Tar Heel Hoops: Examining UNCs Perimeter Defense


I’ve been in many, some heated discussions about the Tar Heels perimeter defense.  From what I’ve observed, Tar Heel Nation has separated into two camps.  The “We’re better off with Reggie Bullock” camp, and the “The Perimeter D is suffering because we miss Dexter Strickland” camp.

I’m here to tell you today that neither one of those camps are correct in their assessment.  I’m also not going to tell you that either camps argument is stronger or any more correct versus the other.  Both have some pretty valid points on UNCs perimeter defense.  But like water, it looks like Tar Heel Nation (myself included) has taken to the path of least resistance here in our analysis of the situation.  After suffering through re-watching Carolinas losses this season, I think I’ve come out of the tunnel with some real answers.  First, before I layout how UNC needs to go about fixing their problems on the perimeter, let’s understand what the real problem actually is.

What’s really wrong with the Tar Heel defense is the same problem the team goes through in pressure situations.  A combination of two different things, losing focus is obviously one.  The other which in my observation is the bigger issue here, is team chemistry.  Defense is a collective effort, great individual defenders like John Henson are wonderful to have. Basketball is not an individual sport (at least not college ball, I’m not sure yet what that crap is the NBA is putting out these days, nor do I really care) anyway, basketball is a team sport, especially on the defensive end.  Offense is a little easier, players are naturally a little more motivated to hustle and fight for position on the offensive end.  And star players with the ability to create their own shot, can decide to do so at any given time.  On defense, you must communicate well, know and execute your assignment and help out when your supposed to help out.  Effort, teamwork, chemistry and communication are the keys to a great defensive team.

When you don’t function and communicate well as a team on the defensive end.  Those individual performances can be neutralized.  And it’s only a matter of time before your exposed.  The sheer number of times I watched Carolina leave shooters wide open was still mind boggling to me.  Despite the fact that I notice and scream about it every single game it seems like, watching it all over again in film review was brutal.  The biggest reasons so many shooters are getting so wide open is simple.  The Tar Heels are doing an awful job of fighting through screens and almost never recover in time to get a hand in the shooters face.  The other is the help defense on the perimeter is almost just as bad.  Try and think of a time when you saw a perimeter player pick up somebody’s man right on time and do something positive defensively?  Take your time, even if you do somehow remember one, I’m positive you won’t recall that many.

Teams with a shot blocker like Henson and quick, big, strong athletes like Carolina has at every position, should be scaring opponents.  Except everybody’s figured out that UNC is struggling to find an identity on the defensive end.  It’s clear to the most casual fan, teams that move well without the ball that can hit the spot up jumper can have success against the Heels.  Teams understand now that attacking the paint is a risky move against Carolina.  The good teams have learned how to expose the perimeter defense and make it open up things inside by forcing the bigs out of position.

A great team like Kentucky, if UNC isn’t careful, could easily take this weakness and blow it up making it spread to the rest of the Tar Heel attack.  Follow me, you first expose the perimeter defense, the big men are forced to help out on open shooters.  With UNCs trees down low out roaming the perimeter, two other things become exposed, the paint and the glass.  Now one problem has turned into three.  Let’s keep going, much of UNCs offensive game is either in transition or is executed quickly by pushing the ball down the court after a rebound.  If the Heels aren’t dominating the glass because they are too busy hanging out on the perimeter, the offense suffers.   The Tar Heels bread and butter is rebounding, advancing the ball down the court faster than their opponents can get back and thoroughly dominating the glass.  Take away the loaf of bread, the stick of butter and what are you left with?

It is absolutely critical that UNC not only address, but figure out a way to fix their perimeter defensive woes for good.  How can this be accomplished you ask?  I’ll break that down in Part II tomorrow.

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