Last season the North Carolina basketball team averaged 38 points in the paint. That was by far the most of any team in any of the power six conferences. This inside onslaught was headed by then senior Tyler Zeller. As Tar Heel faithful know, Zeller is now playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another player that helped with this amazing statistic was John Henson. Henson is now a Milwaukee Buck. The only player that UNC still has that made a decent impact down low is James Michael McAdoo.
Roy Williams did another stellar job in recruiting in the off season. He replaced Zeller and Henson with freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James. As of yet, neither Johnson nor James have been a serious consistent offensive threat. This has caused the Heels to find many of their points outside of the paint. So far this has panned out, which was well on display in Carolina’s victory over Mississippi State. McAdoo has been the Heels’ lone inside offensive presence averaging 16.6 points per game. That has caused the UNC players who were recruited for shooting to finally show that they can do just that.
From an offensive standpoint, UNC is a wing-heavy team this year. Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald and freshman JP Tokoto all get considerable minutes on the wings for the Heels. McAdoo is a great player in the scoring column but this year the wing players must come up big. Bullock and McDonald have looked like the hype they should have been when they came to UNC as freshmen. Both are shooting above 50% from 3-point range so far this season. Hairston is at a respectable 34%. In order for the Heels to find themselves in the Final Four, this shooting must continue.
Williams has done a great job this year as far as altering his offense according to his personnel. Last year he had a great point guard in Kendall Marshall. Not saying that Marcus Paige is not great but it will take a little time to get up to speed with the college game. Instead of the “push it up the floor and shoot” offense that Williams has had in years previous, this year he seems comfortable allowing his team to get into an offensive set and allowing his veteran guards to make good decisions, whether that be to dish it down into the post for McAdoo or to shoot the 3-pointer. As long as the offensive sets work and the guards do not turn the ball over, the Heel’s scoring will be down from last year but it will be more efficient. If Paige continues to grow and James and Johnson develop more in the post, look for the Heels in Atlanta.