Hey UNC: What In The Heck Is Up With ‘Z’?


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I’ve now watched all of last season’s games at least 3 times and all of this season’s games twice.  I’m not just telling you that to brag about my hermit like lifestyle, as cool as it is.  No instead I wanted to share my biggest concern, Tyler Zeller.  Zeller finally came into his own last year as a junior after injury riddled freshman and sophomore years.  He battled for position on the block with spirit, he went up with his patent right hook with authority, he hit the mid range shot with consistency, and always knocked it down from the charity stripe.

After choosing to stay for his senior year everybody expected the game of Tyler Zeller to evolve even more.  Why wouldn’t it?  While it’s hard to say with confidence or any certainty what’s up with Z, it’s clear I’m not the only one concerned.

What the Heels are doing about Zeller and what I think the real problem is after the jump

One of the great things about Roy Williams is he doesn’t hold back and he’s not afraid to recognize a weakness.  Here’s what he had to say about Zeller.

"“Z has got to catch the ball cleanly and make a quicker decision,’’ Williams said. “If you feel one guy is on you, I want to see him turn around and try to score. Tyler Hansbrough was a different animal, he was so strong and wanted the contact that he would turn those shoulders high, elbows high, and some of those double-teams would back off a little bit. And Z feels like he’s being attacked in there a little more, so it’s different people, and you’ve got to coach different ways.“With Z, we want him to make a quick move or get the ball out. And at the same time, the perimeter people have to help him. If I’m on the right wing and throw it in, I should either screen away for another perimeter player to go over there, or foul-line extended, or see that I’ve got no one coming and I’ve got the space – so that Z has someone to throw the ball to. … Z’s being attacked, he can’t find you. It’s not like hide-and-seek; you’ve got to be able to be seen. And if he can’t see your hands, you’re in a bad position. So he’s got to make a quicker move, and the perimeter has got to give him some better help to give him to throw it to.”"

While I agree with coach, Z isn’t handling the double team well and he’s not making quick enough decisions.  And do I even need to go into how weak some of his field goal attempts have looked this year?  But it’s not the what I’m interested in here it’s the why.  It’s easy to see why Zeller isn’t playing well.  Why isn’t he playing well?

Zeller’s not playing well because his confidence is shaken, he’s shaken because he’s pressing.  It’s a viscous cycle, Zeller could be pressing for any number of reasons.  The most likely is he’s desperately trying to improve his draft stock in his senior season.  He’s trying to make up for lost time.  He’s trying to prove those that graded him as a low first round pick to high second round that they are wrong.  And we all know that sometimes when you want something a little bit too much sometimes you press.

Roy needs to drill it into Zeller’s head that he is going to be a NBA first round pick, that he’s going to be fine.  Roy has to show Tyler how to get out there and have fun with the game again.  Zeller is one of the best running big men in the country.  Time to get the kid back to basics.  Run the break, set up on the left shoulder and do your turnaround hook, face up on the elbow and knock down the mid range jumper.  That’s what Tyler does, he’s going to be a very very poor man’s Dirk Nowitski.  Sometimes a college coach is party coach, part Dad, part psychologist.  Time to sit Tyler down on the couch coach.