Kuiper’s 3-Pointer: UVa-UNC

College coaching consultant Denny Kuiper breaks down Virginia’s 76-61 win over UNC.

I don’t think anybody in the ACC wants to pay Virginia right now. The Cavaliers are playing at a very high level. It is going to take a very good team to beat them, and at the present time, North Carolina is not that team. The Tar Heels did not appear to have enough talent, grit and experience to go toe-to-toe with the Cavaliers.

I really enjoy watching the Cavs play basketball. They play the game the “right way”. They share the basketball and sacrifice themselves on defense helping their teammates and put winning above all else.

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

UNC Appeared To Play Harder … But

The Tar Heels played with a little more intensity, determination and toughness than in the past several past games. But it was not near enough. Worse yet, their effort in those areas was not as good as Virginia’s.

When you try to improve the areas of energy, engagement and hustle – as I think the Tar Heels are trying to do – it is to be commended. But it is not done overnight. Habits need to be formed before players and teams do something on a steady basis.

UNC does not have enough talent to beat the good teams in the ACC.  If the Tar Heels want to do that, they are going to have to develop their will-to-win habits. 

Tony Bennett’s Coaching This Year

In sports things are never as good as you think they are and never as bad as you think they are. Having said that I think Bennett is doing an awesome job coaching Virginia this season. I realize the Cavaliers are not rated in the top 25 in the country, but believe me, they are playing like a top 10 team.

What I especially like about what Bennett is doing with his team is the adjustments he has made in adapting his style of play to his personnel. The Cavs are playing much more up-tempo and often shooting early in the shot clock, unlike previous years. They have more talent and Bennett is allowing them more offensive freedom.

While Bennett is opening up more on offense, he still is demanding his team plays unselfishly.  When Justin Anderson took a couple of bad shots and seemed a little too eager to find his own shot, out of the game he came.  Also, I see no let-up in the Cavs stingy defense.

Bright Spots In UNC’s Future

The Tar Heels have some good things going for them. They are a very good rebounding team – they had 18 offensive rebounds last night. They are also all difficult to stop inside, with several players capable of scoring in the low post, including freshman Kennedy Meeks. 

Meeks was very good last night, scoring 15 points and getting 9 rebounds. I had the opportunity to watch Meeks in high school and have always liked the way he plays. While he needs to get in better condition – which he has done a good job of improving –  he has demonstrated his offensive skills the past few games.

Meeks has not just good hands and passing skills for a big man; he has excellent hands and passing skills, period. When he gets his hands on a ball he keeps it and makes very good decisions whether to pass or shoot. What he lacks in athleticism, he more than makes it up for it with the other skills. I think his future is very bright.

The Heels would be well served to get the ball inside to their big men. I realize that is not always easy to do but if they do that they will get inside baskets and go to the free throw line.  Of course, you also have to make free throws, which the Heels do not do very well. 

North Carolina’s two guards, Leslie McDonald and Marcus Paige took the most shots on the team in this game, both taking 13, and each making only four. Several of the shots were not easy, which means they should be looking inside to the big men.

And One

The one strategy that did not work for Virginia was doubling the low post with the opposite big man. The Cavaliers did it three times, all resulting in layups for UNC. The double team was good but the rotation to the weak-side by the Cavs was very poor.

I have seen Virginia use the double team effectively in the past games, but not last night.  I am sure that is something Bennett will be working on in the next practice.