North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams is famous for tough practices after big losses, he was quoted as saying “We’ll see if they survive practice tomorrow first” in response to a question about where the team goes from here after being blown out by Indiana Monday night. UNC is having a lot of trouble of the defensive end and it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone considering that pretty much all of the teams shot blocking from last season is now in the NBA. Let’s take a look at some ways this team can improve on the defensive end.
Get back on defense: Immaturity in this team really shows when it comes to getting back on defense. After a missed shot in which the opposing team secures the rebound it’s almost like UNC doesn’t want to admit they didn’t get the offensive board. Pretty much every time this happens one or two players lurk around the ball like it’s better to make a half hearted attempt to steal the ball back then it is to get back and defend. Indiana looked like they were the run and gun team because they exploited UNC for not getting back over and over and many times it was because they felt they could steal the ball back instead of conceding that they didn’t score and didn’t secure the offensive board and didn’t want to just get back on defense.
Fighting through ball screens: Both Butler and Indiana made UNC look silly in the half court getting open shot after open shot on ball screens. This in my view is because of two things, not knowing when to help and not fighting hard enough. Playing team defense is as much about communication as anything else and too many times shooters are finding themselves wide open because UNC didn’t fight through the screen and get back on their man or they didn’t get help in time.
Lack of Hustle: Defense takes heart, commitment and hustle to succeed, it takes five guys with one mission and Carolina has rarely shown that this season. Pride is a word that also comes to mind. This is the simplest thing to correct, the Tar Heels simply need to hustle for 40 minutes on both ends of the floor each and ever night.
It’s easy to look at the way this team performed against Indiana and the way they played against Butler and wonder how bad it’s going to get this season. Nobody wants to hear the same excuse that this is a young and developing team, but that’s exactly what they are. It’s easy to see the panic on the faces of these young players that “what the heck are we supposed to do?” look on everybody’s face. What this team is, is a bunch of role players from last year being asked to play much larger ones this season along with a couple of players who missed significant time due to injuries still working their way back and a group of freshman all playing big minutes. Anybody that didn’t expect bumps in the road was dreaming, this is going to take a while.
I still really like this team and think that by the end of the year all of us will look back and realize how much fun it was watching them develop and look onto 2013 as a year of promise. Like Kentucky, UNC was overrated to start the season, right now they are not playing like a top 25 team. It’s also key to remember that they just played five road games in 11 days capped off against the #1 team in the nation at one of the toughest places to play in the nation. The upcoming schedule is favorable and the Heels should rack up a few confidence boosting wins in a row. Roy has a lot of work to do with this team, but let’s not judge them or the coach now, it’s way too early.