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Scouting North Carolina

With high-scoring Heels, limiting easy buckets is key

Posted: Wednesday March 21, 2007 1:54PM; Updated: Wednesday March 21, 2007 3:06PM
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Scouting The No. 1 Seeds
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Tyler Hansbrough likes to get tight to the basket and beats you with his easy shots.
Tyler Hansbrough likes to get tight to the basket and beats you with his easy shots.
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SI.com checked in with an assistant coach from a former North Carolina opponent to get an anonymous scouting report on the East Region's top seed.

"North Carolina just runs like crazy, and it's relentless about it because the Heels are so deep. They're going to push the game into the 80s and 90s; the first way you have to limit some of that scoring is by getting back on defense and keeping [Tyler] Hansbrough from getting as tight to the basket as he wants to get. Both he and Brandan Wright love to run full speed right down the middle, and they look to get the ball right next to the rim.

"The key is to meet them before they get the position they want, preferably higher up in the lane. You can identify the prime scoring spots for those two guys, and you have to do whatever you can to keep them from getting there. The quicker you start meeting them, the more easy baskets you eliminate.

"You might want to play off of Wright and not bother playing him up top, because he's not going to take many shots outside the lane. You're not going to have both guys down low at the same time, so just say, we'll never go past the foul line guarding Wright, and that leaves you one more defender backed off to try to clog the lane against Hansbrough. Some people prefer to pressure the post passers, and some play off. I'd prefer to sag.

"People talk about the Tar Heels' secondary break a lot, but there are probably 60 teams that run versions of the break that Carolina does. Whether it's up-screening or down-screening, it's not like it's anything dramatic. It's more the guys running the break that make it work; Roy Williams has really good players moving the ball. It's designed to have solid, intelligent movement that keeps defenders busy, creates spacing and doesn't make it easy for anyone to get double-teamed.

"What it often does, more than anything, is give good shooters wide-open looks. When you have a guy like [Tywon] Lawson who can push the ball and get to the rim a lot, and when you have to keep up with two big men, you're running back so hard that guys on the wing -- especially [Wayne] Ellington and [Reyshawn] Terry -- can catch-and-shoot a lot. If that doesn't work, then they just go into their motion offense. First they look for numbers, then their initial break spots, then the secondary break, then they follow it with motion.

"To contain Lawson, you have to try to sprint back. The defender who's guarding the trailer -- the other big guy -- has to get ahead of the play and see if he can sort of pinch Lawson a little bit. If Lawson is pushing up the right side, for instance, the chances are the trailer guy is going up the left or center. If you're guarding the trailer guy, you want to be ahead of Lawson and supporting the guy guarding the ball. That second defender can help build a wall to slow Lawson down."