Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Plenty has been said and written about North Carolina’s team and both its championship season and the Final Four, but we wanted to take a moment to point out that ultimately it was the Heels' defense that fueled their successful run through the Big Dance.

While the Heels faced what could have been crushing expectations, some injuries and a propensity to allow opposing guards to go crazy, they pulled it all together when it mattered most. Evidently, while the pundits were anointing one Big East team or another from one week to the next to wear the crown, the Carolina Blue boys were practicing – probably defense.

When UNC lost its two opening ACC games to Boston College and Wake Forest, the Heels were torched by opposing guards Tyrese Rice and Jeff Teague. Dribble penetration was an issue, and it looked like, in spite of all the offensive firepower, the high scoring Tar Heels might have a problematic Achilles heel.

Somewhere along the line, Ol’ Roy and his charges got it sorted out. It may well have something to do with the emergence of Ty Lawson who’s offensive skills seem to have cleverly disguised his defensive prowess. Also, the ACC Player of the Year simply may not have understood until later in the year, just how good he was both offensively and defensively.

With Danny Green and Wayne Ellington taking turns in the Marcus Ginyard role of defensive stopper and Lawson handcuffing opposing point guards, UNC’s defense was extremely effective when it counted most – the NCAA tournament.

Outscoring opponents in the six games by 119 points, North Carolina was never really threatened. Part of that is their high-octane offense, but the other part was lockdown defense when it was needed most.

Only LSU and Gonzaga managed to shoot better than 45% from the field and overall the Heels held their opponents to 26.7 percent shooting from behind the arc (35-131). All the while, the Tar Heels were shooting 43-94 or 43.7 percent from three-point land.

In the Elite Eight and Final Four games, UNC held good three-point shooting teams Oklahoma, Villanova and Michigan State to a combined 14 of 69 for 20.2 percent three-point shooting. During the same three games, the Tar Heels made 21 of 48 three pointers (the exact 43.7 percent they shot for the entire tournament).

Good offense and consistent defense when it matters. Too good for everybody else.

Game over.

1 comment:

  1. They travel to Florida twice to take the Seminoles and Hurricanes will not be an easy task. A home game against Virginia Tech in 13.11 could have a conference title. I see UNC go 8-4 and reach a New Year's Day bowl.

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