Lessons Learned From ACC Tournament


The Tar  Heels face off against the Harvard Crimson in the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament Thursday, March 19, at 7:20 PM.

The Heels are a four seed against Harvard’s thirteen seed, but March is labeled as mad following conference tournaments because of the great parity in college basketball.  Additionally, Harvard has won in their last three appearances in the NCAA tournament.

But knowing Tar Heel fans, there isn’t a lack of confidence surrounding their beloved team.  In fact, they’ll put anything to numbers.  Interpret this sports nugget reported by beat writer Andrew Carter any way you wish.

Before diving too deep into streaks, superstitions, and previous success (or lack there of) in the big dance for both teams, however, we should take a look at who this North Carolina team truly is entering the tournament.

And the best way to do that is to see what made the Tar Heels successful in their extended ACC tournament run.

1) North Carolina is effective in transition. 

Contrary to popular belief, and arguably plain logic, this Tar Heels team is at its best when they are forcing the issue offensively.

Although a big portion of their scoring comes from the post between Meeks, Johnson, and Hicks, when Marcus Paige can lead a fastbreak with Justin Jackson and J.P. Tokoto alongside him – all three of which are very good finishers around the basket – North Carolina can build up sizeable leads when opponents go through an offensive lull.

In their 4 ACC tournament games, North Carolina dominated the transition battle.  Paige was throwing long alley-oops and Tokoto was finishing over defenders.

The team is at their best when they can outlet the ball at halfcourt and the ball touches the floor once or twice a possession.

2) The Heels are finally somewhat healthy.

Kennedy Meeks had to sit out the first game against Boston College and had limited minutes against Louisville, and Theo Pinson is still not physically ready to take on the role he had earlier this year.

But good news…Marcus Paige no longer has significant issues with his plantar fasciitis.  Looking healthy and playing unlike he has throughout the year, Paige played 142 minutes of the 160 in the 4 ACC tournament games in four days.  Paige is averaging 18.2 points and 5.8 assists in the last five games.

But even with his recent reemergence and everyone willing to blame the less than satisfactory season statistically on his plantar fasciitis, Marcus is answering speculative questions the same way he always has:  professionally.

(Per GoHeels.com)

"“I’ve learned to just take it as it is and just play — be Marcus Paige,” he said. “You can’t be anything more or less. You’ve just got to be who you are, and that’s a guy that’s committed to doing whatever he can to help the team win.”"

3)  The Heels are fulfilling the #1 key to success in March; they’re coming in hot.

Not to blow their success in the ACC tournament out of proportion, but North Carolina played efficient, fun-to-watch basketball during the four-day sprint.

They were capitalizing on turnovers and other fastbreak opportunities, outrebounding opponents both offensively and defensively, and decided to save their hot perimeter shooting for the postseason.

The hot Tar Heels are certainly anxious to make some noise as well.  Some, including Kennedy Meeks, feel that with the experience this Carolina team has, they have a chance to take it all.

No need to ask the overwhelmingly favored Kentucky Wildcats permission to say such hopeful things.  Fortunately, confidence and the ability to intimidate come in abundance with this Carolina team.

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