vs. North Carolina 1/10/2023

Me: “Small Ball is being over-utilized and we need to scale back except in the right matchups.”

CTB: “Note taken. Let’s try even SMALLER!”

Me: “No! Wait! I didn’t mean… huh, would you look at that?”

I celebrate any win over UNC feverishly, especially record setting 8th wins in a row at Charlottesville. And with both Pete Nance unavailable and Armondo Bacot injured one minute into the game, we got there on the back of one of the strangest and most unique lineups we’ve trotted out all season – “Smaller Ball!” Featuring: BVP at the 5, surrounded by four guards, Franklin, IMK, Beekman, and Clark. It’s not the first time we’ve attempted something similar to this; running the same four guards plus Shedrick to erase a 5-point deficit at the end of the Pitt game, only to eventually give the lead back.

So, the focus of this one is going to be discussing what caused us to try this out to begin with and, shockingly, why it was so effective. Finally, I’ll chat about what, if anything this means for our options/needs moving forward. But first, I’m going to chat about a couple of things I liked thematically that will be on display many of the examples later, so keep an eye out!

Like: Beekman Is (Mostly) Back!

The guy we watched start the season, plaguing passing lanes, getting into the lane, finishing with confidence around the rim, dunking in traffic… he was back! We’ve started to see it slowly progressing for a while now. First, the outside shot started to get its legs and come back, then the ability to get into the lane to set up the pass started to return. In the Syracuse game, we saw some flashes but against the zone it was hard to say for sure. Just a few minutes into this one, there was no doubt. He started off the game hounding and jumping passing lanes again, which, it’s remarkable how much I forgot about this part of his game prior:

But it’s the quick twitch of reacting to and breaking to the ball AND the explosion/ability to finish around the rim the other way. Prior to this game, we had seen him get a few breaks off of outlets or pick-pocket steals and he had struggled to convert. Here’s one more where he doesn’t just elevate over the defender and hang, he has the pop to rip through, take a few contested steps, and get to the other side of the rim for the finish.

He said in the post-game that he wasn’t ALL the way back, but that he was close and he’s feeling a lot better and continuing to work on it. If this isn’t ALL the way back, look out, but I actually agree that it’s not QUITE where it was pre-injury. It’s very close, though, and that’s still incredibly good. This showed up most in the Smaller Ball lineup later on, which thrived because, since everyone on the floor was a threat to shoot, the spacing under the hoop was wide open. Even a couple of games ago, Reece wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of that in the same way but on Tuesday, he made a living exploiting this open space, primarily working a three-man game with Armaan and BVP. As you’re watching those clips, think about how impossible a lot of that would have been not long ago.

Like: Franklin’s Physicality

Franklin did not shoot the ball well in this game. He was 0-5 from outside, and missed a good number of mid-range shots as well, going 4-13 from the field in total. But, at 6’4″, and primarily guarding 6’8″ Leaky Black (and often being guarded by him, sometimes they put Black on Beekman against Smaller Ball), Franklin’s ability to play well-above his size was the most crucial aspect to our ability to sustain that lineup. UNC was already prone to playing small recently, having more success with Black at the 4 than running both Bacot and Nance, but with both out of the game, they primarily rotated between the 6’10” Freshman Jalen Washington and former UVA player Justin McKoy at the 5, with Black staying in the PF position. Last year, matched up at the SF, Franklin struggled to find his shot and get his offense going against the much taller Black and while he did an admirable job on the boards, it was a heavy lift to maintain balance. This year, Armaan seemed to play much more above the rim and with a level of physicality he did not bring last year. The result was us being able to use him as the de facto PF in this one, and he grabbed a career high 9 rebounds really without giving up much on the defensive end. Early on, you could see this ability to play above the rim and with physicality in full force as he got his shot blocking on, even prior to going to Smaller Ball:

That was a Kadin Shedrick style block out of bounds from a 6’4″ ideal SG, typical SF, eventual PF. Here was another great example not much later of moving his feet, staying with his man, and just getting hands on the shot:

Unlike Beekman, Franklin has been operating as a screener within the Triangle offense for a couple of games now, and both basically used this physicality to dominate around the rim whenever Black wasn’t on them. Even more impressively, though, occasionally Franklin was even able to play like this through the 4 inch taller Black. More to come – but his +16 plus/minus led the team and was 9 points ahead of the final total over 36 full minutes of play. Meaning, the team was outscored by 9 points for the 4 minutes that he sat. Gives a sense at just how huge he played and was in this one.

Dislike: A Lonely Dunn Minute

Dunn was on the floor all of one minute in this game and finished -5 plus/minus. Ostensibly he sat because of this mistake:

He was pulled right after this and didn’t return. And he did overhelp and recover too late to the corner, but he also got a bit unlucky because that was Leaky Black who is shooting only 31% from out there on the year and finished the game 1-5 from three. That was his only make. Otherwise, Dunn got a rebound, competed for another, and wasn’t very involved with the offense. His lack of reliable outside shooting would have limited his ability to contribute to Smaller Ball, anyway, but before we got to that point and, moving forward, you still have to hope that he can get a little more run, especially with how big he came up in the Miami game just recently. His playing time is trending in the other direction, and this was not the game to correct it, nor is it likely a game that will afford him more opportunity in the near future given how well all of his direct competition for the time played.

How We Got There

So, we didn’t obviously start out playing Smaller Ball, we got there out of necessity. After Bacot got hurt and prior, we were running standard lineups but, despite conventional wisdom indicating that we should feast inside, the points weren’t coming. We returned to our Triangle, screen-action motion offense for the majority of the game that didn’t really change. It was the most I’ve seen us commit to it and the least Sides that I can remember seeing. At the very beginning of the game, we made a concerted effort to get the ball to Jayden Gardner in the post against Leaky Black and work off of it.

Here’s one of the first looks in the game, shortly after feeding Jayden had created Armaan an open mid-range jumper that he missed and after Jayden missed a fadeaway to the baseline. A couple of things about this clip below. Firstly, they run a variation of the offense with a two-man game with Beekman and Shedrick. Shedrick has the much smaller McKoy on him and they get him the ball with that entire side of the court cleared out. Shedrick needs to be able to make an aggressive offensive move here if our offense isn’t going to bog down moving forward. Rip through and take two long strides into the lane either baseline or through the paint and go up with it would be my preference. It would be very hard for a player like McKoy do defend without fouling. Instead, he holds the ball, doesn’t look interested in attacking, and passes it back out. If the offense is designed to create this look for him and let him exploit a potential mismatch, he needs to be willing to try it (how else is he going to have the confidence moving forward and we’ll need him for sure). So, keep that aspect in mind. Either way, the ball then circles around to Gardner who doesn’t have nearly as much space but makes a quick and strong move into the middle of the lane and hits the baby hook, exploiting the mismatch with the longer but weaker Black.

Here’s another play shortly thereafter, no one else has scored yet. Clark gets an advantage in a two-man game with Shedrick again, but doesn’t throw it up at the rim for him. He might not have had the angle or felt confident enough with the play. They work the ball back around and watch how intentional Clark is about getting the ball to Gardner in the post again. He passes him the ball, takes the return pass to draw away the double team, passes it BACK into the post, and lets Gardner go to work and draw the foul.

This is some intentional stuff. We clearly had a game plan to isolate and attack through the post both before and, especially, after Bacot was out… and yet, at a point in the game where only he’d scored, off of two official attempts from the field and one trip to the charity stripe, this was Gardner’s last shot of the entire game! And yes, he did get his third foul early in the second half and never returned because of how the Smaller Ball lineup was playing, but there were over 11 more minutes of court time for him and he never once took another opportunity. It was a bit of whiplash because they went from featuring him so heavily and forcing him the ball to hardly looking for him. What was happening and, why did we only score 27 points in the half?

Well, on the successful side, Beekman was attacking in the open court and some in the half-court setting. Mostly, though, we were just settling for way too many contested jump shots. CTB always says, “pass up good for great” and we were certainly not doing that in the first half.

Here’s the kind of look we were settling for far too often, and it was coming from the players who really heated up in the second half but, as I’ll show, there was a big difference in how open those shots were and also in the momentum the players were playing with. Here, BVP slides into the corner off of a screen and just fires a three-pointer with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. It was a well contested shot and he didn’t have a ton of space. Really just an example of taking the very first thing that presents itself. Notably, Gardner was not involved in this offensive set at all.

Here’s another clunky possession that really never threatens. The closest thing is the two-man game that Clark and Shedrick play, but as Shedrick slips the screen and heads toward the hoop, his man just drops with him and doesn’t really focus on Clark, who Davis shades and stays in the hip pocket of. The ball runs through a few more screens with Gardner and Franklin and Beekman and Shedrick, but there’s not much pressure toward the basket and Shedrick’s man is giving him a significant buffer while sagging. Eventually, Franklin gets his pocket picked rejecting a prospective screen from Shedrick.

The thing to note above here is how UNC is playing these. The screen defenders are sagging deeply to just contain drives and to keep the screeners from rolling. The ball defenders are just fighting over the screen and recovering. Neither the post nor guard defenders are facing down much pressure.

Here’s another different but telling look in the clip below. This development is Sides and Clark takes a screen from Gardner going downhill, but look at how far both Gardner AND Shedrick’s men are sagging in the paint. Even though Clark gets past Davis, there’s nowhere for him to go inside. If you freeze at 14 seconds into the clip, you’ll see that there are three defenders near Clark, but really the only clear passing option is Shedrick at the elbow. It’s an open look and one that he needs to take with single digits left on the shot clock, but again it’s a jump shot from not one of our strongest jump shooters, and they’re packing in the paint so there’s no breathing room there. Early season Kadin may have hit this, he even hit a three, but later season Kadin hasn’t been getting these kinds of offensive looks regularly, nor has he often been taking them when they’re there. After watching this tape, I think there’s a good chance that this is going to be a shot, right around the foul-line extended, that he’s offered quite a bit in the near future, so I would definitely spend time getting the confidence up here, were I him.

Another very similar look to the one above, below. UNC is just completely packing the middle. Beekman drives and has nowhere to go, Gardner gets the ball inside the foul line but immediately has a man in his face and is flanked by defenders sagging on either side, eventually Franklin makes a nice play getting fouled going toward the basket from the side but we see the congestion.

This next clip below ends in points, and shows what was possible if we had more aggressively been forcing the issue (most of these examples are showing how they were playing us when we were probing, but we really did take a good number of early contested jumpers without probing like this). Shedrick’s man is again sagging off opposite side to help on the Franklin drive but when Clark gets underneath and keeps his dribble alive, it occupies the post player long enough to allow Shedrick to dive, present, and get the easy dunk.

This last one’s from the second half right before the shift to Small Ball entirely. UNC employs the same strategy of dropping Washington to keep him between Shedrick and the hoop. The offense works. Beekman curls and is able to feed it to Shedrick who has it deep on Washington. He needs to be able to make an offensive move and go up with this. A drop step with his left foot toward the hoop, a left handed baby hook or, my favorite, a backward pivot on the right foot toward the lane line he was going to shoot a fade-away and then an up and under toward the hoop… any of those would be hard to stop without fouling, especially in that deep. But if teams are going to play us the way UNC was in this one, he’s going to have to be aggressive down there on the offensive end.

All of this was fairly unique to how UNC was playing us, which I’m sure we’ll start to see some teams take note and attempt to replicate. The intense sagging off from the post cut down on driving lanes and we weren’t punishing it with ANY of our bigs. But, even though the middle was facing a lot of clutter, a lot of this was self-inflicted as we stopped giving the ball to Gardner on the block, and we continually took the first slightly open jump shot that we saw. I would say that some of that was a result of UNC jamming the lane, but I firmly believe we just didn’t try as aggressively as we could have and the shot selection was poor. The clip above the one above this paragraph was a great example of how the initial attempt toward the hoop stalled but a secondary opportunity opened up for a clean dunk with enough persistence. This was very similar to Armaan drawing the foul crashing down from the wing despite how cluttered the middle of the lane was. But, yes, the combination of Kadin’s offensive reluctance, Gardner not getting many looks, and BVP and Franklin, especially, launching some contested shots early in the shot clock all made for sloppy and inefficient offense despite Bacot being out of the game.

Defensively, we were fine. We conceded 29 points in both halves, with many UNC possessions ending in poor shot selection, or turnovers like the Beekman fast breaks I showed earlier or like this one below where Kadin’s hedging well across multiple screens, Gardner is showing good help side support, Beekman’s playing good on-ball defense and, here, Clark then cheats off of his man to pick a pocket!

It was Washington rising to the occasion with 11 of his 13 points in the first half, and it was primarily RJ Davis and Caleb Love in the second half, which is counter-intuitive to how you’d think it would go given our lineup selections, AND how we’d been faring inside when Shedrick was off the floor in recent games. Washington was surprising against everyone early, hitting mid-range jumpers over Kadin, collected an offensive board after a pick and roll, he had a pretty sick spin move on Caffaro on the baseline for an and-1, and capitalized when we made bad defensive rotations like this one below. RJ Davis gets trapped by Shedrick and Clark after a hard hedge. If you pause at 7 seconds into the clip, you can see Beekman and Gardner near their respective men and Franklin has sunk down to bother any potential pass to Washington. Davis makes a good vision pass all the way across the court to Franklin’s man, who he recovers to take, but Gardner doesn’t go with the pass to take Washington nearly quickly enough. Washington presents, gets the ball, and draws Jayden’s second foul in the process.

So, the fear in going to a lineup like we did in the second half is how much would we concede back under the hoop. Despite UNC being without Bacot, we were still, then, playing undersized across positions and Washington had been making the most of his opportunities.

Smaller Ball – Offense!

So, this was the big change. With Gardner already on the bench with 3 fouls and with UNC’s Washington taking a rest on the bench, at 15:12 CTB put four guards, Clark, Beekman, IMK, and Franklin around BVP, and stuck with them the rest of the way! Down 6 at the time, we ended up winning by 7 for a 13 point positive swing. Unlike when we did this against Pittsburgh with Shedrick instead of BVP, there was no rim protection, but the offense immediately started to click. The crux of this offense was that literally every player on the floor, all five with no exception, was a threat to shoot it from outside and could not be left alone. The previous offensive sets with UNC sagging on everything either stopped or were exploited. Let’s take a look:

This is the first possession with the look. Again, we’re in the Triangle offense and will be throughout this stint. Clark and IMK station themselves on the wings, occasionally fading to the corner, and BVP, Beekman and Franklin are playing a three-man game, screening for each other and moving. Here Beekman gets a screen and works his way onto the block. Contrast UNC’s cluttered paint from the previous clips to, say, the 11 second mark of this clip below where UNC is mostly a shell around the outside with Beekman operating now in the post. BVP takes advantage of this by cutting hard to the hoop, Beekman finds him, and he’s fouled on the way up.

Here in the clip below, UNC attempts to get away with putting RJ Davis on Armaan Franklin. Given the game flow, this was not a bad idea as Franklin had not yet hit a shot from the floor and wasn’t shooting well. Instead, however, we started to run our offense, realized the mismatch, and everyone else just cleared out, Franklin ducked in, and posted up Davis. Notice how much BVP’s man WANTS to help, but has to stay near BVP and BVP continually drifts farther into the corner to make sure that the help can’t come.

This clip below is just Beekman going to work inside with no one in the paint to contest him. Notice, this is still the Triangle and Armaan is playing the role of PF, but rather than being Gardner and catching it down on the block, he “posts” just inside the three-point line. Beekman runs a curl screen around BVP, getting his man on his back, and Franklin just hits him with an easy pass, already moving downhill toward the hoop. BVP, after setting the curl screen, immediately moves back outside of the three-point line, again pulling his man away from the action and allowing Beekman to convert the layup without the help side threat. Everything in this play works together just to create so much space near the hoop, from Franklin’s extended post, to BVP floating after screening.

Another benefit to this lineup is that UNC occasionally got confused as to their assignments, especially in transition. Momentum now created at this point, this isn’t a fast break, it’s almost not even a secondary break because pretty much all of their guys are back on defense before any of our guys push the tempo. Franklin, again remember acting as Power Forward or, in this case, Point Forward, increases his tempo when he realizes that UNC doesn’t recognize who should be picking him up vs. BVP. He jogs to the three-point line, drawing his man out, and then just passes over to BVP whose man is still way too far back in the lane.

This next clip, and again, all coming back-to-back-to-back with the plays above in a flurry, is my favorite and it really shows how much these three were gelling executing this offense. RJ Davis is out on IMK now. Notice how far extended the Triangle is with Beekman at the point and BVP also coming up to catch the ball outside of the three-point line. Franklin is the lone man starting out inside of the bonus perimeter. BVP takes the pass with his back to the hoop and Beekman cuts off of him. BVP fakes the hand off and effectively screens Love while holding the ball. McKoy drops back enough so that the pass directly from BVP to Beekman isn’t possible, but he can’t leave BVP entirely because of his threat to shoot, so he obscures the pass but then lets the cutter go, expecting Love to recover. Instead, BVP passes the ball down to Franklin who has a MUCH better passing lane and hits Beekman with a sick pass on the cut for the foul on the dunk attempt.

It’s the benefit of great spacing from the personnel, and it’s also how skillful those players are when handling the ball. It’s possible one of our post players could have made this pass to a cutting Beekman, but Franklin made it look easy.

I haven’t even shown the two put-back dunks by both Franklin and BVP that were created just from both having the opportunity to get a head start running toward the rim as Beekman drove! But the clip below shows now why it’s so important to have those shooters on the outside. To this point, it’s been almost entirely Beekman, Franklin, and BVP running the offense off of each other – kind of like a game of three-on-three. But if they fall asleep on IMK like they do here in transition, he was able to make them pay, despite really not touching or handling the ball much on offense since he checked into the game.

This got McKneely going. One of the things that I love about this offense is that it’s designed to negate the wing defenders by simply keeping them away from the action, but it also has the effect of lulling them to sleep and clearing out their driving lanes to the hoop. Kihei got by Davis on the one missed layup this way, but has exploited this aspect of the offense in previous games. Here in the clip below, McKneely uses his shooting threat to get his man off balance and then shows some sweet touch off the glass. Having him add this wrinkle and do more than just hit shots is a welcome addition.

Later on, the IMK contested three was a thing of beauty, highlighted his confidence, was built upon by these looks, though, and highlighted the importance of having confident and strong gunners at the two wing positions. They force their men to extend and to have to ignore what’s happening on the inside.

The below clip is another great look at why UNC had to stay leveraged toward the outside and couldn’t help on the inside three. This time IMK has the ball on the wing and Franklin is the one with the curl screen around BVP. With the way UNC is trailing, he would have had another clear run at the hoop, but this time BVP’s man sags to cut off the pass. Undeterred, BVP just pops out to the three-point line and punishes the sag by drilling the open look. If you contrast this with the shot where I showed him missing from the corner earlier, firstly he’s got much more confidence at this point in the game after hitting some open shots, but he’s also so much more open. The close out comes from so much farther away and really isn’t close to bothering the shot, due to the spacing and flow of the offense.

Last clip I’ll show below, but there were several more options of Reece creating and Armaan finishing inside, once directly over Black, even. This one was probably the biggest play of the game, certainly the one the iced the game. As BVP sets the back screen for Reece and he explodes to the hoop, notice again how there’s just no one there to help and how different that is compared to the clips from earlier in the game.

So why was Smaller Ball so much more effective offensively (11 more points scored in the second half than the first)? Spacing created from quality shooting/the threat to shoot, primarily exploited by BVP’s screen and pop game, Beekman’s ability to get into the lane and finish/dish, and Franklin’s ability to play big and physical around the rim coupled with his skill as a passer and cutter. IMK and Clark were both good enough shooters to keep their men honest. Clark can and has been a much bigger part of this offense in the past working off of the wing, but without the bigs on the floor and with BVP, Franklin, and Beekman working so well, he wasn’t really needed in that capacity. More, his presence as a shooting threat was enough… which is a reality that’s pretty cool to say about Clark.

Smaller Ball – Defense!

The risk is always how this stacks up on the other end. In recent games, our Small Ball lineup with Gardner on the floor, even, has struggled to defend the interior and secure the glass. But in this game, with Bacot and Nance out, UNC mostly ran Washington or McKoy one at a time with Black at the PF. Black is very much not a dominant post player, even if his length is valuable on the glass and on defense, so this worked well with what we were trying to do, because BVP was playing well enough on this end to handle their more finesse “centers.”

The below clip is a great look at the above at work. McKoy tries to post up BVP, who gets a strong contest straight up, and Franklin does a wonderful job of securing the rebound.

Another look at this with the below clip. This time it’s Washington, a much more talented and imposing post threat than McKoy. He gets a decent look but it’s still a well contested jump shot by BVP and then that rebound in traffic among a lot of players by Franklin is SO strong!

I’ve said this a few times, and everyone played their role in this very well, but I can’t stress enough how important it was for Franklin to play SO big defensively while holding down the fort on Leaky Black/the 4 position. The fact that we weren’t getting killed on the glass, even with this smaller UNC lineup, was pretty remarkable.

Last clip I’ll show here below with the shot clock violation. This time Davis is attempting to go to work on Clark with a pick and roll (more on this to come) but BVP stays with the play on the sag defense from the screen (remember that wrinkle from last week?). He shadows Davis well as Clark attempts to get back in the play, eventually getting the block. Also notice Franklin on the back side making good help rotations and denying options.

As smooth as the offense came, the defense did a good job of playing with high intensity, playing above their stature, and holding UNC to the same number of points they got in the first half, despite trotting out such a lineup. In fact, most of UNC’s offense in the second half ended up coming not from the inside but from whoever Clark was guarding among Davis and Love. But make no mistake, it worked because of the unique injury situation/roster composition of UNC. Because they didn’t have anyone they could play who was more physical than BVP, and because their PF was an oversized wing, not truly experienced or skilled at playing with his back to the basket, we were able to make it work. This is not going to be the case in most situations. The stars would have to align and the opposing team’s front court will have to be uniquely unable to exploit what we’re doing. Bacot, for example, would have feasted… but so would most ACC rosters.

In Conclusion

So, how could we adjust/use this moving forward?

Kihei Clark certainly fit the skillset of the lineup offensively, but when Reece, Franklin, and BVP were really cooking, he was mostly just needed as a decoy on the outside to keep UNC honest. The problem, again, is that we don’t have another great decoy outside of him who can both be enough of a threat AND add the size we need to make it work. The other elephant in the room was that, in the second half, UNC’s offensive game plan really just turned into attempting to attack Clark with Davis or Love over and over again. Depending on how you want to classify the Love transition three (in which BVP was behind the play but Clark left Love open beyond the arc to take McKoy out there), Clark’s responsibility scored either 15 or 18 of their 29 second half points, mostly just being comfortable shooting over him:

And, while Beekman was shutting down Love, as soon as he switched to Davis, Love heated up:

So, it seems like the obvious (and really only) solution that would mostly give us identical offensive advantages while solving the defensive question is finding an alternate decoy to Clark to stash on the perimeter who can also guard the interior.

The simplest and likely unattainable solution is Isaac Traudt. He’d be a perfect fit for the stretch concepts of this strategy while offering much more size on the inside alongside BVP to much better combat ACC bigs. But, given that I think this is a very unrealistic option/approach, I don’t want to spend much time with it.

The closest and likely most sustainable thing, to me, would be still playing Shedrick and running Beekman, IMK, Franklin, BVP, and Shedrick as a group. It’s not the exact same offense in practice, but no one on the roster provides a significant size improvement while maintaining the shooting ability (you could argue Dunn would help but I don’t think anyone views his shot as reliable yet and I think you still run the risk of his man leaving to help). Shedrick would have to function as a screener and, to combat his man helping, would have to be much more aggressive about diving, and our players would have to be more alert about throwing it up at the rim for him to go get; much like some of bigger highlights from last year. With BVP still stretching, Franklin (or Beekman) could take up a wing position, and they could still force the help on the guard on the inside with Kadin presenting as the option to finish around the rim. The spacing inside would still be MUCH better than the lineups with Gardner on the floor.

The long and the short of it is that, unless we’re willing to just try to outscore everyone and accept any defensive concessions, not a hallmark of CTB coached teams, or unless we’re willing to do something completely radical like burning Traudt’s redshirt and playing our other bigs much less, I don’t think this Smaller Ball concept is sustainable. It is, perhaps, a weapon to look for opportunities/short windows of time to play when the opposition plays smaller lineups themselves. BUT, as long as the Triangle is an increasing part of what we do (which it looks like it’s starting to be), perhaps just playing Shedrick and Gardner together less often, forcing the ball to Gardner on the block more frequently when he is in, (hopefully) Shedrick playing more aggressively on offense when he gets isolation, and playing Franklin and IMK together much more often are all concepts we can take from this and apply more frequently. Certainly, this will help when opponents take a note from UNC’s book in the first half and attempt to sag/clutter the lane against us.

Two more points I want to make – the fact that CTB found this lineup and was willing to trust it/try it out was ridiculously savvy. Even with UNC’s roster in the state it was in, it takes a huge leap of faith to watch how Washington played in the first half and intuit that this group would be able to both handle UNC’s offensive action and be SO effectively offensively. Again, this was in the context of Franklin not yet hitting a jump shot in the game and BVP having hit one shot and missing a few early (and being cold coming into the game). I don’t think I would have tried this in a million years, and I would have missed something pretty magical and interesting that directly attributed to beating a conference rival.

Secondly, these guys were EXHAUSTED by the end. Between this and the Miami game, CTB has developed a habit of finding and latching onto something that’s working within a game, but then not deviating at all for the entire rest of it. As a result, we did start to miss some shots down the stretch, including free throws, and the fatigue was showing a bit on the defensive side of the ball as well. As opposed to in Miami, it worked out in this one, and we held on, but it’s not a great sign in terms of where his trust is with his roster as a whole. It’s hard to play one lineup for over 15 minutes of consecutive game time and have them be as effective and have as much juice by the end of it, which is often crunch time.

I’m looking forward to seeing what offensive adjustments we make, if any, against a big FSU team on Saturday.

3 responses to “vs. North Carolina 1/10/2023”

  1. Bravo. Great game analysis. I am wondering, however, if you believe the Jekyl/Hyde transformation we saw (on both ends) by VDP — who notwithstanding his shakey first half performance, is the easy recipient of the game ball for his dominant second half show — was attributable to Smaller Ball casting. That game ball award should in no way diminish recognition of Reece Beekman, through whom all successes of this team flow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In a way, yes. Mostly because the looks that he got were much more open as a result of the spacing provided by the offense. In the first half, he was still letting them fly, but his defender was much closer with more bothersome contests.


  2. Great piece, and I think Franklin’s contributions were just as big as BVP’s in this game. That said, it seems pretty obvious at this juncture that Franklin’s tendency to miss FTs late has less to do with fatigue and more to do with confidence. Going to back to last year’s game against FSU, and earlier this year against Michigan, he just does not look comfortable at all in those situations. Still, I love his effort and athleticism. And I give him a ton of respect for continuing to play with intensity in games like this one where his shot isn’t falling.

    Liked by 1 person

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