UNC vs. Kansas: Tar Heels' Blueprint to Beat Jayhawks in Round of 32 Battle
The most highly-touted matchup of the 2013 NCAA tournament is finally set. The North Carolina Tar Heels will square off with the Kansas Jayhawks on Sunday at 5:15 p.m. EST.
What makes this game so intriguing is not just the fact that Roy Williams will be facing his former team, it's also being played in Kansas City, Mo. And Jayhawk Nation is still grumbling about Williams' departure for his alma mater.
There is no doubt these Tar Heels will want to win this one for the coach. But if the way they played last night for Roy's 700th win is any indication, we'll be in for a long 40 minutes.
After going up by 19 with five minutes to play in the first half, the Tar Heels fell back into their worst habits in an epic fashion. That is much of what we will be discussing with these five keys to the game.
After that performance, I really could have made about 20 keys. Or I could have just kept it simple with "don't play like you did on Friday."
But that wouldn't have been much of an article, so we're back to focusing on the five.
Get on the Boards
I'm actually quite astonished I was able to find a photo of someone rebounding last night. The Tar Heels were out-rebounded 23-35.
Carolina's rebounding has plummeted since switching to the small lineup for obvious reasons. The starters are smaller and the floor is spread on the offensive end.
But the team still managed 36.3 rebounds per game with the lineup. Last night was only the second time this group hasn't pulled down at least 30 boards.
The other time was in the ACC title game against Miami. The Tar Heels only mustered 26 of them that afternoon, which means they are averaging 24.5 rebounds over the last two games.
Size is only part of the issue, though. A lack of effort seems to be the biggest problem for this squad. They act like they don't want to box out or leave the ground for a rebound.
Instead, everyone is running up the floor as if there is a Tyler Zeller or John Henson there to pull one in. In all the adjustments Roy has made this season, did he just forget this one?
Someone needs to stay back to rebound—and actually leave their feet to get it.
The Jayhawks are averaging 39 rebounds per game, which is good for 14th in the nation. They are led by the 7'0" Jeff Withey, who is pulling in 8.3 per game. He'll be matched up with the 6'9" James Michael McAdoo.
Considering he is only pulling down 4.1 boards over his last seven games, this is only the beginning of the matchup nightmare that will take place at the 5.
Improve That Shot Selection
More than anything else, shot selection has put Carolina in a hole all season long. Last night was a perfect display of everything it does wrong in the half court.
When the Tar Heels built that 19-point lead, they were moving the ball around and getting the defense out of position. They made the Wildcats pay by taking it inside or knocking down wide-open threes.
Then the team became overconfident, which led to complacency.
The players quit rotating the ball and just started jacking up completely unnecessary shots. The result was zero field goals over the last 5:18 of the first half.
And even after regrouping at halftime, the Tar Heels came out and did the same for the next 20 minutes. Fortunately, Villanova proved to be the inferior team, and it was unable to capitalize on the Tar Heels' poor half-court offense.
After the game I thought, "Roy had to have reamed them at halftime for the shots they took. Why did they continue to take bad ones in the second?"
Then it hit me.
This may be another result of Williams being used to his team shining glass. Everyone has always said, "missed shots is Carolina's best offense."
But that was when he had teams that led the nation in rebounding.
I've come to the conclusion that perhaps Roy is so used to missed shots being turned into points, he still isn't harping on shot selection. Instead, he is simply focused on them playing with a "sense of urgency."
Perhaps those word have been sending the wrong message.
Win the Turnover Battle
Prior to last night's debacle, the most turnovers this Tar Heel lineup gave up was 13—and that was at Duke. Over the next 10 games, they only reached double figures four times.
Last night, they gave away 17.
The worst part is there was no central player to blame. P.J. Hairston was the only starter with less than three. He only had one turnover on the night.
Marcus Paige, Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock all had three, while James Michael McAdoo led the team with five.
The Tar Heels have played some disappointing games this season, but between rebounding, shot selection and turnovers, this one has to take the cake. It was just awful.
The Jayhawks didn't fare well either last night. They also gave up 17 turnovers to Western Kentucky in an unexpected nail-biter.
But Kansas has an issue with turnovers on a regular basis. It is giving up 13.8, while only forcing 12.7 per game.
Height-wise it's a mismatch for Strickland and Paige to have to go up against Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. But those two Jayhawks are combining to hand out 5.2 turnovers per game to the opposing team.
Carolina will have the advantage here—if it goes back to taking care of the ball the way it did in the previous 11 games.
The Tar Heels were forcing 16.2 and only giving up 10.4 turnovers per game. The defense will get its turnovers. But can the offense keep them down?
Roy Williams Must Use His Timeouts
For the love of everything Holy, Coach, please use those timeouts they so generously give you.
I didn't count them during the game, so the best I can do is assume ESPN's play-by-play is correct. But I did notice Roy didn't call a single timeout during 'Nova's 14-3 run to end the first half.
The play-by-play confirmed that, as there was just one official TV timeout during that stretch.
Anyone watching the game last night could plainly see the Tar Heels were playing horrible basketball after jumping up by 19, and it continued through the final 25 minutes. It was a lack of effort, lack of emotion and poor judgement.
Those things are usually indicators the team needs a timeout. Would you like to know how many timeouts Roy called through the entire game?
Drum roll, please.
Two. Just two timeouts were used during the 40 minutes of action, and both were in the second half.
I understand Roy's theory of letting the players play through their struggles. I really do. But that is with the usual experienced team.
This team does not fall under that category. The starting lineup consists of one senior, one junior, two sophomores and one freshman. Only Strickland and Bullock were starters prior to this season.
They just don't get it yet.
They don't understand that the game isn't over when the lead reaches double digits. They don't realize that they can make comebacks without relying on the three-ball.
They just don't get it yet, Coach. Call a timeout.
Find a Way to Make Withey a Non-Factor
The Kansas Jayhawks are loaded with talent, but there is one player that concerns me the most. That player is the 7'0", 235-pound block machine named Jeff Withey.
Withey finished third in the nation with 3.8 blocks per game. Last night he had seven against the Hilltoppers.
McAdoo has been struggling to rebound anyway, so he may as well be used as a dummy to keep Withey out of the paint.
They should give it to McAdoo in the high post, forcing Withey to play up. Then McAdoo needs to hit a cutter with a nice bounce pass, and it's an easy score.
But if any of these guys plan on playing Withey straight up, he is going to make them look like garbage. If he finds his way into the paint, the Tar Heels need to rely on pull-up jumpers and floaters, or force him into foul trouble by initiating contact.
Withey's defense isn't the only thing the Tar Heels should be concerned with, though. He has a well-developed post game, and Joel James is the only player Roy can throw at him that is even close to his size.
Withey averages 13.7 points per game on 58.4 percent shooting. And if he gets to the line, he isn't the usual seven-foot oaf. He is knocking those down at a 70.7 percent clip.
As I said before, it's a matchup nightmare at the 5. Roy is really going to have to put his brain to work on this one.
Now the question is: Which team got its stinker out of the way?
That will be what decides this game. Aside from the 5, the Tar Heels match up very well with the Jayhawks. But if they continue doing the opposite of these keys, they will be the ones heading home early.