UNC Basketball: What have we learned about the Tar Heels after nonconference play?


With ACC play right around the corner, what did we learn about the Tar Heels during the nonconference season?

Happy Holidays.

With Christmas now come and gone, so too has the North Carolina Tar Heels nonconference season play.

The Tar Heels finished the nonconference portion of their schedule at 11-2, with their only losses coming to Michigan State and an upset to Wofford.

Still, despite the disappointing loss to the Terriers, UNC had a pretty good nonconference finish that included a road win over Tennessee.

With the first conference game against Wake Forest coming up Saturday, what have we learned about the Tar Heels after the nonconference season?

The Positives

Three-Point Shooting

The Tar Heels are a very good three- point shooting team this season. On the year North Carolina has hit 101 of the 255 three-pointers attempted.

They are shooting 39.6 percent as a team which is third in the ACC and four percentage points higher than last season.

They have five players shooting at least 40 percent from three for the season, compared to just two last season and one of those was Stilman White. With more outside shots falling, the Tar Heels have been harder to defend and that has led to a two-point per game increase overall.

The three-point barrage is being led by Kenny Williams who is hitting 52 percent of his three-pointers, second best in the ACC.



There were a lot of questions about how the Tar Heels would do this season after losing their top three rebounders from last year’s top-rated rebounding team.

The answers have been surprisingly good as the Tar Heels are averaging 43.8 rebounds per game, .3 rebounds more than last year.

This is in huge part to the play of Luke Maye who is averaging 10.5 per game and has eight double-digit rebounding games this season.

UNC is also getting an average of 15.6 rebounds per game combined from their trio of Brandon Huffman, Garrison Brooks, and Sterling Manley and the three freshmen are giving the Tar Heels a solid rotation in the middle.

The Negatives


The biggest area the Tar Heels need improving is turnovers. In their two losses, the Tar Heels have turned it over 30 times combined. They are averaging 13.6 turnovers a game, which is two more per game than last season.

Part of this can be explained to youth as Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek have seen a lot more playing time due to injuries. The two freshmen combined for four turnovers in 15 minutes of play against Wofford.

However, it is not just the youth.

The normally steady hands of Theo Pinson have been less so of late. Pinson is leading the team with 2.6 turnovers per game, nearly a turnover more than the next closest Tar Heel.

Pinson has eight turnovers in his past two games, two more than the next closest Tar Heel, the freshman Jalek Felton. If UNC doesn’t find a way to take better care of the ball, they will see more upsets like the one against the Terriers.

Offensive Rebounding

Though the Tar Heels have been a better overall rebounding team than last year’s squad, that is not the case on the offensive side. Last season North Carolina dominated teams on the offensive end averaging 15.8 offensive rebounds per game.

This year’s squad is only averaging 12.7 and in their loss, to Wofford, they had only nine.

Part of this is due to the team shooting better overall (47.9 percent this season compared to 46.6 percent last season). More made shots obviously leads to fewer rebounding opportunities.

However, the team is also getting beat up down low.

In their two losses, the Tar Heels allowed the Terriers and Spartans to combine for 65 defensive rebounds. In both of those games, Luke Maye and the other big men were pushed around easily by the other team’s post players.

UNC will have to do a better job of cleaning up on the glass as ACC teams will be better prepared for the Tar Heels shooting this conference season.


I honestly believe this team could make a third-consecutive Final Four, something no one has done since Michigan State during the 1999-2001 seasons. At the same time this team could also lose in the opening weekend.

The advantage to the early season is that the freshmen have gotten some quality playing time against some really good teams. The big men particularly should continue to develop and Jalek Felton is the best backup point guard the team has had in quite some time.

UNC is deep, but it is also young. However, I believe that Roy Williams has used this non conference season to build confidence and to teach the team.

Next: UNC falls in latest AP Top 25 Poll

If they learn from the mistakes of Wofford and Michigan State, they should be a top two seed opening in Charlotte with a good chance to playing late in the tournament.