Of all the details in the five-page scouting report Long Beach State coaches gave their players in preparation for Friday's game against North Carolina, the most interesting was at the top of the section highlighting the Tar Heels' strengths.
It read, "Their best offense is a missed shot," a statement that may seem counterintuitive but has proven true so far this season.
North Carolina has averaged a Division I best 23 offensive rebounds its first three games and has gotten second-chance opportunities off of 48.6 percent of its missed shots, second most in the nation. The Tar Heels tallied 23 offensive boards and 21 second-chance points in Friday's 78-63 win over Long Beach State even though the 49ers did rebounding drills in practice Wednesday and Thursday and talked at length about keeping the Tar Heels off the offensive glass.
Since Long Beach State allowed me an all-access look at its preparation for Friday's game, I was able to listen as assistant coach Rod Palmer assessed the strengths and weaknesses of this year's North Carolina team with his players during a pregame film session. I transcribed a handful of the observations he shared with the 49ers below in hopes that they lend insight into how opposing coaches view the Tar Heels right now:
1. "Their best offense is a missed shot. That's their best offensive set. I don't care what they run. They throw it up, miss it and that's when their offense starts because they all crash the boards and they all look for second third and fourth opportunities. They play volleyball at the rim. They're a very good offensive rebounding team. That's their staple. That's what they want to do."
2. "[James Michael] McAdoo is all right shoulder in the post, so make sure you stay on his right shoulder. Do not let him turn on that shoulder. The less time he touches the ball the better off we are, so we've got to use our athleticism to try to keep the ball out of there, make him catch the ball off the blocks so we don't have to fire (send a double team). ... He pounds the boards offensively. He'll sprint to the block in transition. And when I say sprint, it's not three-quarters speed. It's a 90, 95, 100 sprint. He'll run it."
3. "[Marcus] Paige is a freshman point guard trying to run North Carolina's team. He gets out of control and plays erratic. He's going to handle the ball, he's going to drive at you, get into the paint and try to get shots. For a point guard, he really looks to score, so make sure we keep him out of the paint, contest shots and take charges because he plays off one foot."
4. "[Dexter] Strickland is a driver. If they're depending on him to beat us with mid-range jumpers, I'll take that bet. If he takes 10 mid-range jumpers, I'm good with it, but make sure you keep him out of the paint and make sure you're aware of him in transition. When he gets it, he's not going to pull up, he's not going to shake, he's not going to crossover. He's going to get it and go to the rim."
5. "[Reggie] Bullock is a shooter. He likes to run to the corner especially in transition. That's where they'll for him. He'll drive your closeout occasionally but he is a standstill, spot-up shooter. And he will rebound, so attack him with your boxout.
6. "[Leslie] McDonald is a shooter. [P.J.] Hairston is a shooter. He's not shooting well right now but he is a shooter. That's all he is going to try to do. All these guys who are shooters, run them off the 3-point line. Close out hard, make them bounce the ball and see if they can make a shot that way."
7. "Brice Johnson is very thin but he is bouncy, he is athletic and he will bounce the ball at you. He has decent moves in the post and he plays with a lot of confidence. You have to make sure you put a body on him when the ball goes up. Make sure you put a body on him. Left-shoulder moves in the post. Fight him off the blocks. If you can move him off the blocks, he's less effective."