After a couple games of abandoning its traditional feed-the-post scheme, Carolina made a concerted effort to get its bigs involved early and often against Boston College. The Heels threw only nine post entries against Florida State, a response to early foul trouble to its bigs/smaller lineups, the Seminoles’ interior size, and the way FSU likes to pressure the ball to deny easy entries (while opening up driving opportunities). Against Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone, UNC threw only 11 (low-post) entries, attacking instead by hitting a big at the high post or short corner (or, on some possessions, not getting a paint/big touch at all while settling for perimeter ball movement and long 3s).
But in Chestnut Hill on Saturday, Carolina got back to its preferred strategy of force-feeding the low post. The Heels threw 30 post entries in the 90-82 win, higher than their season-to-date average of 24.3. While all four primary posts (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, and Luke Maye) received at least a handful of entries, it was Meeks who did the heaviest lifting. Here’s the breakdown of post catches by big, as well as what resulted following that entry pass. For example, if Maye catches a pass and kicks out to Berry for a missed 3, that will be shown here as a missed field goal (even though Maye himself did not directly miss a shot on a post move).
- Meeks: 14 post catches—7-13 FGAs, 1 reset (he shot all 13 of these FGAs himself; the “reset” was simply a re-post in which he immediately received another post entry leading to a FGA for him)
- Bradley: 6 post catches—2-3 FGAs, 1 foul, 2 turnovers
- Hicks: 5 post catches—1-1 FGAs, 2 fouls, 1 turnover, 1 reset
- Maye: 5 post catches—0-3 FGAs, 1 turnover, 1 reset
Using my simple Success:Failure metric (in which made FGs/fouls are considered “successes” and missed FGs/turnovers are considered “failures”), Hicks had a 3.00, Meeks a 1.17, Bradley a 1.00, and Maye a 0.00. Entering the game, Carolina had a team Success:Failure of 0.94 on its post entry passes.
From an entry pass perspective, the Heels spread the wealth, with eight players throwing at least three passes. Here’s the breakdown of UNC’s 30 entry feeds, as well as the Success:Failure for each:
- Justin Jackson: 6 passes, 0.25
- Theo Pinson: 5 passes, 1.00
- Seventh Woods: 4 passes, 1.00
- Nate Britt: 3 passes, 1.00
- Joel Berry: 3 passes, 0.50
- Kenny Williams: 3 passes, 3 successes
- Luke Maye: 3 passes, 0.50
- Isaiah Hicks: 3 passes, 2.00
So now, let’s focus on Meeks’ 18 paint touches: 14 from post entry passes, three from offensive rebounds/second-chance opportunities, and one from a scramble situation:
- Left-block touch from a Williams left-wing entry (made FG): on UNC’s very first possession, it found Meeks on the block via some secondary break action (down screen for Williams); he took a couple dribbles middle, before spinning baseline for a sweet turnaround jumper
- Left-block touch from a Williams left-wing entry (miss FG): using a back screen from Williams in secondary, Meeks was rejected at the rim after taking two dribbles to the middle, then spinning back/drop-stepping to the rim
- Right-block touch from a Jackson right-wing entry (miss FG): after two lefty dribbles to the middle, Meeks spun back to the right baseline and missed a jump-hook that he tried to bank in—pretty move/shot, just rimmed out
- Left-block touch from a Britt left-wing entry (reset/re-post): Meeks took a single dribble to the middle, then recognized that BC was doubling down (the Eagles basically played UNC’s posts straight-up all game) and kicked it back to Britt
- Left-block touch from a Britt left-wing entry (miss FG): after kicking back out to Britt, Meeks immediately re-posted and got another entry; he took one dribble middle, faked a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder, then settled for a (long) jump-hook over the left shoulder
- Offensive rebound (made FG): Meeks set a ball screen for Berry in the secondary break, then rolled to the rim and grabbed and put back an air-balled Berry elbow jumper
- Right-block touch from a Pinson right-wing entry (made FG): Meeks faced up on this one, then knocked down a step-back jumper off of a single dribble
- Left-block touch from a Hicks top-of-key (high/low) entry (miss FG): Hicks spun in a nifty left-handed high/low entry to Meeks on the left block; he took one dribble middle, getting (and missing) a clean look at his preferred righty hook
- Right-block touch from a Hicks top-of-key (high/low) entry (made FG): this time, Hicks threw a secondary break high/low pass to the right block with his right hand—Hicks’ entry passing was promising in this game; it hasn’t always been a strength of his; Meeks took one dribble, turning over his left shoulder to bank in a jump-hook
- Right-block touch from a Jackson right-corner entry (made FG): this was vintage Carolina secondary break basketball—all five Heels touched the ball within five seconds (Hicks in-bounds to Berry, hit-ahead to Williams on the right wing to Jackson in the right corner to Meeks in the deep paint); Meeks established really deep low-block position, and Jackson’s entry led him right to the rim for an easy lay-in
- Offensive rebound (made FG): after Jackson missed a floater following a secondary break ball screen, Hicks crashed in for the offensive board before finding Meeks with a clever interior pass for an easy lay-up
- Left-block touch from a Woods left-wing entry (made FG): against the BC zone (which it played exclusively an baseline out-of-bounds sets), Meeks ducked in to receive an entry from Woods; he used his signature move from the left block—a one-dribble-middle, over-the-left-shoulder jump-hook
- Right-block touch from a Woods right-wing entry (made FG): this was one of the only poor entries to Meeks all day, as a tough angle by Woods led to a pass that was almost stolen by a defender fronting over the top; once Meeks gained control, he took two lefty dribbles to the middle and, following a Mo Jeffers flop, hit a little turnaround jumper over his right shoulder
- Right-block touch from a Pinson right-wing entry (miss FG): Meeks again took a pair of left-handed dribbles to the middle before spinning back over his left shoulder to the baseline and missing a contested jump-hook that was well-defended by Jeffers
- Offensive rebound (miss FG): with the clock under 10 seconds, Berry used a ball screen to get all the way to the basket; he drew a help defender to contest his lay-up, freeing Meeks for a tip-in opportunity (that he missed)
- Left-block touch from a Berry left-wing entry (miss FG): this was actually more of a left-mid-post touch, as Meeks was pushed a step or two from his preferred post-up spot; questionable decision by Berry to enter the ball here, in my opinion, and it resulted in a contested jump-hook after Meeks took two dribbles to the middle
- Scramble (made FTs): Meeks knocked down a pair of free throws after getting a drive, draw, and dish from Pinson; Williams and Hicks hit the floor to win a loose ball, setting up UNC for score; Pinson would win another 50-50 ball later in the second half to set up a second-chance opportunity for Hicks (with a similar drive-and-dish pass to set up free throws)
- Left-block touch from a Williams left-wing entry (made FG): for the first time all game, Meeks immediately spun baseline following a left-block touch, using a pair of lefty dribbles to set up a reverse lay-up (where he used the rim to guard against a potential blocked shot); in general, I’d like to see a little more of this immediate drop-step, as Meeks tends to fall in love with turning middle over his left shoulder (and will occasionally drop-step back to the right shoulder as a counter move rather than a primary/go-to move)
Meeks made just 2-of-7 jump-hooks against BC, but made up for it by hitting both of his turnaround jumpers plus his only face-up J. He also scored on two of his three post-up opportunities at the rim (one set up by a Jackson entry, and the other two by Meeks off-the-dribble with spins/drop-steps). I don’t know if the 10 jumpers/hooks-to-3 rim finishes ratio is ideal for Meeks, but he had some success with it against the Eagles. A couple of his jump-hooks were excellent looks, too, and the type that he usually reliably converts.
Boston College didn’t double the post at all, giving Meeks ample time to back defenders down and get into his post moves (and counter moves). Obviously against a team like Virginia, which will bring quick big-to-big doubles, Meeks will have to make quicker decisions (which will generally involve passing it out of the post). Post passing has been a strength of Meeks’ game this season, but he didn’t do it at all against the Eagles, who dared him to be a low-post finisher rather than a facilitator. Also, as a result of the ample amounts of time and space that Meeks had, he took at least one dribble (and usually multiple dribbles) before every post-up shot. He’s shown the ability to get quickly into his post arsenal without a dribble (and, actually, I think that the quick, no-dribble jump-hook from the left block is his most efficient scoring move), but took advantage of space/time to back defenders down against BC.
Meeks’ post game really is very polished: plenty of moves and counter moves, the ability to finish over either shoulder, and the ability to put the ball on the floor with either hand. Throw in his excellent vision and passing skills (not on display against BC because of how it chose to guard him), and he can be a reliable back-to-the-basket scoring option. He, of course, lacks the explosiveness to finish over post defenders (either at the rim, or by elevating on his hooks/turnaround jumpers), so will continue to rely on deep position, backing defenders down to create space, and his deceptively quick feet (to create drop-step/counter spin opportunities at the rim).
I took a closer look at (all 13 of) Ky Bowman’s baskets, too, so will try and post some defensive charting-related thoughts later.