Well. Um. Yeah...that was really crappy wasn't it?
First of all Minnesota is a very good defensive team. You can tell UNC was rattled very early by the Gophers' defensive intensity. Passes UNC was making versus an overmatched Hofstra team were not working against Minnesota. The intensity obviously bothered UNC and toss everyone out of sync. Yeah, the officiating did not help either in terms of the game flow but that is really neither here nor there. As it was UNC had troubles running the offense, shot poorly from all over the place and really has not established an identity as a team with a clear idea of who should be taking the shots on crucial offensive possessions. This team has growing to do. This game does not make the Hofstra game a fluke nor is itself a fluke. There will be some ups and downs with various new parts gelling which was the case in 2006 and 2007 if you recall.
Harrison Barnes is going to garner a lot of attention for his 0-12 shooting night and only five points via the free throw line. I know there is an adjustment from the high school to the college level. I also know Barnes has tremendous pressure on him. Still, all the evidence leading up to this season indicated Barnes was level headed and could handle the transition from a mental standpoint. That does not appear to be the case as he looks like a player who is forcing it too much. Now, you could argue the lack of offensive execution by the team is causing Barnes to feel the need to do more on his own. What I find slightly disconcerting is even a good player who is well defended can find a way to make shots. Barnes could not buy one. It was like he was shooting buckets at the state fair. At the same time, law of averaged and probably other corollaries C.Michael knows dictate that such a performance will certainly turn out to be an outlier. Well, except there was also the exhibition game where the same thing happened. By no means would I push the panic button on Barnes. His skills and focus mean there will come a point he will simply take a game like this over and carry the Heels. Had Barnes done that tonight, UNC wins. Heck, had he shot 40% it possibly changes the dynamics of the game enough. Also, no more stories about late night shooting sessions. We get it. He's focused and works hard. At some point you have to see results. I can be patient about it but stories of hard work sands real results start to ring hollow the 3rd or 4th time it is trotted out.
The PG debate is going to heat up again after this one. I think Roy is starting to get a sense for it as there was a long stretch in the 2nd half where Kendall Marshall was on the floor and Larry Drew was not. Drew's night was not good in many respects though I am not convinced the offensive woes can be laid at his feet. The whole team played poorly on the offensive end, even with Marshall on the floor. The stat comparison is problematic for Drew however.
Drew: 24 mins 2 points, 1-5 FG, 0-1 3P, 3 assists, 4 TOs, 1 steal, 3 rebs
Marshall: 17 mins 7 points, 3-5 FG, 1-2 3P, 4 assists, 1 TOs, 1 steal, 1 reb
The fact Drew played seven more minutes makes the difference starker. Again, I am not sure the offense was much better with one vs the other. However, you have to wonder what happens if Marshall is given a consistent chunk of minutes. Now, things are still early and I know people are ready to make the change now but we all know Roy isn't going to that. He is going to give Drew a little more time to prove his worth but given Marshall's play over the course of three games, the case is building for him to start. If it plays out like this for 2-3 more games, I am not sure how you don't pull the trigger.
Tyler Zeller was actually a bright spot all things considered. Zeller missed a huge chunk of time with foul trouble but still put up 16 and made a few hook shots in the 2nd half to give UNC some offense. His issues with opposing big men of bulk was evident but Zeller is much improved over last season. Likewise John Henson was outmuscled but still collected 12 rebounds, three blocks and scored nine points. The interior play was not all that bad given how well the Minnesota big men played. Dexter Strickland had an interesting game scoring 7 points on 3-3 shooting which included a three. Strickland had only one turnover vs 2 assists and 2 steals. In the case of Strickland it strikes me as a "why isn't he doing more?" kind of deal. I think Strickland is tentative. He showed a couple of times in this game that he has great speed, athleticism and vertical. I would like to see him exploiting his skill set more and being aggressive. Then there was Reggie Bullock who had 11 points and really looked like a guy giving his all out there, even if he was going to get beaten on defense.
Leslie McDonald and Justin Watts struggled for the most part which is a shame considering how well that played versus Hofstra. These two sort of answer the question I posed in the preview of whether UNC can be consistent from one game to the next. The answer is clearly not yet. Consistency from game to game comes from a cohesive unit who understands their identity and players have a grasp on their roles. That has not happened yet and we might be a little foolish to expect it to happen this early. Remember, there is only one player on this team that has a full season with starter's minutesat UNC: Larry Drew. Zeller has not had a full season yet. Henson only played big minutes at the tail end of last season. Watts and McDonalds played not much at all and Strickland was hit or miss. Justin Knox played plenty at Alabama but that was a different school, teammates and system. Add three freshmen to the mix and you have 10 players who are not used to play with each other in live action. It is going to take some time for this crew to come together as a team. Until then, a bad individual performance from a player like Barnes is going to hurt more.
For any fan, patience is not in our nature but this team requires some. This isn't last season's team but it is not the #8 team in the country either. This a team in transition and at times it might not be pretty but I think they will ultimately get there.