Tonight UNC begins its march to the Final Four at 9:40 pm against Eastern Kentucky. This year’s team is so unpredictable, I’m not quite sure I won’t be blogging the first 1-16 upset in history. But here are a few things that the Tar Heels can do for the next few weeks to ease my worries and possibly bring a 6th National Title.
- Maintain focus. The biggest issue for the Tar Heels is that their focus has been lax at junctures of the game that allow opponents to stay in the game. I have seen numerous times that UNC has the ability to put an opponent away in very little time. The most striking example was in Tuscon, when the Tar heels went from down one with 9 minutes to go in the first half to up 18 at halftime. UNC ultimately beat Arizona by 28, and Brandan Wright and Marcus Ginyard, two of our best players, were out of the game. This proves one of two things: either that UNC has the quick strike ability but allows their collective mind to wander off before they finish the job, or UNC works more efficiently with a smaller rotation. Which brings me to my next point:
- Don’t listen to the critics, Roy. Have at least 10 guys get significant minutes. We have perhaps the deepest team in the tournament field. If we’re going to survive the likes of Texas and Georgetown before heading to the Final Four, we’ll need to get at least 8-10 minutes out of 10 players. Doing this conserves our energy and saps our opponents’. If we can dictate the pace of the game, only the very elite opposition can keep up.
- Put in Quentin Thomas instead of Bobby Frasor. I have made no secret that I think Quentin Thomas is a better point guard right now for our style of play than Bobby Frasor, at least this year. Frasor has missed a lot of time with a foot injury, and he seems to be a step slower than his freshman year. The minutes that Ty Lawson is on the bench will be valuable, and point guard such as Marquette’s Dominic James, Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel and Texas’ D.J. Augustin would tear Frasor apart. If Wes Miller guards them, maybe it can work, but that creates a new set of problems. Yes, Q can get out of control sometimes, but he’s better suited to keep teams like Texas on their heels.
- Hope that we face USC in the Sweet 16. Because I have no idea how we’re supposed to stop Kevin Durant.
- Feed the paint. Brandan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough remain the two best players on this team, and therefore they need to get the ball as much as possible. Wright was a scoring machine in the ACC Tournament, and did very good job of picking up Hansbrough’s offensive slack. Still, I would like to see him rebound better. As for Hansbrough, he’ll need to regain his pre-Gerald Henderson form. Rebounding is also key to giving the Heels more opportunities and taking opportunities away from the opposition.
- Wayne Ellington. For most of the season, Ellington seemed to be the big weakness in our starting lineup. In the ACC Tournament he shined not only as a shooter but as a defender. For UNC to get to the Final Four they’ll need that kind of play out of him.
At least four of these six things need to happen for the Tar Heels to make it to Atlanta. There’s very little room for error in the East bracket.