You know what’s coming.
You know exactly what’s coming.
But it doesn’t matter, because you can’t stop it.
No. 3 North Carolina (27-5, 16-2) won its eighth-straight game against Louisville (20-13, 10-8) in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals Thursday in classic Carolina style.
The No. 2 seed Tar Heels scored 27 transition points against the seventh-seeded Cardinals to advance to the semifinal round for the third straight year.
“I thought where the game got out of reach for us early on was because of their transition,” Louisville Coach Chris Mack, who yesterday harped on the importance of slowing down the Heels, said after the game. “They were shot out of a cannon.”
In the two regular season games against Louisville – a 21-point home loss and 10-point road win – Carolina managed only six transition buckets.
The biggest difference between the two regular season games and the one in Charlotte?
The guard that was named to the ACC’s All-Freshman Team scored 19 points and registered 6 assists compared to just 1 turnover. In the two previous games against the Cardinals, White managed a combined 12 points and 6 turnovers.
“I talked to him before the game and said, ‘Somebody said Louisville is your Kryptonite,’” Nassir Little said. “I told him: ‘That’s not true. Just focus on today.’ He definitely did that.”
White was the key to Carolina’s success in transition against the the Cardinals, as his 7 rebounds kick-started the fast break.
“When he gets it off the board he’s faster than everybody on the court,” fellow guard Seventh Woods said. “So he can just push it, and that’s easy buckets for us.”
Inside play also led to easy buckets for the Tar Heels.
Led by Luke Maye’s 19, UNC scored 40 points in the paint against the taller Cards.
“I think the rebounding margin 44-35 and second chance points 9-2, I thought they were big,” Roy Williams said.
Inside buckets, as with most things, start with the point guard.
“I think I’m just trying to make the easy play instead of the home run play,” White, who recorded his first turnover-less game in the regular season finale against Duke, said after Thursday’s win. “I think I'm getting better each game.”
Consistently improving as well, it seems, is Carolina as a whole.
After No. 1 Gonzaga – a team UNC beat in December – lost its conference tournament final against St. Mary’s, a path for Carolina to be the No. 1 overall seed in the Big Dance is now possible.
That path, of course, would likely have to include wins over Duke (for a third time) and No. 2 Virginia (for the first time in the last 5 tries).
But after Louisville smacked the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome 83-62 on January 12, the possibility of a 1 seed at all seemed unlikely.
Yet, thanks to a team that’s the fastest ever under Roy Williams, Carolina has a good a shot at the whole thing as anybody.
“Everybody that knows North Carolina basketball knows that’s what we do,” Little said. “We try to get out.”
Knowing it is one thing.
Stopping it is another.