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PHILADELPHIA — North Carolina already had an NCAA record for Final Four appearances, but now they’re just running it with their 21st, which puts them three behind the next-nearest school, as the Tar Heels defeat Saint Peters, 69-49, turning peacocks into pumpkins, ending their unlikely Cinderella run.
Before I get into the heels, I want to prop up Saint Peter’s because it’s easy to see why they’ve made a deep run this playoff. They’re tough, they’re brave, they’re going to have active hands, and they’re going to hold their own for 40 minutes. The problem is that the name of the game is still to score baskets and they came up against a Tar Heel team that played as well as anyone in the country. Hubert Davis has talked about bringing NBA approaches to the program and you’ve seen it this year, and in this game, with NBA philosophies like ice ball screens. When you ice a ball screen, you force the ball handler away from the intended ball screen, removing what they are trying to do and making it extremely disruptive for the attack to pass to one side to the other. The middle of the floor is the most dangerous part and when Hubert Davis turns to this, he prevents Saint-Pierre’s guards from accessing this area and concentrating where they can operate. The theme of the last month and a half of the season, for me at least, has been Hubert Davis’ growth as a head coach, where it seems like he’s constantly pushing the right button and getting ahead of the guy on the another bench. .
You need look no further than non-timeout games, where the Tar Heels almost always look their best. Now compare that to the Peacocks where their offensive execution is like pulling teeth and they can’t get a clean attempt for the majority of the game. You have seen the players grow lately, but at the same time, we have seen Hubert Davis get into his bag.
From my perspective, it was about as 50/50 a crowd as you can get, with Saint Peter fans louder and ready to explode at a moment’s notice. The Tar Heels seized that opportunity early, starting the game on a 9-0 run. By halftime, UNC had doubled their opponents and taken the air out of the building in hopes of another upset. The other thing the leader did was force a Saint Peter team playing adjusted tempo ranked No. 241 in the nation to step up and run the UNC run. Realistically, it was Vince Carter through the legs, arm in the hoop, at halftime. Somehow I’ve gotten this far without mentioning Armando Bacot who put up the most laid back performance of 20 points and 22 rebounds we’ve probably ever seen putting him at 29 double doubles this season, tying Tim Duncan for most in a season in ACC history.
He will have a 30-year chance in what is now the most anticipated game in the history of the best sporting rivalry. Carolina fans have wanted Duke out of the tournament from the start, and sometimes if you want a job done, you have to do it yourself. And if you’re scared, take a dog. From Philadelphia, I’m Taylor Vippolis, I sign for Inside Carolina.