North Carolina has won it all: the Tar Heels are the 2017 NCAA Tournament champions. It goes without saying that North Carolina played well this year, and from that there is a lot Syracuse can learn.
Jim Boeheim court will don a different team than we saw this season come the fall. To improve its play and see different (better) results next year, here are three lessons the Orange can learn from the national champions:
Perfect the Post Route
I’ve mentioned this before, and now I have to mention it again. North Carolina’s execution at the post has haunted Syracuse throughout this entire season.
In the 2016 Final Four, North Carolina repeatedly brought the ball to the wings, passed it to the top of the key and then passed the ball to the post (under the basket) for an easy bucket. This season and in the 2017 Tournament, the Tar Heels utilized this play all the way to the title game.
This is a simple yet effective play. Starting the ball at the wings moves the defense to the sides. It is easiest to pass the ball to the post from the top of the key, so passing the ball there and doing just that makes sense. Then the offense is set up for a relatively easy two points.
Teams have scorched Syracuse with this play all year, and SU has failed to deliver when trying this out itself. This offseason, the Orange can improve by coming up with a defensive play to fight against the play and an offensive plan to nail the play itself.
At times, Throw the Ball Down the Court in Transition
North Carolina likes big plays. If you are the national champion, you’re going to have some along the way.
One move that the Tar Heels have attempted to trademark this season is a long pass down the court in transition to a player who is already running toward the basket. This basically sets up an artificial fastbreak — a forced one-on-one situation.
When North Carolina gets the ball in the backcourt, one player takes off (almost inconspicuously, since it often isn’t expected), and the player with the ball throws it all the way down to him, setting up an easy dunk, layup or potential foul.
It’s a quick maneuver, and performing it multiple times in a row can wear out an opposing team.
Syracuse tried this play a few times early in the season without much success, often throwing the ball way past the sprinting player and out of bounds. If SU can get a grip on this tactic, the Orange can be in position to surprise a few opponents with it to get the ball in the net.
(I’m hearing a revised fight song in my head: “Down, down the court goes old Syracuse…”)
Fake The Three
Although North Carolina hit 35.5 percent of its three-point shots this season, the Tar Heels were also good at faking them.
The Tar Heels would dribble the ball in toward the paint as if they were going to fight for a layup or a jumper, pass the ball outside the arc, show they were going to take the three and then pass the ball to a player near the center for two.
This play sets up an option for the offense. Taking the three at this point is a legitimate and often-used play — that’s what makes the fake so effective as the defense expects a shot and slightly drops its guard, watching. The shooter as the opportunity to evaluate the situation and see if the post is open for the pass. If not, just take the three that has already been set up.
This would be a good move for Syracuse to acquire to add that unpredictability.
Coming off of a year with better offense than was originally anticipated for this season, he Orange can adopt these three plays into its repertoire to have an even more dynamic campaign next year.
Published: David Edelstein