North Carolina basketball has always had the reputation for pushing the tempo and playing at a really fast pace especially since Roy Williams took over. Whether it was a point guard, such as Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall, or big men like Tyler Zeller and Tyler Hansbrough, every player on the floor made sure that they could outrun the defense for easy baskets. The dynamic offense has had a long run of success that include conference and national championships as well as gaudy offensive statistics that rank in the top 10 nationally on an annual basis.
This year, the team is built with guys that are fast and athletic, but the dynamic is a little different. This group of youngsters won’t be able to just beat teams down the floor, especially if they’re playing teams made up of veterans. So I think that whatever Roy and his staff can do to make it more of a fast paced game, they should. To me, that’s upping the tempo on defense.
Whenever you pressure teams full court on defense, they have to move the ball up the floor at a much faster pace than normal which subsequently disrupts their game flow. The slower a ball handler moves up the floor during a press, the more likely they are to be trapped on the sideline with no room to move. To me, this is what the Tar Heels should do in order to keep the game at the pace they want it and within their control.
Roy has used a full court press before. He used it as recently as the Butler game during the Maui Invitational when Carolina was down 30 in the second half. In fact seemingly all the times that Roy goes with a full court press is when his teams are down big late and he needs to force quick turnovers. Ironically, even though this game strategy is used as a last resort, it usually proves effective. So why not use it more often and a lot earlier in the game?
Roy has guys that are just as tenacious on defense as they are fast in JP Tokoto, Dexter Strickland, James Michael McAdoo, and Reggie Bullock. These guys have proven that they can get after the ball on defense and create transition opportunities that they can finish on the other end of the floor. We saw how quickly and how often the press created opportunities for points during the Butler comeback so I can just imagine the results and excitement generated from implementing the press at the opening tip.
Roy is a coach of habit. He has a plan and sticks to it rarely making adjustments once the game begins, but there isn’t any reason not to try this out. In my opinion, in order to get a young team playing well, you need to get them excited. Why deny them the opportunity to come out of gate aggressively? With the amount of substitutions that Roy makes anyways, he’d constantly have fresh players in the lineup to run a full court press which becomes less effective as fatigue builds.
This is the perfect time for Roy to test this out. He has a few games at home remaining that his team will be favored in before conference play starts. If the tactic shows promise then why not use it? Throw something at your competition that they aren’t expecting Carolina to do. Run the full court press early and often and set the tone in Carolina’s favor from the get go.