We had the opportunity to sit down with Tar Heel Fan to talk Boston College-North Carolina hoops. Tip is at 9 pm on the ACC Network (TV 38 in Boston). Our questions and Tar Heel Fan's answers below.
In exchange, we answered some questions on the Eagles over at Tar Heel Fan.
BC Interruption: For all this talk of a down year in the ACC, a quick glance at the standings finds two familiar teams -- Duke and Carolina -- at the top of the conference standings. Is it truly a down year in the ACC? Who do you see making this year's Dance from the conference?
Tar Heel Fan: The ACC has not performed well against other conferences this season. Duke is considered the best team but got pasted by an unranked St. John's team on Sunday. At present Duke does not have a single win vs the RPI Top 30. According to RealTime RPI, Boston College at 34th constitutes the Blue Devils' best win. UNC has the win over Kentucky but lost to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Texas outside the ACC. The consensus is UNC is on the rise and none of those losses are particularly troubling. Still it is tough to see the ACC as anything but mediocre, especially considering how bad Wake Forest is and some of the non-conference losses racked up by Georgia Tech, FSU and even Boston College.
That makes figuring out how many teams should get in very difficult. In 1999 the ACC only saw three teams make the field. Is this year the same or is the parity in college basketball so much so that the ACC gets 5 or 6 anyway? Possibly. Right now there are seven ACC teams with at least 14 wins overall and above.500 (Maryland is at .500) marks in conference play. Right now Duke, North Carolina and Florida State obviously head the group with Clemson, Virginia Tech, BC and Maryland battling out for probably two more spots.
BCI: UNC freshman phenom Harrison Barnes was the first ever freshman to be named to the AP preseason All-American team. Has his performance so far this season lived up to the expectations, or was the bar set unreasonably high in the preseason?
THF: Ask me this question a week ago and you probably get a different answer. However the past week has seen Barnes scores the last five points at Miami to win the game and then rip N.C. State for 25 in an all-around solid performance. The overall numbers are not what we thought they would be but we have seen the flashes and Saturday the whole package was on display. It has been said that Barnes' biggest problem was the inability to disconnect himself from thinking about the game too much rather than getting lost in it and letting his talent take over. It now looks like he is more relaxed and simply playing the game. The question is whether it will continue or not.
BCI: North Carolina sports one of the most efficient defenses in the country. What makes the Tar Heels defense so good? What is the key to scoring on the Heels' D?
THF: UNC gets good pressure on the guards and also sports a long/tall interior presence. John Henson's freakish length creates a ton of problems for teams on the interior. Likewise the defensive rebounding tends to limit the opportunities for other teams as does the general lack of fouling on UNC's part. Still, plenty of teams have had success hitting outside shots vs. UNC even if the overall stats are not that impressive. One key to beating UNC is good floor spacing and ball movement. UNC prefers to help on screens and drives which means rotations need to happen to cover. If a team can effectively move the ball, at some point the help is late or a rotation gets missed creating an open look. Since John Henson is the PF, going small and pulling him away from the hoop will also open up the interior.
BCI: These two teams are coming into this game from various different directions. The Heels are coming off a 20-point drubbing of your in-state rivals, while BC was exposed a bit down in Durham. Are you at all worried about facing an extra motivated Eagles' squad?
THF: I am more worried facing what I think is a well coached basketball team. Also, Reggie Jackson did not play well in Durham so it is a given that he will show up huge versus the Heels. UNC is 2-1 on the road in the ACC so they have shown the ability to win in hostile environments but this will be the toughest test by far.
BCI: Today's game is a 9 pm weekday tip. 9 PM ACC tipoffs -- love them or hate them? Do you think the late start gives either team an edge?
THF: I like to gripe about late starts but I don't think it matters to the players. College kids are night owls anyway right? During the 2009 season when UNC was the favorite to win the title, there were an insane number of 9 PM games because the Heels were a good TV draw. They have had fewer of those lately which is nice. From the perspective of a fan who is a father the late starts are great since the kids are in bed. From the perspective of a blogger it sucks because you have to write a post at midnight. For the players and coaches I think it matters very little.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one? What's the final score?
THF: Tough call. I am not sure UNC has another tough road win in them right now though scoring one here would be huge. I will go with the Heels 68-66.
BCI: Thanks for joining us.