Monday, March 26, 2007

NCAAs, now 100% ACC free

A very good argument could be made that Georgetown just played the best offensive game of the year, by any team, considering circumstances and opponent. Georgetown was exceptional when they had the ball in their hands. They made some exceptionally pretty passes, hit clutch shots, and never gave up the ball. They took a top-5 defensive team apart, laying a 128.7 ORating on them like it was nothing. The credit for the Hoyas belong to all five starters - they combined to go 35 of 57 from the floor, including a stellar 8 for 12 from beyond the arc. Let's take a deeper look at their relative performance:
  • It was, by far, the worst defensive performance of the year for Carolina - the previous worst was 121.4. Only NC State shot better, and only Tennessee and BC turned the ball over fewer.
  • The Hoyas put together their 7th best rating, but some of the others were against defensive stalwarts like Winston-Salem St, JMU, and Cincinnati. They shot better in only 5 games, and turned the ball over less in just 3.
The Hoyas were consistent - they shot 57% in both the first half, and the second half & overtime. But they were at their finest down the stretch - they scored 31 points in the last 22 possessions, hitting on well over 70% of their attempts. Carolina, by contrast, went ultra-cold - in those same 22 possessions, UNC scored nine points (to steal blatantly from the Big Ten Wonk - nine, a number so small you can spell it). They made a grand total of two field goals in the last 14:54. By the way, there's a lot of "jumper, miss" and "3pt miss," and not a whole lot of "layup" at all. There's no point singling out either the coaches or any of the players for blame, but for whatever reason, the ball simply stopped going inside. And again, I'm not sure how much was strategy, how much was execution, and how much was Georgetown, but UNC's offensive rebounding that was so dominant for the second half against USC and the first half against the Hoyas went missing at game's end - the Hoyas shut down the second chance points, and the offense went stagnant.

It was a tough game for UNC's perimeter players - Lawson, Ellington, Green, and Terry combined to go 8 for 39 (that's barely 20%, for those of you scoring at home). Terry missed a couple of shots down the stretch that he'd been hitting in recent weeks (see for example, the NC State game), and Danny Green posted a difficult 0-fer. Lawson looked timid in the half court, and Ellington continued his role as bellwether for the team - he shot poorly in all but one of their losses, and was a combined 21 of 70 in the games UNC lost. Ellington faded down the stretch - he was 21 of 68 over his last 15 games.

UNC now faces a tricky off-season, that could feature as many as five departures without any replacement coming in. Here's a look at their depth chart assuming everyone stays.

PG: Lawson, Frasor, Thomas
SG: Ellington
SF: Ginyard, Green
PF: Wright, Thompson
C: Hansbrough, Stepheson

This lineup looks about as good as this year's - they lose Terry, whose experience was invaluable, and Miller, whose perimeter game had fallen off, but who's defense was as good as ever, but factor in another year of improvement for everyone, and you're looking at preseason #1. If only Lawson goes, there's a dropoff, but it's still an incredibly dangerous team inside. Without Wright, there's a whole lot of loss up front - Thompson looked good yesterday, but he just can't do the things Wright could do (let's face it, not many can). Without Wright and Lawson, the team isn't a lot different from the 05-06 squad, which isn't too bad - basically trading Terry for Ellington and adding a couple players. But if all three are gone, it suddenly looks like a slightly more talented version of this year's NC State team - just seven scholarship players, all of whom are ACC quality (except maybe Thomas), but none exceptional. It has to be a scary thought for some in Chapel Hill that the Heels next year could start Frasor, Ellington, Ginyard, Thompson, and Stepheson with only Thomas, Green, and Mike Copeland coming off the bench. I'm in no position to speculate on who might stay and who might go, but there's no team with more at stake in the off-season.

The NCAA might now be ACC-free, but the post-season isn't. Those plucky Clemson Tigers, winners of 17 straight to start the year, have made their way through to the NIT semi-finals, and tip-off tomorrow night in the Garden against Air Force. Stay tuned during the day for a (brief) preview of the game.


Anonymous said...

Hansbrough said in SI that he is coming back.

Lawson is 5' 10" and can't shoot and was visibly winded Sunday upon getting championship minutes. He's not going pro--Roy Williams already has told him the tale of Joe Forte and he has already said that he is not going pro.

You think that Ellington is going pro? Well, if Ellington is going pro, then there must be a huge NBA market for college players who can't even make college three pointers at crunch time and have trouble breaking down defenders off the dribble. If he does, well, he's not much better than either Green or Ginyard, anyway. I don't see it, unless you are talking about Europe or Israel.

Wright is probably going pro and Carolina has Stepheson and Thompson, both of whom have looked outstanding whenever they get a chance to play, plus a decent redshirt.

I don't know who the fifth guy who might go pro is--Quintin Thomas?

Paul Rugani said...

Didn't mean 5 going pro early, just meant 5 on the 06-07 team who might not be there for 07-08. I was counting Reyshawn Terry and Wes Miller among the 5, seeing as they won't be back no matter what. I certainly don't think Ellington would be going pro, nor have I heard speculation that he would be.

Like I said, I'm not in a position to speculate about whether so-and-so is going, and I have precisely zero information about the odds on who stays and who goes. All I know is that there are a lot of NBA rumors surrounding Wright, Lawson, and Hansbrough, and who stays and who goes could have big consequences for UNC next year.

Also, I neglected to mention that William Graves, who I believe redshirted this year, will also be available on the Carolina roster next season.