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NCAA Tournament: #9 Washington vs. #1 North Carolina Open Thread

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The Huskies look to avenge their last loss in the NCAA tournament from 8 years ago

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament- Iona vs North Carolina Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The How to Watch Essentials

Date: Sunday, 3/24/19

Tip-Off Time: 11:40 am PT (could start later if previous game runs late)

TV: CBS

Streaming: March Madness Live

Radio: KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM and TuneIn (only in WA and AK)

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Betting Line: Washington +11.5

North Carolina 2018-19 Statistics

Record: 28-6 (16-2)

Points For per Game: 86.1 (3rd)

Points Against per Game: 72.9 (199th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 119.7 (7th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 91.3 (11th)

Strength of Schedule: +12.58 (9th)

North Carolina Key Players

F- Garrison Brooks, So. 6’9, 230: 8.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 57.4% FG, 62.3% FT

Brooks is the closest thing to a true post player that UNC has in their 9-man rotation. Only about 10% of his shots come from outside the paint but he’ll occasionally attempt a midrange jumper. He’s not much of a rim protector but is an excellent offensive rebounder and could easily end up with a handful of putbacks.

F- Luke Maye, Sr. 6’8, 240: 14.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 43.3% FG, 29.3% 3pt, 76.8% FT

Maye was a preseason AP All-American and mostly lived up to the hype averaging a double double although his 3-pt shooting fell off a cliff. Unfortunately, he’s the theoretical nightmare matchup for the zone with his ability to shoot out of the high post. He’s also one of the best defensive rebounders in the country. The one weakness to Maye’s game is on the defensive end where he doesn’t have the foot speed or athleticism to put up much resistance.

F- Cameron Johnson, Sr. 6’9, 210: 16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 50.9% FG, 46.5% 3pt, 80.4% FT

The former Pitt transfer ended up 1st-team All-ACC and was one of the most efficient shooters in the country at 6’9. He shot at least an average percentage from every zone on the floor except on baseline jumpers. Johnson also grades out as a well above average defender per Synergy Sports especially against the pick and roll.

G- Kenny Williams, Sr. 6’4, 185: 8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 39.4% FG, 29% 3pt, 80.6% FT

Williams is by far the most limited offensive player among UNC’s rotation but is capable of finishing at the rim when he gets there. He usually gets the match-up on the opponent’s best wing scorer so expect to see plenty of him on Jaylen Nowell. He is in the 96th percentile guarding in isolation situations but he can have trouble getting around screens.

G- Coby White, Fr. 6’5, 185: 16.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.2 apg, 43% FG, 36.2% 3pt, 81.4% FT

Coby White is the best freshman point guard in the country and is the biggest reason why UNC has survived the graduation of Joel Berry. The overall shooting percentages aren’t terribly efficient but White is an elite shot maker and when he gets hot the Tar Heels are completely unstoppable. He shoots 50% on unguarded 3’s and you can be sure the Washington defense will make shutting down White their top priority.

North Carolina 2018/19 Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

The Outlook

8 years and 4 days ago the Huskies played North Carolina in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. It was essentially a road game in Charlotte, North Carolina and came down to the last few seconds. Washington is hoping for a different result this time around but they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Utah State was one of the hottest teams in the country and on paper a bad matchup for the Huskies. But the saving grace for Washington was that the level of length and athleticism that the Dawgs displayed was clearly a level above what Utah State had faced. That won’t be a problem for North Carolina who otherwise shares those same traits with the Aggies.

UNC has won 16 of their last 18 games with the only losses during that time coming against fellow #1 seeds. Washington and North Carolina played four common opponents and the Tar Heels beat each of those teams by double digits including the other #1 seed Gonzaga. They’ve also played against this 2-3 zone once already this year when they hosted Syracuse and scored 95 points against them.

The Orange actually did a decent job in the half court against North Carolina as the Tar Heels shot just 33% and settled for 26 3-pointers. The problem was that UNC often avoided the half court set by racing in transition. North Carolina scored a ridiculous 22 points in transition on just 10 possessions which made it impossible for Syracuse to keep pace. Expect UNC to run out on every make and every miss to try to beat the UW defense down the floor before they’re set.

North Carolina plays at the 5th fastest pace in the country and are 11th in the percentage of their field goals assisted on offense. They move the ball at a frenetic pace until someone has a sliver of daylight and then will fire up the first available shot. That strategy works when you get an offensive rebound on 35% of misses and also have a very talented group of shot makers. You can expect UNC to take a lot of “bad shots” which either go in or lead to a put back and the Huskies can’t get discouraged when that happens.

You might look at North Carolina’s raw defensive totals and think they are terrible at that end of the floor but it’s mostly due to their pace plus their brutal schedule. Utah State and North Carolina are similar teams in a lot of their statistics but obviously the Tar Heels played a top-10 schedule and Utah State played a barely top-150 schedule. One of those similarities is that they’re an elite defensive rebounding team. As one of the tallest 20 teams in the country they may give up points on a first look but you’re rarely getting a second. Noah Dickerson was able to still get offensive rebounds against Utah State but it will tougher against UNC.

There isn’t really a zone on the floor where North Carolina makes their hay on defense. They’re average to slightly above average in essentially every zone on the court per Synergy Sports. With their high level athletes they excel guarding in transition or in isolation but good offense can confuse them. North Carolina ranks in just the 2nd percentile nationally against cuts to the basket so if Washington is able to keep the ball moving then UNC will get antsy and lose focus.

The Huskies have shown that if they play a perfect game then they can win this game. It took until the final shot for Gonzaga to put the Dawgs away in Spokane in one of the few games more difficult than this one. This sounds like terrible analysis but ultimately this game will come down to making shots (shout out to Mark Titus). Washington can’t win this game unless it makes baskets that it doesn’t always make. The Huskies shot 59% from 3-pt range and 86% from the free throw line against Utah State. They’ll need to once again surpass their season averages by quite a bit to keep pace. North Carolina will take a bunch of tough shots and the Husky defense will need to make them just uncomfortable enough to make them miss. If Coby White is hitting off the bounce 28-footers then there’s nothing Washington can do.

Depending on what advanced statistic you look at the Huskies have somewhere between a 10-20% chance of winning this game. That sounds about right. If this was a best of 7 series then Washington would probably win no more than 1 game. But this isn’t a 7-game series. It’s best of 1. And anything can happen in that environment. Especially for this Washington team which seems to play better as an underdawg than as a front runner.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 74, North Carolina Tar Heels- 82

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