Is UNC’s Ceiling Still an ACC and/or National Championship?


Feb 14, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Stilman White (L) and forward J.P. Tokoto (LC) and guard Joel Berry II (RC) and guard Nate Britt (R) jog to the bench before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 89-76. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At Roy Williams’ weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Coach Roy gave an interesting answer to a very simple question about his thoughts heading into the ACC Tournament.

Here is Roy’s answer, as transcribed by Inside Carolina…

"We get to go over there and see if we can play our tails off for four days, and if we do, we’ve got a chance to win the whole thing. When we play really well, we’ve got a chance to beat anybody. And so that’s our goal – to try to play really well."

Roy believes that his team’s ceiling is still a National Championship, as he should, since he is the head coach and it is his job to preach confidence of his team’s chances, no matter what happens.

However, what Roy thinks and what the fans think can differ. So, the question is — is UNC’s ceiling, or best case scenario, still winning the ACC or a National Championship?

Based on UNC’s roster, the clear answer to that question is yes. UNC is still as talented as any team in the ACC on paper, and, they have the horses to compete with any team in the NCAA Tournament field. Marcus Paige might not have played extremely well this season, but, he is still a darn good basketball player. There is still a chance he could catch fire and score 30 points a game in the tournament to lead the Tar Heels to a string of victories.

UNC’s supporting cast and bench are also elite units compared to the ACC and NCAA Tournament fields. Brice Johnson is a really good power forward, and although his numbers have dropped as of late, Kennedy Meeks is still a really good basketball player. UNC’s best is also deep with a plethora of talented players, each comfortable filling in different roles.

When you look at this roster on paper, there is still a National Championship caliber team listed. When looking at the stats, the same conclusion can be reached.

UNC ranks 13th in the country in offensive efficiency and 42nd in defensive efficiency, per You might not think those sound great, but they are good enough to win it all. You don’t have to look far to find a National Championship winning team with similar ranks in those two categories — UConn last year ranked similarly to Carolina, just the Huskies were better on defense (10th in the nation) than on offense (39th).

The stats also say UNC has played an extremely tough schedule, ranking second overall behind Kansas. A team that has navigated a tough schedule and still come out with 21 wins is one that is well set up for a post season run. UNC has been tested, and for the most part, they have responded to the test.

However, there is one more way to approach this question. When looking at the roster on paper and when looking at the stats, UNC still has a ceiling of winning an ACC or NCAA Tournament. However, when you factor in on court performance and the good old-fashioned eye test, I think you get a different conclusion.

In big moments all season long, instead of rising to the pressure of a big game or a big moment, UNC has withered away and let other teams take charge. In the home games against N.C. State, Virginia and Duke and the road test at Duke, the Heels let second half opportunities get away from them.

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There isn’t a great stat to quantify this position with. UNC does rank near the bottom (284th) of’s luck rating, which is “A measure of the deviation between a team’s actual winning percentage and what one would expect from its game-by-game efficiencies.”** But I think any fan would agree that UNC is just missing something late in big games this year. Maybe it’s the lack of veteran leadership. Maybe it’s not getting the ball inside to Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, as Andrew Carter discussed in this column. Maybe it’s just that UNC is unlucky. But UNC is clearly missing that late game “swagger” needed to win big games.

When the lights get brighter in March and April, in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, on paper and in the stat book UNC looks primed to make a run towards a championship. However, when you look at a couple of close games that the Tar Heels have let slip away this season, there is no reason to think that their habit of withering away under the spotlight will stop going forward.

** Definition from here