties of the motion offense. The dreaded flex is simply a version of motion with specific rules. Duke’s motion relies much more on dribble penetration. Bob Knight’s Indiana teams emphasized setting screens more.

Villanova’s motion can do both very well and relies heavily on spacing and ball movement. Almost everyone on its roster can handle the ball and shoot from deep. Villanova has eight players averaging double-digit minutes and all have attempted at least one three-pointer. Six have made 15 or more three’s, four have made 30 or more and four shoot 35% or higher.

Even Duke had just four of its nine double-digit contributors make 30 or more three’s; two did not attempt a single three-pointer. Only two Blue Devils shot better than 35 percent.

“We just have to keep them out of the lane because their bigs feed off of their guards penetrating and kicking to them and they feed off of it, too,” Danny Green said. “They penetrate and kick to each other, hit some three’s. They can shoot it really well. Our job is to stop their penetration and put hands up on their shots, make them take tough shots and limit them to one shot.”

The Wildcats feature a playmaking point guard in Scottie Reynolds, two big guards who can shoot and finish and–perhaps most importantly–a lineup change that has led to two of Villanova’s tallest players, Shane Clark (6-7) and second-team All-Big East Dante Cunningham, (6-7) starting.

Clark opened the Pitt game being left open, especially beyond the arc–he responded by making three three’s in a row. Villanova also brings two lethal guards, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, off the bench. Stokes shoots a ridiculous 42.5% from three.

Cunningham has been the most consistent performer and a big reason the team is where it is; he doesn’t necessarily camp out in the post but works hard to get position down low. He really benefits from his teammates penetrating and his man having to help off of him, leaving him wide open for a dunk or lay-up.

The defense of Carolina’s guards will be important, but Carolina’s post players will play a big role. Tyler Hansbrough has proven that he can move his feet but he has to avoid foul trouble. Ed Davis’s minutes were limited against Duke because Kyle Singler was such a matchup problem for him. Deon Thompson has improved quite a bit in both his positional and his help-side defense. But this kind of challenge will be different from anything they have seen all year.

“We’re going to have to have some guys play defense, first of all. It’s not just one person playing defense on them. When they penetrate, we have to have help-side. It’s going to be the whole team that’s going to have to contribute defensively and commit to that,” Hansbrough said.


  • Richard said,

    Hope they do!

  • hoopsfan said,

    OL Roy is 1-6 in Final Fours he always seems to choke, lets hope he does it again.

  • Pirate Drummer said,

    Lol. That’s funny. GO TAR HEELS!!!!