Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Just how good is North Carolina?

December 20, 2014 Columns No Comments

Last year, North Carolina was a team that no one could figure out. Lose to Belmont, beat Louisville. Lose at UAB, beat Michigan State. Beat Kentucky and Texas, lose at Wake Forest.

This year? The question is whether or not the Tar Heels can really challenge for the top of the ACC, and perhaps most of all, if they have enough to complement star guard Marcus Paige. The Tar Heels haven’t been quite so hard to figure out on a given night, but we’re still trying to figure out just how good this team is and will be.

Maybe that’s why Roy Williams didn’t bother to name one area where he’d like to see his team improve on Saturday.

“Nothing other than the game of basketball,” said the North Carolina head coach. “There is not one phase that we can’t get a lot better at, which is good. We need to shoot it better, we need to rebound it better, we need to defend better, we need to talk more on the defensive end.”

North Carolina has actually been a pretty good defensive team. Opponents are shooting under 36 percent from the field, including 26 percent from long range. They force over 14 turnovers per game and are out-rebounding teams by nine per game. So while they can get better, it doesn’t seem they can do so by much at that end of the floor.

The Tar Heels certainly have plenty of talent surrounding Paige. Kennedy Meeks actually leads them in scoring and rebounding, and Brice Johnson is getting better as well, so they’re in reasonably good shape up front. That’s more the case when you add in freshman Justin Jackson contributing right away, and he has a world of upside. There’s also Isaiah Hicks, so you get the idea: the frontcourt is fine.

But alongside Paige, it’s a different story. For offense, at times they might be best served sliding Paige off the ball and having Nate Britt or Joel Berry run the team, but that can’t happen all game. The problem is that none of the shooting guards have distinguished themselves enough, especially shooting the ball. The only Tar Heel other than Paige who shoots better than 34 percent from long range is J.P. Tokoto, and he’s only taken 14 on the season. Plus, he will never be mistaken for a shooter; his game is with his athleticism.

Williams has tried a few different players off the ball, as Paige and Jackson are the only players to start every game thus far. He’s tried starting Britt and moving Paige, he tried Theo Pinson (who has hardly been the impact player he was projected to be), and he’s tried Tokoto there instead of at small forward. Jackson has played there almost by default for a big lineup, but he hasn’t clicked from long range yet.

For his part, Paige has shot below 35 percent from the field, and that’s not much better than his three-point percentage. That’s more evidence of the load he is trying to carry. The fact that they have won despite that is one more reason Williams is optimistic about this team, and that’s understandable. However, Paige needs help on the perimeter.

The good thing for North Carolina is that few ACC teams play a zone defense. They are a team ripe to be zoned often, with strength up front and a weakness shooting the ball. But not facing such teams doesn’t mean they can get away with this much longer. Teams will key even more on Paige and the interior players, and make them have to prove themselves from the perimeter.

North Carolina is 8-3 after beating Ohio State 82-74 in Chicago on Saturday. None of the three losses – to Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Iowa at Home and at Kentucky – are bad ones, though they would surely love to have the home loss to Iowa back. They have wins over Davidson, UCLA, Florida and now Ohio State, but none of those are terribly impressive. Davidson is 9-1 against a soft schedule, but Atlantic 10 play looms. UCLA and Florida have proven to be good, but not very good (and the former was throttled by Kentucky on Saturday in the game immediately following theirs). The jury is still out on just how good Ohio State is, and will be even more so now.

UAB and William & Mary are the only games left before ACC play begins. Both are at home, and both are games they should win. That would put them at 10-3 and still with wins whose quality is up for debate. We will start to get a sense of just how good they are after a few ACC games. For now, we have to wait.

Comment on this Article:







Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville

Advertisement


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017 by

The FBI has zeroed in on college basketball in a big way, and what has happened may be the beginning of a massive hit to the sport. We discuss what we know thus far in our latest podcast.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – August 17, 2017

August 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we check in with some good news from a few teams overseas after a big scare, plus a big addition for a championship contender, a conference on the rise, and a great coach thinking about a return to the bench.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the NBA Draft, of course, but spend much more time on the happenings at Ohio State and Louisville and the implications starting next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 17, 2017

May 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we start with the NBA Draft Lottery, then talk about a big pickup for Duke, important transfers, the coaching carousel winding down and much more.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.