The North Carolina Tar Heels are searching for answers after suffering their largest defeat of the season at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. UNC sits at 16-7 and 6-4 in conference play with only one or two resume building wins (depending on your opinion of Maryland). Despite losing four first round picks from last years roster this team was still ranked #13 in the nation to start the season based on the amount of talented on the roster, so what’s wrong with the Tar Heels?
First a disclaimer, many things are wrong with the Tar Heels are we’re going to dive deep into all of them I’m not going to talk about the starting lineup or Roy Williams‘ puzzling rotations just yet, we’ll save that for later. Here let’s focus on two key areas that are killing UNC.
Lack of a true post threat: I love the potential of James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and Joel James, key word is potential none of them are showing much of anything in the post. Johnson is a terrific scorer, he also has huge holes in the rest of his game most notably on the defensive end where his 180 pound frame does him no favors. Roy recently commented that both his freshman big men Johnson and James need to get in better shape. While I’m not a fan of the rotations or starting lineup, I don’t see Brice Johnson giving this team much of a lift in the post if he can’t play substantial minutes.
McAdoo has true superstar potential, the problem is he just isn’t there yet. Expectations on him were far too high at the beginning of the season. He’s nowhere near ready to carry a team to the promised land because he lacks any true big man skills. McAdoo is excellent facing the basket, penetrating the lane and he has a nice mid range jump shot when he’s not rushing things. What he isn’t is exactly what the Tar Heels need, a big man they can throw the ball into when they need a bucket, someone to space the floor and create opportunities for shooters. He’s also not much of a passer at just 1.3 assists per game McAdoo rarely passes up a shot and plays so fast that he isn’t able to collapse the defense and get the ball to open teammates because he’s typically attacking at 100mph.
Which leads me to Desmond Hubert whom I believe hurts the team offensively more than he helps them defensively. Sure Hubert is probably the best the Tar Heels have on defense but his limitations restrict the flow of the offense and essentially make it a four on five game in the half court. Hubert has made just 15 field goals on 29 attempts in 23 games this season 18 of which he has started at the center position. By comparison Jackson Simmons who started the season as an end of the bench reserve who averages nearly four less minutes per game than does Hubert has made 24 shots on 35 attempts.
Aside from scoring UNC traditionally relies on their big men to dominate the boards, get the ball to a guard to initiate the fast break. On this team however 19.9 of their 42 average rebounds per game comes from perimeter players, only McAdoo averages more than four boards per game among the big men and that’s a problem. When facing a team like Miami, NC State or Indiana, teams with size have destroyed the Heels on the boards despite their #4 national ranking in the category.
Point guard play: I’m a firm believer that Roy Williams assumed Kendall Marshall would be back to guide this team giving Marcus Paige a year to sit and learn. Despite everything I said above about the lack of a true big man impeding UNC from doing what they normally do the single biggest loss from last years roster is Marshall.
I love Marcus Paige and in time I think he’ll become a star in his own right however as is the theme with this team he’s just not there yet. Marshall excelled at putting players in the right position to score, getting them the ball at precisely the right moments, providing easy and quick buckets while leading the offense with a calming efficiency. Paige is a freshman and while that excuse only has so much shelf life it remains an undeniable fact. Paige is averaging just 4.5 assists per game and has yet to crack double digits assists in any game this year. Put Marshall back on this team and a guy like McAdoo’s scoring opportunities would dramatically increase. The perimeter shooters would find themselves open more and UNCs 112th ranked 44.5% shooting percentage would see a healthy increase.
In Part II we’ll take a look at the lack of ball handlers and yes the rotations.