UNC Basketball: A closer look at Caleb Love’s improvement

The improvement of sophomore guard Caleb Love has been a huge boost for the UNC basketball program this season.

Throughout the history of the UNC basketball program, there have been many talented guards who had their fair share of ups and downs during their first season in Chapel Hill.

If you sit down and think about it, you can essentially write down the names of dozens of former Tar Heels who went through this experience. Fortunately, even if they struggled a bit during their freshman seasons, past history has shown that those players who return to the program end up seeing drastic improvements during their time on campus.

Caleb Love is a current example of this trend. Coming in as a five-star recruit, Love was projected as a “one-and-done” player, as many analysts felt that his time at North Carolina wouldn’t last long.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted our world. College programs across the country were limited in regards to their regular summer and fall workouts, as many players were forced to “learn on the fly” through actual game experience.

As the Tar Heels handed Love the reins to the offense, the program was asking a lot of the St. Louis, Missouri native. Throughout his freshman campaign, we saw flashes of just how good he could be, but oftentimes, Love made mistakes that most freshmen are guilty of making.

One of Love’s biggest issues as a freshman was his overall shooting. He shot 31.6% from the floor and 26.6 percent from three-point land, both of which were rather disappointing outcomes. He also had some ball-handling issues, as he turned the ball over 91 times in 29 games.

His freshman year has now come and gone, and Love decided that it was in his best interest to return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season. Now, with some very valuable experience under his belt, along with going through a somewhat normal offseason, Love has reaped the benefits of his decision to return.

With Hubert Davis now at the helm, Love has been one of the Tar Heels’ best players throughout their first 15 games. What’s even more important to note is his drastically improved numbers overall.

2020-2021 (Freshman)
Games – 29
Minutes per game – 27.6
Field goal percentage – 31.6%
Three-point FG % – 26.6%
Free throw % – 80.8%
Points per game – 10.5
Rebounds per game – 2.6
Assists per game – 3.6

2021-2022 (Sophomore)

Games – 15
Minutes per game – 32.3
Field goal percentage – 45.1%
Three-point FG % – 44.2%
Free throw % – 84.0%
Points per game – 15.6
Rebounds per game – 3.7
Assists per game – 3.4%

Yes, it’s only half the number of games that he’s played so far this season, but it’s important to note how much of an improvement Love has seen during his sophomore campaign.

It’s hard to compare numbers of current and former players, but we dove into the numbers to see how Love’s improvement matched up with UNC basketball legend Marcus Paige.

Paige had more of an increase in scoring (as his points per game went up almost ten points a game compared to Love’s 5.1), but Love’s shooting percentage is much more improved than the former Tar Heel guard.

Love is currently enjoying a 13.5 percent increase in overall field goal percentage, and his three-point shooting has seen amazing improvements, too, as he’s shooting 17.6 percent better from deep. Simply put, his improved scoring ability is just what the Tar Heels need.

There is a correlation to be made between Love’s offensive success and the team’s overall success. So far this season, the sophomore guard has five 20-plus point contests, all of which have resulted in UNC victories.

Although there have been a few games in which he’s struggled, Tar Heel fans have gotten to see a much more confident Caleb Love this season. When Love is rolling, the Tar Heels are rolling right along with him, as he’s provided a much-needed spark that will be crucial if North Carolina has aspirations of playing in big games later on in the season.

Love could’ve easily taken his chances at the professional level, but he bet on himself to return to Chapel Hill for at least another season. So far, it appears that the decision not only worked out for Love but for the UNC basketball program as well.

Continue to follow the Keeping It Heel team for all the latest news and updates regarding Caleb Love and the rest of the UNC basketball program.