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January 16, 2014
A Fresh Start for UNC?
With 15 regular season games remaining, certainly there's still plenty of time for North Carolina to right the ship of its 0-3 ACC start, but there certainly has to be changes in the mentality and play on the court if the Tar Heels are to get back on track and make it back into the hunt near the top of the standings.
Despite averaging 75.6 points per game as a whole on the season, in the three ACC games so far, the Tar Heels have averaged a miserable 56 points per game---nearly 20 fewer points. UNC hasn't been shooting well and they're struggling to find the right combinations of players on the floor at crucial points to get the necessary production to win.
In Roy Williams' philosophy, the Tar Heels are running up and down the floor and putting intense pressure on opponents to keep up with them.
That hasn't been nearly as possible this year, as the Tar Heels have been more limited to a half-court team.
Teams are seeing UNC's struggles shooting from the perimeter and they're playing more zone against the Tar Heels, which has proven effective defensively for recent foes like Miami and of course Syracuse.
One could also say the lack of physical play and attacking in the low post has been a reason why the Tar Heels have fallen so quickly.
In the three ACC games so far, the Tar Heels have shot 22-of-40 from the free throw line, a stat line that is consistent with some of the team's earlier woes.
Not only are they not making their free throws, they're not getting there nearly as often as they're used to getting there.
With the lack of consistently effective free throw shooting and ample opportunities, it shows that the Tar Heels aren't being as physical and attacking the rim like they have in past years under Coach Williams.
The Tar Heels have shot 9-of-48 from three-point range in the three ACC games so far.
And for a team that isn't a particularly good outside shooting team, that is by far way too many outside shots.
Attacking the middle of the floor and getting the ball to the big guys down low has to more of a focus for this team if they're to make any noise whatsoever in conference play this winter.
We all know the talent is there. It's a matter of execution and want-to.
But with such a young frontcourt, they will have to learn to knock down shots on a more consistent basis against defenses that swarm to the paint against UNC and prefer to sit back in a comfortable zone look.
UNC's offense under Williams is always at its best where's inside-outside options, forcing defenses to run around incoherently trying to keep up with post weapons and long-range bombers. The Tar Heels simply haven't had multiple dimensions lately on offense.
Marcus Paige is the leading three point shooter for this team, but teams now know what he can bring to the table for the Tar Heels and know that if you can slow the one true outside scoring threat on this team, one has a good chance to beat the Tar Heels.
Coach Williams has often said that his basic defensive philosophy is to force one bad shot from the opposing team each possession, but unfortunately that's what Wake Forest, Miami, and Syracuse did to them in recent games.
Players such as James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Joel James will have to become more consistent down low in the post while becoming more physical on both sides of the ball.
Another factor can be looked at is the hustle on the boards for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina has posted pretty decent numbers on that end, out-rebounding their opponents 130-113. 54 of those rebounds in that three game span have been on the offensive side of the ball.
For a team that has that many offensive rebounds, they simply must be scoring 56 points a game.
All these factors listed above can be accounted for the 0-3 start in the ACC for the Tar Heels.
However, all these areas can be worked on and fixed before the season ends, and they have to be if the Tar Heels are to stay off the NCAA Tournament bubble despite their impressive out-of-conference victories.
In all reality, the Tar Heels need to look at this week off as a fresh start, that the past is the past and they've had several days to work on key areas before they tip off Saturday afternoon in the Smith Center against BC.
Coach Williams has said that he takes a lot of blame in the last three games but he believes in his players.
He has witnessed his team take down several top teams so far this season, and he has ran into that locker room after beating people like Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky and engaged in the ritual of jumping around with his players that has become a common occurrence in recent years after big Tar Heel victories.
Lately there hasn't been any jumping around of course, but with the Tar Heels off an entire week, it couldn't have come at a better time for the coaching staff and players.
The Eagles come in with a record of 5-12 and pushed undefeated, No. 2 Syracuse to the edge last week, showing that they aren't scared of anyone.
There is no doubt the Eagles will be heading to Chapel Hill looking for a win, and won't be intimidated by the 'North Carolina' on the chests of this group of Tar Heels.
A fresh start is exactly what the Tar Heels need right now but they have to learn from their past and use what they gone through to mature and improve.
Oscar Wilde once said "experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."
It's something that deserves some considerable thought as the Tar Heels try to bring their full, all-around game to Chapel Hill this weekend and in the next 15 ACC games.