UNC Basketball Coaching Staff Changing the Narrative on Defense and Rebounding

The UNC Basketball program struggled with rebounding and defense during the early portions of the season. However, that narrative is slowly beginning to change.

Jan 6, 2024; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson sophomore forward Chauncey Wiggins (21) shoots
Jan 6, 2024; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson sophomore forward Chauncey Wiggins (21) shoots / Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The narrative surrounding the UNC Basketball program through the first ten games of the season was a team that had a high-powered offense, but if a game came down to playing defense or winning the game with rebounds, they would struggle. The stats back that up.

Through the first ten games of the season, the Tar Heels were 7-3, and just a quick glance at the box score could point out why and how they lost those three games. Yes, those losses were against quality opponents, Villanova, Connecticut, and Kentucky.

Take all ten games, and North Carolina was averaging 38.2 rebounds per game while allowing their opponents to bring in 34.7 per game. They were also allowing 75 points per game. UNC Basketball fans are used to the Tar Heels dominating the boards and being atop the country under Hall of Fame head coach Roy Williams, but that hasn't been the case under Hubert Davis.

In just three short weeks since the loss to Kentucky, in which the Tar Heels were out-rebounded 43-32 and gave up 87 points, the narrative has suddenly changed. The Tar Heels are playing aggressive defense, and winning the rebounding battle.

In the four games since that loss to the Wildcats, North Carolina is averaging 43.75 rebounds per game, allowing just 35, and holding their opponents to 60.25 points per game!

Two of those contests came in the past week against Pittsburgh and Clemson, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the ACC, respectively, in rebounding. The results of those games? The Tar Heels were +10 against the Panthers and +11 against the Tigers on the boards and held each opponent to 57 and 55 points each.

Against the Panthers, North Carolina didn't convert its first field goal until 13:40 remaining in the first half. However, the defense kept the game close, only allowing six points for Pittsburgh and keeping the game within reach while the offense found its stride.

The narrative going into the top-25 matchup with the Tigers was that if the game was up-tempo, it would favor the Tar Heels, but if Clemson could keep the game in the half-court, they would have the advantage.

The UNC Basketball team didn't buy into that narrative, though, that they couldn't win with defense and grit. It was a low-possession game, and neither team had a single fast-break point. North Carolina still came out victorious thanks to their effort on the boards and defensive intensity.

Over the last several weeks, the defensive performance has shown in the KenPom rankings for the Tar Heels. This UNC Basketball team has been in the top 15 of adjusted offensive efficiency for the majority of the season, currently ranking 11th. The adjusted defensive efficiency had been lower in the mid-late 20s and at one point as low as 37th on December 1st. Following the win over the Tigers, North Carolina is now up to No. 16 in adjusted defensive efficiency, showing just how far they have come in a month, and No. 8 overall in KenPom.

Hubert Davis and the UNC Basketball coaching staff deserve major credit for turning around the defensive intensity and rebounding efforts in such a short period of time and credit to the players for buying into what is being coached on a daily basis. If this trend continues, the Tar Heels could very well put themselves in a great position to have a special season.

UNC Basketball: Hubert Davis in attendance to watch top high school prospects. UNC Basketball: Hubert Davis in attendance to watch top high school prospects. dark. Next

Follow us @KeepingItHeel on X (formerly Twitter) and like our fan page on Facebook for continued coverage of UNC basketball news, views, and updates.