Kuiper’s 3-Pointer: Syracuse-UNC

College coaching consultant Denny Kuiper breaks down Syracuse’s 57-45 win over North Carolina.

This game was about what I expected.  It appeared North Carolina was a little overwhelmed, especially on the offensive end when attacking Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. It also seemed to me the Tar Heels were playing like a team that is reeling from recent games. They did not seem to be very aggressive or confident.

The stats in this game did not lie.  The Heels are not a good shooting team, and that showed tonight, with them making 2-of-12 from three point line and 3-of-9 from the free throw line. 

Let’s go to the three pointers to take a closer look at this game.

UNC’s Shooting Woes

How did UNC get itself in this situation where it doesn’t have good shooters? Of course, losing P.J. Hairston is the primary reason, since he would have been the best shooter on the team, but I think there is more to the Tar Heels’ perimeter woes than just that.  I think Roy Williams got caught a little bit off guard because he has not recruited enough shooters in the past few years.

Marcus Paige is a good shooter, and Leslie McDonald has been in the past, but beyond that there are literally no other outside scoring threats. Nate Britt was a highly recruited point guard but he is a poor shooter. To sum it up, the Heels seem to have too many big guys and too few little guys, especially ones that can shoot.

Why No Timeout By Williams?

Why didn’t Roy Williams use a timeout during Syracuse’s big run in the first half?  I think I know the answer; he likes to save them for late game situations.  Also, he may have been thinking, “What can I say?” and “They have to learn to deal with tough times.” The Orange was down 15-11 at the 12 minute mark of the first half, and then went on a 21-3 run the next 11 minutes before UNC scored on a McDonald jumper. During this stretch Williams did not call a time-out.

While I understand the saving of the timeouts for late in the game, in this situation I think it was a mistake.  Syracuse is a very difficult team to come back against.  Also, the Heels’ confidence level is not at a particularly high level right now. To expect them to play through tough times was probably wishful thinking.

There were media timeouts during this stretch so again Williams was probably thinking “What more could I say to my players in an additional timeout?”.  To Williams’ credit that is how he uses his timeouts, so he was at least consistent in his philosophy.

How Good Is Syracuse?

Obviously, very good.  Thee Orange is now 16-0.  However, I don’t think this squad is as good as several of Jim Boeheim’s previous teams. They have one thing going for them that other teams do not; a zone defense that few teams can attack successfully. 

Almost every team in the ACC has never played against that particular zone before.  It is not only difficult to attack, it plays mentally with opponent’s minds and confidence. While opposing teams and coaches do not like to admit it, when they play Syracuse they wonder how their team is going to score against that zone. The Heels started well making a couple of two-point jumpers and also scoring on the break, but after that, they struggled.

Syracuse has a nice compliment of players, led by C.J. Fair; a talented all-around player. I really like point guard Tyler Ennis.  He has a lot of poise for a freshman. Jerami Grant is handful in the lane scoring and rebounding. A key to their team may be how well Trevor Cooney shoots the ball. Saturday he was off, going 4-of-17 from the floor, including just 2-of-12 from three point land.  If he shoots it well, Syracuse will be very hard to beat.

And One:

Let’s be honest; you can beat the Syracuse zone and get the ball inside exactly where you want to only to have your layup blocked by the long and athletic Orange big men.  They had nine blocks today, erasing what look like easy inside shots for the Tar Heels.