UNC Basketball: Things to Watch vs. Boston College


This Saturday afternoon, the No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels will go on the road to take on the Boston College Eagles. The Tar Heels will be looking to put an end to their latest mid-season slump after losing two straight games against the likes of Louisville and Virginia.

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In those two losses, as well as throughout much of this season, the Tar Heels (17-6 overall, 7-3 ACC) have continued to struggle on the perimeter on both ends of the court. Coming off that tough stretch of games in recent weeks, part of the blame is put on both mental, and physical fatigue. Preparing for the varying defenses of Syracuse, Louisville, then Virginia can take its toll on a young team. A struggling Boston College team (9-12, 1-8 ACC) is exactly the break this UNC team needs at a time like this.

However, the Boston College Eagles have been a tricky team lately. In their previous game, a 71-63 loss at Notre Dame, the Eagles started the game as poorly as possible, yet still managed to make it a close game in the end. A sloppy start had them trailing the Irish 41-25 after the first half, but BC actually owned the second half score 38-30 thanks to a hot shooting streak from Olivier Hanlan (28 points, four rebounds, fours assists, and two steals in the game).

Feb 4, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Boston College Eagles guard Olivier Hanlan (21) loses the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Steve Vasturia (32) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Besides Hanlan, the primary concern of the UNC defense will likely be BC forward, Aaron Brown, who is second on the team to Hanlan in points per game, averaging 14.7 points.

While Marcus Paige and Nate Britt had been cranking up UNC’s 3-point percentage as of late (56 percent against Syracuse, 44 percent against Virginia), the second halves of the team’s previous two losses both saw a significant drop in offensive efficiency from the team. The Tar Heels were outscored 35-24 in the second half against Louisville (outscored 18-8 in OT), and 43-31 against Virginia.

Feb 2, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams talks with guard Marcus Paige (5) in the second half. The Cavaliers defeated the Tar Heels 75-64 at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s obvious that shooters are simply not knocking down their shots late in games, what’s even more egregious is the poor defense down the stretch in these games. The offensive rating of both opposing teams in UNC’s last two losses soared above 100, while the Tar Heel offensive rating hovered at least around 20 points less. This means, the Tar Heels are giving up points at a rapid pace, and not putting up much of a fight on their own offensive possessions.

This UNC team, that currently ranks 74th in the nation in defensive efficiency, and has regular starters that inconsistently score either 20 points, or be lucky to score two (J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson), is definitely one of the more challenging teams to figure out for Roy Williams. However, the team from last season also struggled mightily in much of the same areas, and Roy figured it out.

As unfortunate for Boston College as it may seem, this game will be all about how the Tar Heels can respond to the criticisms of their toughness and consistency as a team. It is safe to assume that UNC should be able to make a strong comeback Saturday night, but they will have to shoot well, and defend well, for all 40 minutes.