Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WHY TY LAWSON WILL PRACTICE AND PLAY ON THURSDAY

First off, Roy Williams has said that Ty Lawson has to practice part of Tuesday and all of Wednesday in order to play in the Tar Heels opener against Radford on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

In addition, a spokesman for the program said there would not be an update on Lawson’s status after practice on Tuesday. So, unless we snuck in the gym…and, we didn’t, we don’t know what Lawson did today, and nor does Radford coach Brad Greenberg.

We predict, he practiced some today and will practice tomorrow. We also predict he will play only 10 to 15 minutes against Radford, but he may play more if the sputtering turbo jet that is North Carolina’s high-powered offense needs a few more test laps to get the things going again.

The No. 1 Tar Heels proved over the weekend that they are a very different team without Lawson. Obviously, any team without the current ACC Player of the Year is both different, and simply not as good.

Do the math. Never mind the intangibles – we will address that later – Lawson contributes 16 points per game and 6.5 assists. Using old math, that’s 29 points per game. No team is good enough to take 29 points of out its lineup and still win games convincingly and easily. This Carolina team is no exception as they were barely able to beat Virginia Tech and loss a close game to NCAA tournament-bound Florida State. Proof right there that UNC doesn’t want to go too far in the Big Dance without the pilot’s hand on the stick.

Furthermore, the Tar Heels need to get their mojo back, and the guy who keeps Carolina in its groove is Lawson.

For example, Tar Heel Nation is worried about Danny Green’s slump. He looked lost and lacking confidence against both the Hokies and the Seminoles. In previous meetings against those two teams, Green scored 20 against the Seminoles and 10 against the Hokies. Simply put, ten is about all UNC needs.

Danny Green is a tough kid. He’s played in 139 games for North Carolina including three NCAA tournaments. He has overcome personal adversity, so he’s unlikely to buckle under the pressure of a two game slump.

All Green needs to get his game back to normal is Lawson. Green’s three-point shooting and slashing attacks both require a fast paced transition game at which Lawson’s excels.

If you want Green to sink a three, hit him with a sharp pass in transition. If you want a three-pointer in the half-court set look to Wayne Ellington, he’s much better at creating his own shot. Green needs a fast paced game and a quick move either inside or out.

With Lawson out of the lineup, Green hasn’t gotten the same number of transition opportunities. Those opportunities have been few and far apart without the multi-talented Lawson distributing the ball and terrifying defenses with his speed and dribble-drive scoring potential. Get Lawson back running the show, and Green will snap out of his slump.

Teams that want to go far in the post season need multiple scorers. Teams with one scorer like Miami, Florida State, and Maryland are in trouble in post season play. Teams with two scores are surely better off – Virginia Tech (Vasallo, Delaney) and Boston College (Rice, Sanders) – but, ultimately, it’s the team with three or four scorers that have a clear advantage in a one-and-done tournament.

North Carolina, like Duke, has a handful of players who can score. That offensive firepower makes the Tar Heels capable of surviving their lapses in defense, but they need Ty Lawson to keep the fabulous machine running smoothly.

So look for Lawson to find his way back on the court sooner than later. North Carolina needs him to get their 90-points-per-game offense back up to speed.

If we know that, you can bet Ol’ Roy does too.

(AP Photos and Getty Images)

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