Tuesday, December 5

Speaking of teams being overrated, why do they even have college basketball rankings this early in the season? Either teams should be ranked based on how good voters think they'll end up being, or they should be ranked based on how the field looks right now. Either keep the rankings schedules as they are now, and just rank teams based on the current season's performance to date, or start ranking teams after non-conference play, so everyone has a much clearer picture of how things are shaping up.


Cason said...

Great post from Tarheelblue.com on why teams seem to shoot the 3 so well against us.
I know the Tar Heels have a very fast and high scoring offense this year, but on defense, why are they having so much trouble defending the three-point shot? It seems that opponents shoot, lights out, when they face the Heels.
Heath Long
Whiteville, NC
Here's the deal: Dean Smith and Roy Williams both believe in the power of high-percentage baskets. That's been a successful strategy for, oh, about 45 years now. If a 6-foot-10 player wants to stand around the perimeter and pretend to be a guard, there are other schools where he can do that. At Carolina, the focus will always be on getting the ball to the big man in the post, where they can rack up points, earn individual and team honors, and then take their game to the NBA and make millions of dollars. It's a formula everyone seems happy with...except Tar Heel fans. One of the textbook examples of the formula at work happened against Winthrop this season. The Eagles shot 8-of-15 from the 3-point line in the first half against Carolina and built a 38-30 lead. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, simply plugged along, shooting 50 percent in the first half and 53.3% in the second half. Winthrop suddenly discovered that outside shots are more difficult to make than layups, and fell to 6-of-23 from the perimeter in the second half. Carolina won the game 73-66.

Made three-pointers do not translate to wins. The current national top five in 3-pointers made are as follows: VMI, Nicholls State, Bradley, Wofford, and Ohio State. Those teams have a combined record of 19-25. The only reason it's even that high is because of the Buckeyes, who currently stand at 7-1...but will have to dramatically change their style of play with the return of center Greg Oden, who you might have heard a little something about when the Tar Heels faced OSU last week. The top two teams in that statistic, VMI and Nicholls State, are a combined 3-16. The all-time leader in 3-pointers attempted by a Carolina team was the 2002-03 squad that hoisted 822 3-point attempts (and it's not all because of Sean May's injury--even before May's foot injury, those Tar Heels were averaging 20 three-point attempts per game, including 30 against Vermont). That team also happens to be one of the most underachieving Tar Heel teams in recent memory.

The statement, "Past great UNC teams have often lost big games to being outgunned outside" is almost self-explanatory--in many cases, that's the only way those Carolina teams could be beaten. Eighty percent of Tar Heel opponents try the same thing and fail. It's just that, as fans, we're conditioned to remembering the games that turn out poorly for Carolina. Everybody remembers Randolph Childress making 9-of-17 three-pointers in the 1995 ACC Tournament final. No one remembers that he shot 1-of-10 from the three-point stripe a few weeks earlier in a Tar Heel victory.

That also leads to the question about defending the 3-point line. After finishing fourth in the conference in 3-point percentage defense last year (33.1%), the Tar Heels currently stand dead last in the league in that statistic (39.3%). The root of the problem can be traced to basic, on-the-ball man-to-man defense. Carolina players are allowing too much dribble penetration so far this year. That's often leading to drive-and-dish opportunities for open three-pointers as the Tar Heel defense collapses to help against the dribbler.

Ryan said...

good comment

yay blog!

John said...

I agree; excellent comment.

I also agree that we do need better man-to-man defense to avoid opponents getting open looks, but I've also always believed that no team can control how well its opponent shoots from beyond the arc in any given game. Sure, tough defense will prevent more open looks than lazy defense will, but if a team gets hot from three-point land, there's just not much you can do about it. This is why I always try to give credit where credit is due when UNC gets outscored due mainly to three-pointers instead of other things.

I looked on kenpom.com for recent three-point field goal rankings for the last three years. Just 28 teams both ranked in the top 50 each season and made the NCAA tournament. Of these 28, 11 made it to the Sweet Sixteen, seven made it to the Elite Eight, and two made it to the Final Four (incidentally, both Final Four teams were in 2005 - Louisville and Illinois). So just twice in the last three years has a team ranked in the top 50 in three-point shooting made it all the way to the Final Four - proving that even though your team's shooters might get hot a lot to win games, you need balanced scoring to win even more (and to go far in the NCAA Tournament).

Ryan said...

good comment as well, but that might be a held over effect from the old adage about guards versus big men. Guards can get you into the Sweet 16, but it takes quality front court play to win a national championship.

also, i'd like to take this oppourtunity to point out that i predicted winthrop guard hotty mcshooter's 1-8 second half against UNC and i've always had faith that the 3 pointers will even out. but one question, why can't teams go the other way? shoot poorly to allow a UNC lead and then heat up when its too little to late? do we just not notice when this happens? or are they already hoisting 3's at that point so its non-noticible?

John said...

It's probably just our bias coming through. We sure as hell notice when other teams take a late lead by virtue of three-pointers, but we tend to focus on our offense if they're making a charge but ultimately coming up short. That's how I see it, anyway.

Cason said...

Ryan, if you remember the 2005 final, Illinois heated up from the 3 pt line in the second half and then cooled off in the last 2 minutes. They warmed up just in time to make it interesting and then started missing shots and throwing passes Felton could steal.
That being said, I haven't seen us drive and kick very often. It seems like our slashers (Reyshawn, Danny, Wayne) have been afraid to take the ball in from the 3 point line. Maybe it's because we have another big and that takes up more space in the middle? Maybe it's that we don't need to slash as much to take all the defense's attention away from Psycho now that Brandan and Deon are there? It seems like slashing more would give us more opportunities to get the ball for an open look for a high percentage shot.