For the first time since 1996, the North Carolina Tar Heels have begun conference play 0-3. And for the first time since that same year the Tar Heels, Duke Blue Devils, and North Carolina State Wolfpack all lost on the same day. In fact a fourth Tobacco Road team, Wake Forest, lost as well on Saturday. For North Carolina the struggles are obvious and the stress it’s putting on Coach Roy Williams and his staff is becoming more evident. Here are my takeaways from yesterday’s 57-45 loss to the No. 2 Syracuse Orange.
North Carolina lacks leadership
Since the days of the 2009 Championship team, the Tar Heels have had a struggle in finding a clear leader on the court. Last year as PJ Hairston developed, he began to take those responsibilities. Even sitting on the bench this season, Hairston had kept his team motivated. Since his departure however, this team lacks confidence and leadership. Now it’s time for someone, with Hairston dismissed, to fill that roll. It appears Marcus Paige has tried to, but it hasn’t shown himself to be the one. Will Paige finally be the leader or will someone else step up to the plate?
Tar Heels need to be patient
I question many of the shots taken by Carolina in the past few games, especially from the underclassmen on the team. Each time of possession, you have 35 seconds to work with. Watching the past few games, it’s like North Carolina is playing with ten seconds on the clock. Paige rushes the ball down to the court and they take the first shot they can get. There’s not need to push sloppy three point shots and deep field goals when you have plenty of time to work your way inside of the post to make an easy basket.
Another thing patience is influencing…passing. JP Tokoto and Marcus Paige have become notorious for sloppy passes. Brice Johnson has a reputation for not being able to catch passes. Tokoto made a pass inside to Johnson against Syracuse when it was quite obvious Cuse had three defenders between the two Carolina players. Yet, Tokoto took his chances and tried to force a pass that was never meant to be made.
Defensively, this team has a long way to go
Offensively, we started the season rather decent and it seems problems are developing each game within the offense. However, defensively the Tar Heels just haven’t been there all season. Constantly allowing the offense to drive to the basket without a fight is the biggest problem. Next issue is boxing out their opponents for rebounds. UNC seems intent on not boxing out after free throws and baskets which allows their opponents to just come in and grab the ball back for another 35 second possession. It’s time to get physical and rebound the ball and force the other team to work hard for a win.