The media is always looking for the kink in the armor of elite programs like North Carolina, and for the Tar Heels, that area of concern has been bled to death since the Georgetown collapse in the 2007 NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight – defense. There are seemingly countless examples of when UNC's inability to defend its opponent has reared its ugly head, giving the media ammunition to write about and the Tar Heel faithful an item to fume over.
There was Maryland's late game explosion – read 68.0 percent over the final 20 minutes of play – to pull off an improbable 88-85 overtime victory, as well as Jeff Teague's 34 points in leading Wake Forest to a 92-89 victory in early January. And just last weekend, Florida State drilled 67 percent of its second-half field goal attempts in outlasting UNC, 73-70.
But as poorly as North Carolina played defensively in those three games, the Tar Heels only lost by a combined nine points in those outings. Is it possible that UNC's offense is so potent that the defense doesn't have to be great, but merely good?
Consider this – Over the past two seasons, North Carolina has posted a 61-1 record when shooting over 40 percent from the floor. That one loss occurred against Duke in Chapel Hill, when Ty Lawson was sidelined with an ankle sprain. The Tar Heels only managed to shoot 40.6 percent (28-of-69) from the field that night.
So has all of the press and concern over North Carolina's defense been overblown?
"That's a touchy subject, because I know what Coach Williams would say," a grinning Bobby Frasor said on Wednesday. "But you have to defend to win the national championship. That's the bottom line. You're going to win games here by getting stops, not by outscoring people. The name of the game is getting a better shot than your opponent."
Ellington + 50 percent = 47-0
No beating around the bush on this one – when Wayne Ellington has connected on 50 percent or more of his field goal attempts during his three seasons in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is a staggering 47-0. The smooth shooting junior guard has also played in 14 losses during his career, and in each of those outings, he failed to shoot at the 50 percent barrier, highlighted by a pair of 2-of-11 performances and a 3-of-14 display.
The Philadelphia product's opinion on those stats?
"You can't put that kind of pressure on me," Ellington said on Tuesday, laughing. "I feel like I'm an outside threat. I feel like when I'm clicking from the outside, and we've got Tyler on the inside and Tywon is doing all that he does and Danny from the perimeter, then obviously we are a tough team to beat."
Williams laughed off the odd record as well on Tuesday afternoon.
"I would bet that we're 117-0 when we score more points than the other team, too – I don't know how to explain that, either," Williams said. "We do need a balance, and when you give us some balance, they can't put five guys around Tyler… But we still someone else to make some, too – it can't just be one guy."
Domes and Danny Green
The Final Four takes place at massive Ford Field in Detroit during the first weekend of April this year, where 70,000 fans are expected to watch the NCAA crown the 2009 national champion.
Even without Ty Lawson's services last weekend in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels played nearly well enough to sneak into the title game against Duke. A case could be made that had Danny Green produced an even mediocre performance on Saturday, UNC would have survived Toney Douglas and his band of Seminoles.
Which brings us to this point – in three games this season in dome structures (one at Ford Field, two at the Georgia Dome), Green is averaging five points on 15.6 percent shooting (5-of-32), including a slightly better 17.6 percent mark (3-of-17) from behind the 3-point arc. Those numbers pale in comparison to his season average of 13.3 points on 47.6 percent shooting (41.6 percent from long range).
So is there something to the dome atmosphere that is affecting the senior wing?
"Possibly," Green said after the Florida State loss on Saturday. "People talk about depth perception and all of those types of things, but I don't think that's an excuse. I just had a bad couple of games, rough shooting days. But hopefully, I'll find my touch."
It's worth noting that Green scored 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting – despite five turnovers – in last season's 84-66 Final Four loss to Kansas at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tex.
North Carolina fans are fortunate in that the program's latest national championship is still fresh in their memory. Fans of rival N.C. State still remember the 1983 title run, but 26 years does wonders to the body and mind. Sean May was the driving force behind the 2005 title, and he's still only 24 years old.
Williams' second squad in Chapel Hill visited a tropical paradise better known as Hawaii and defeated Iowa for the Maui Invitational Championship during the week of Thanksgiving in 2004, a feat also matched by the 2008-09 edition. The '05 team lost at Wake Forest on Jan. 15, while the current squad fell to the Deacons in Winston-Salem on Jan. 11.
The national championship squad won a gritty ACC Tournament opener, only to lose by three points on Semifinal Saturday, and this current group of Tar Heels provided those exact same results this past weekend in Atlanta.
And finally, both teams also beat Clemson in Chapel Hill… Okay, so maybe that one doesn't count.
Speaking of Sean May, his birthday falls on April 4th – the same day as this year's Final Four contests. Could that be an omen? Upon exhaustive and detailed research, the answer is a demonstrative "No." Just a useless statistic, which is why it was included in this article.