UPDATE: Virginia is out of the ACC tournament after a positive covid test. Georgia Tech advances to the championship game. Our game is now at 8:30pm on ESPN.
BY THE NUMBERS:
#6 UNC is 18-9 overall (10-6 in the ACC) Coming off of a quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech
#2 Florida State is 15-5 overall (11-4 in the ACC) Coming off of a quarterfinal forfeit over Duke
A 81-73 quarterfinal victory over Virginia Tech puts the Heels into the semifinals against Florida State. The quarterfinal matchup was a tale of 2 halves. The Heels came out flat. The hokies were more physical and were dictating where the Heels went on offensive. This led to too many jump shots which in turn led to fewer offensive rebound opportunities. Jump shots tend to have longer rebounds which are harder for bigs to get to. We had just one offensive rebound in the first half as we didn’t get the ball down low enough. Tech killed us on back screens for the majority of the game. For some reason we struggle on screens. Our freshmen bigs looked especially lost as Tech got easy basket after easy basket down low.
There is supposed to be a certain swagger that comes with Carolina basketball. It is the attitude that we are supposed to dictate the game, that we go and do what we want to and you have to try to stop it. That swagger was absent in the first half. We found it in the second half. Tech was a much smaller team than us and we finally wore them down. Mutts and Aluma did a good job of banging with our bigs, but it is hard to do that for 40 minutes. Those two guys got the majority of the minutes and there was no break. You can have Brooks, Bacot, Sharpe, or Kessler thrown at you. There is no let up. With that being said, it was good to see Brooks back on the court and that he was good to start. You could see towards the end of the game that Tech’s bigs were just done. They had their hands on their knees and they offered less and less resistance on the offensive glass. We outrebounded Tech by 13 in the second half and had a 17-5 advantage in second chance points. We only had 2 second chance points in the first half.
Playing inside out works. It works even better when you have guards making jump starts. RJ Davis had an outstanding game with 19 points. He went 4-7 from 3 with a dagger that pushed the lead to 11 with under 2 minutes to play. It was good to see Roy stick with Davis towards the end of the game. Roy, it has seemed, has had the tendency to divert back to Love because he is the starting point guard. Tonight he stuck with the hot hand. It is good to see Davis and Love shooting with more confidence despite Love’s poor shooting night. He had a 3 to begin the game but went 2-12 from the field and 1-7 from 3. Speaking of 3's, how about Leaky Black’s performance? He went 2-4 from behind the arc with 8 points. His production was huge. Tech let him shoot and he made them pay. We were a very respectful 8-21 from 3. Bacot had a monster second half as well and ended up with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
We still struggled to guard Tech’s more mobile big guys. Mutts had 24 and took it to the basket at will. None of our bigs were able to keep him in front.
We also struggle against bigger guards. Radford had 20 points and was able to bully his way to the basket on several occasions. Even still we made some halftime adjustments and did a better job guarding him for the last 20 minutes. I found it odd that they started talking about why Radford was suspended from the team, but hey i guess if Tech made that public information then its fair game. As a side discussion, 4 games seems a little light for a DUI and an illegal possession of a firearm. Those are two big no-no’s. Those two things together… not a good combination. That just seemed interesting to me in today’s culture that he would only get 4 games but I digress.
Another side conversation… I still don’t know what is a charge or a block in college basketball. It seems as though opposing bigs can just fall over in the post against our guys and get an offensive foul called. Hey officials… that’s a flop. An offensive foul should only be called when an offensive player clearly lowers his shoulder against a defender to gain an advantage other than it should be a no call. I digress again.
That all sets the stage for our third matchup with FSU. We are 1-1 on the year against the Noles with a loss in Tallahassee and a win in Chapel Hill. The Noles got the ever rare triple bye and haven’t played yet in the ACC tournament due to Duke having to drop out due to a positive covid test. Their last game was on March 6 against Notre Dame. It was a 73-83 loss to Notre Dame. Will FSU be rusty or rested?
Our last meeting against the Noles was a 78-70 win back on Feb 27th. That game was also a tale of two halves as we trailed by 12 at the half. We outscored FSU 47-29 in the 2nd half and Kessler had his coming out party. He had 20 points in his best game of the year up to that point. Free throws were a big factor in pulling off the win. We went 25-28 from the strike. We struggled from the line against Tech. Gray had a solid game with 17 points. FSU is a team that also relies on the 3. They went 5-17 from 3 in the loss. That is 3 makes below what they average per game.
FSU Started Gray and Koprivica in the front court and Evans, Walker and Wilkes in the backcourt in that matchup. Against Notre Dame Polite replaced Wilkes. In both games FSU played 11 guys. They played 10 guys against us in our first matchup. They are a deep, physical team. They have more size than Virginia Tech and more bodies to throw at us. It will be another physical game, but it won’t necessarily be a game where we will be able to wear them down in the post. With that being said FSU is still a guard heavy team. Post play will still be a factor as well as the ability to guard the 3. Again not dissimilar to the keys from the past several games.
They have big physical guards that are going to be matchup problems. Barnes is 6’9”. Polite stands at 6’6”. Walker is 6’5” and Polite’s counterpart in the backcourt, Evans, is 6’4”. All their guards have at least 15 pounds on all our guards. I could see their size advantage being a major problem for our guards especially with their physical style of play. Our ability to keep them in front will determine how many open 3’s they get. Easy drives lead to open 3’s.
It is worth noting that Barnes is currently coming off the bench. This is an incredibly experienced team with depth. All the guys in the table above will see playing time against us. They have 5 players that shoot over 40% from 3 and they shot 50% from behind the arc in our first matchup. As stated above they went 5-17 in the second matchup which they lost. I wouldn’t say they live and die by the 3, but it is a huge part of their game.
I really liked our sense of urgency in the second half against the Hokies. It wasn’t a sense of panic. You could say the same thing about our most recent matchup against the Noles. We are playing good basketball right now. We had good games against Duke, Notre Dame, and a good second half against Virginia Tech. Can we put together 4 straight games is the biggest question. Well that and if FSU’s triple bye will help or hurt them. It is a chance at another big win. According to Adam Lucas we already have the most Q1 and Q2 wins in the ACC. It would be nice to get another shot at either UVA or Georgia Tech, both teams we lost to in the regular season.