It, uh, wasn't supposed to happen like that.
A North Carolina team that might be the country's best was supposed to have one weakness, one Achilles, that Indiana could exploit quite possibly better than any other. It, uh, didn't happen like that.
Led by Marcus Paige's hot-shooting start from outside, the a Tar Heel team that was 305th in the nation when it comes to long-rang shooting made 11 of 20 three pointers, including 7-of-7 to start the game. And from that point, they never looked back.
What did we learn in the final game of the 2016 season?
One big thing: There's not much at all you can do about that North Carolina team making shots in such a manner.
Here's a really-out-on-a-limb prediction: If North Carolina shoots like that the rest of the way, they'll make a joke of the rest of this tournament.
There are few teams that can play with this Carolina when they're at least generally interested in playing basketball. (See, UNI loss.) When engaged, they are far too athletic, far too big, and far too fast for most teams to play with. However, Indiana was one of the teams that could, in theory, beat this UNC team. Carolina shoots it poorly from distance. Indiana is -- still even after the loss -- the best eFG% team in the country. Indiana, conditionally, could beat this team. As long as Indiana continues to shoot it well and Carolina does not, this game will be competitive.
That, uh, did not happen.
First, here is Marcus Paige, 33% three point shooter, making a 25-footer off a screen to start the ball game.
Sure, you'd like Hartman to slide over that screen a bit more, but understand the matchups and what Indiana's giving away in other places. Clearly and as it should have been, the emphasis was to limit Carolina's early baskets inside and force guards to beat you from the outside. Bryant can't hedge on Paige for any meaningful period, as it would've left Nick Zeisloft alone to defend the rim against Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, which, lol. Troy Williams can't help off Jackson, either, as that creates an easy backdoor layup. You could argue that Zeisloft should've chased Meeks out to the free-throw line, but at what purpose? There was, seemingly, a clear emphasis to prioritize keeping North Carolina's bigs in front of Indiana's smaller players, let them roam away from the basket, and force the Heels to make shots. The tape and numbers on North Carolina indicate that this is exactly how you should play them. Tom Crean made the correct call here.
There's very little you can do when a career 30% shooter from distance is the last guy down the court on a broken play is pulling up from 26 and making Curry-esque shots, like this.
Or, Justin Jackson, 28% three-point shooter, makes this shot on a similar ball-screen dilemma involving Bryant's need to recover or Indiana's left totally exposed to a back-side alley-oop and an easy bucket.
Of course, none of this logic will ever stop folks from being mad on the web at Tom Crean.
DEFEND SHOOTERS. GOOD LORD. #iubb— doctorgc (@DoctorGC) March 26, 2016
Here's why this line of logic is completely 100% wrong and this complaint is unfair: Indiana had to give up something against this North Carolina team. Without a healthy Rob Johnson or an operable Juwan Morgan, Indiana's options in matching up with the larger, rangier Heels were incredibly, incredibly limited. There's Thomas Bryant, Max Bielfeldt, OG Anunoby, and Troy Williams. You could play those four plus Yogi as your dominant lineup, but then you're already giving in to playing Carolina's game -- except you're just be much worse at it. Indiana's best chance in this basketball game was to stay true to its possibly-hot-shooting DNA, trot Nick Zeisloft and Collin Hartman out there, err on the side of forcing UNC to play a perimeter game, and you make shots and they don't.
Indiana faceguarded exactly the number of UNC three-point shooters they should have to start the game: zero. This is what every bit of predictive information would indicate to do.
Problem is, Carolina didn't follow form. Indiana didn't follow offensive form. Four of Indiana's first five shots, including three triples, rimmed out. They were good looks, far better than the ones Marcus Paige took to open the game. His went in. Indiana's did not. There is very little you can do about this, because sports are cruel and terrible. Go eat breakfast and move on.
We'll have more coverage on this one -- and the aftermath -- coming this afternoon.