Fast and Furious (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 20, 2007 9:07AM; Updated: Tuesday February 20, 2007 9:07AM
Carolina's most common secondary-break sequence is one that any frequent basketball watcher will recognize. It requires the point guard (usually freshman Ty Lawson) to dribble to one wing out of transition, then reverse the ball to a post player at the top of the key (sophomore Tyler Hansbrough or freshman Brandan Wright), who fires a pass to a guard on the other wing and, using a back screen from a teammate, cuts to the block for a pass. At every step the Tar Heels try to look inside and feed the other post player, who has raced as fast as possible to the front of the rim. The object is to create a high-percentage inside shot or, failing that, to draw defenders into the lane, opening up the perimeter for three-pointers.
These days Williams has cranked up Carolina's attack to the point that the Tar Heels almost never call set plays in a half-court offense anymore. "They play out of transition into their secondary break 90 percent of the time, and their early offense is as good as there is because they've got big guys like Hansbrough who can run like track stars," said Miami coach Frank Haith after the Heels drubbed his Hurricanes 105-64 on Jan. 31 in Chapel Hill. "You'd think it would be easy to defend, because you just have to get back and find your man, but it's easier said than done. Their speed puts so much pressure on you, particularly if you're trying to [get the] offensive rebound." In fact, some coaches are so wary of Carolina's explosiveness that they'll send only two players to the offensive glass. Another benefit: Because the Tar Heels inbound the ball so quickly after a basket, Williams says it's almost impossible for foes to set up a press.
Williams's staff is fanatical about conditioning -- every player broke six minutes in the team's annual preseason mile run, with point guards Bobby Frasor and Quentin Thomas finishing in under five minutes -- and all that running has a cumulative effect in games. "It wears on an opponent," Hansbrough says. "In the first half they may be fine, but in the second half they get winded and worn down. Those are the times when we make a run."
An alternate handle for the Carolina break could just as well be Ty Goes to the Runners. From the moment Lawson catches the outlet pass, it's his job to push the ball with the same complete commitment as that of his four teammates already sprinting toward the basket. "Ty has a gear that very few point guards have," Williams says, "and an ability to burst between two defenders until it's wide open in front of him." More than halfway through Lawson's freshman season, Williams says he's made great strides but is still running at only 60% of his maximum capability. "I'll think I'm playing fast, and then Coach tells me I need to go faster," Lawson says, smiling. "I don't think he'll ever be satisfied unless every time down the court we hit layups."
Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl covers college basketball for the magazine and SI.com.
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