Good afternoon, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fans.
Hope you are enjoying the last couple of days of NCAA men’s basketball. The season comes to a close on Monday night when North Carolina takes on Gonzaga (@TalkinACCSports is right that we should be doubting Roy Williams).
The big part of success in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, to be sure, is absolutely about matchups – the players on your team can create matchup nightmares for other teams. That’s why teams like North Carolina are so good because they have some of the best players in college basketball – they always a collection of four and five start talent (e.g. McDonald’s All-Americans). That said, your basketball schedule during the year also prepares you for the tough sledding ahead in the NCAA tournament.
The ACC, to be fair, took some heat this year for a couple of the early exits in the NCAA tournament (and some of that heat was well-deserved), but is the only conference that had a both a team in the NIT and NCAA Final Fours.
Every ACC team in the NCAA tournament had flaws (there’s no doubt about that) – and the teams they lost to exposed those flaws in the tournament (this was a good point made by @TalkinACCSports on our last podcast with @Blacketologist).
However, it’s also true to say that ACC teams prepared and battle-tested North Carolina for this final game – a big moment for Roy Williams who has taken a lot of heat. Let’s talk about the different styles that North Carolina faced during the year, including the:
- Tough matchup zone played by Syracuse (the Orange zone defense is one of the most difficult to play on in college basketball);
- Well-coached Miami Hurricanes, who knew North Carolina makes a living on the boards – and kept the Tar Heels from cashing in on their modus operandi (kept the Tar Heels out of the lane and forced many bad outside shots);
- Aggressive pack-line defense from the University of Virginia;
- Trees from Florida State (and yes, I’m talking about a lineup that was basically no shorter than 6’6″ with some NBA talent);
- Post defense from Louisville;
- Offensive efficiency of Notre Dame;
- Defensive efficiency of Georgia Tech (yes, the Yellow Jackets);
- McDonald’s All-Americans at Duke;
- Driving guards of Virginia Tech (while the Hokies weren’t big in size on the court, the guards challenged the Tar Heels to aggressive on-the-ball defense); and
- Up-and-coming Demon Deacons, who have turned a corner with Danny Manning at the helm.
Even Clemson and Pittsburgh gave the Tar Heels everything they could handle.
Here are the coaches that North Carolina had to came plan against: Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Tony Bennett (Virginia), Leonard Hamilton (Florida State), Rick Pitino (Louisville), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Josh Pastner (Georgia Tech), Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech), Danny Manning (Wake Forest), and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke).
You already know this, but playing on the road is tough in the ACC – it is HARD to win on the road in the ACC. You also have play against hall-of-fame coaches – and some of the best young coaches in the country.
But North Carolina found ways to win on the road in ACC play (they won the ACC regular season) – and against a variety of the styles mentioned above. And this is part of the reason why North Carolina is doing so well in the NCAA tournament. North Carolina is used to playing against teams who have outstanding coaches – and teams that play many different styles of basketball.
In short, matchups are important in the NCAA tournament, but the ACC conference play did indeed prepare North Carolina for this NCAA tournament run.