Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Judging by the comment thread, UNC's bad loss to a good team has much of the fanbase in pure panic mode. And with panic comes an infinite number of solutions, simple things that if Roy would just implement would turn around a fourth-in-the-ACC season and have everything coming up Milhouse. Of course, these simple solutions vary greatly from commenter to Facebook post to radio call-in — one man's obviousness is another man's idiocy — but there are a couple that are more prominent than others. Any analysis of UNC's problems, however, eventually runs up against the two immutable laws of this team:
2. UNC's defense is considerably worse when P.J. Hairston is on the floor.
The first point has been internalized by everyone, and there's no shortage of people suggesting how the starting lineup should change to solve that problem. But the second point is going overlooked; I don't think people grasp the defensive differences. In ACC play before the Miami game, UNC's defensive efficiency was 89.4 with Hairston on the bench, and 117.8 when he's on the floor. Now that might be overstating things, as +/- type statistics can be pretty noisy, but the coaches see the team much more in practice. If Hairston had the defensive chops, he'd be playing more than 19.2 minutes a game.
(A similar problem plagues Brice Johnson, who has the best offensive rating of the three big me vying for the starting center job. Unfortunately, his defense has opposing teams salivating so much he's a slipping hazard on the floor.)
As for the other complaint, that Roy Williams has lost the ability to recruit, I think that grossly overstates things. (Witness the N&O article that straight-faced complained that "McAdoo is the only other Top-10 prospect to sign during the past two recruiting cycles." So 5%, when to break 10 you'd have to be very aware of the decks being cleared by early exits. I'm not sure people a considering how the Wear departure wrong-footed UNC. The groundwork for the following two classes had already been set by that time — remember there was fan talk of McAdoo enrolling a year early to fill the gap — leaving this season as the first one UNC could recover, with a very young frontcourt. You know, exactly what we're living through right now.
It's possible I'm just surly. But in a year where we've seen Jackson Simmons man up against Reggie Johnson — and did a decent job — I think it's perverse to think the coaching staff is just being obstinate and that there are easy fixes. There are paths to a victory of Duke tonight, and more than a few involves Hairston's hot hand. But there are costs, and no obvious answers. And I'm tired of reading otherwise.