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Thursday, December 8, 2011
Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

By Robbi Pickeral

Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops. Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at bylinerp@gmail.com or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

This week, I’ll answer the first question via video. Read below for more. And if I didn’t get to your question today, there's always next Thursday. Or the Thursday after that. Keep them coming ...

David from Houston: It seems to me that every single time Tyler Zeller is getting the ball in the paint his very first move is to put the ball on the floor. If I notice this from my couch in Houston, I'm guessing the scouting reports pick up on it too which seems to be leading to more immediate double teams which leads to a turnover, a pass back out or an out of position shot. Has Roy or the other coaches talked with him about this tendency? I don't remember him doing this nearly as much [if at all] the last couple of seasons.

Jeff from Central Point, Ore.: Is anyone else noticing how weak Tyler Zeller's post game has been this season? It seems to me that either he has regressed from last year, or he has been exposed. Kentucky CONTINUALLY doubled down on Zeller in the post and time after time after time swatted the ball right out of the 7-footer's hands. This seems to be a common problem in Zeller's game right now. Is this new? Has this gotten worse since last season? Is the coaching staff working with Zeller to do anything about it?

Pickeral: David and Jeff, the coaching staff is addressing the problem with Zeller, who remains particularly disappointed with his play at Kentucky. As coach Roy Williams explained during his Monday night radio show, the senior can’t lollygag with the ball, especially because he’s being double-teamed so aggressively. But his teammates have got to give him some help, as well.

“Z has got to catch the ball cleanly and make a quicker decision,’’ Williams said. “If you feel one guy is on you, I want to see him turn around and try to score. Tyler Hansbrough was a different animal, he was so strong and wanted the contact that he would turn those shoulders high, elbows high, and some of those double-teams would back off a little bit. And Z feels like he’s being attacked in there a little more, so it’s different people, and you’ve got to coach different ways.

“With Z, we want him to make a quick move or get the ball out. And at the same time, the perimeter people have to help him. If I’m on the right wing and throw it in, I should either screen away for another perimeter player to go over there, or foul-line extended, or see that I’ve got no one coming and I’ve got the space – so that Z has someone to throw the ball to. …  Z’s being attacked, he can’t find you. It’s not like hide-and-seek; you’ve got to be able to be seen. And if he can’t see your hands, you’re in a bad position. So he’s got to make a quicker move, and the perimeter has got to give him some better help to give him to throw it to.”

Oh, and David: Williams said he allows his big guys one power dribble in the lane — as long as it’s not in traffic.


VerifiedMark on Twitter: If you err on the side of what a team has done are you not in favor of preseason polls?

Pickeral: Mark is referring to earlier this week when I wrote that I err on the side of how teams have played, rather than what they have the potential to do, when it comes to rankings and polls.

I don’t have a problem with preseason polls, Mark, as long as the voters are willing to make leaps or drops after a couple weeks, if necessary. Polls and rankings are great talking and debating points for everyone; but one of the basic problems (which leads to the talking points and debates) is that voters base their choices on different sets of criteria. Some use RPI more than others; some weight potential; some factor in who would do what if they played head-to-head.

As I write this, for instance, I’m wrestling with the ACC power rankings, and who deserves to be on top. I think UNC would beat Duke if they played right now. But even though the Devils lost badly to Ohio State, they have the better strength of schedule – and the Heels not only have that loss to Kentucky, but the 10-point defeat to UNLV. So which criteria would you use? I know what I’m leaning toward. Stay tuned.


Wb22 on Twitter: PJ has now changed his twitter account name AND locked his account. So, if he has another bad post, only his friends will see it :)

Pickeral: Wb is referring to reserve guard P.J. Hairston’s tweet last week about the status of his sprained wrist – an update that ultimately was wrong, and irritated Williams because the coach thought that info should stay within the team until the team was ready to announce it.

Hairston has since changed his Twitter address to @P_makeitrain_J  – but just because it’s locked doesn’t mean it’s not being monitored. As part of a set of new rules adopted by UNC amid the NCAA football investigation, every team has a staff member assigned to monitor players’ social media accounts. So if the basketball Tar Heels tweet something Williams wouldn’t like, he’ll still find out.


Steve from Honolulu: Roy Williams failure to use timeouts in the 2nd half [at Kentucky] especially in the last possession of the game shows his inept game management. UNLV exposed it this year, KU confirmed it. How do you not give Harrison Barnes the last shot down by one against KU's defense against a set play out of a timeout?

Pickeral: Hey, Steve. In case you missed it, Williams addressed this on his radio show earlier this week. Basically, he has a long-standing rule in that situation that if less than seven seconds remain, he will call time; if more than seven seconds remain, he won’t. Why? Because, he said, his team knows what it is supposed to run (a shot from Barnes was one of the options), and by keeping the clock moving, the other team doesn’t get a chance to set its defense.