Well, it's a good thing UNC had T.J. Yates throwing for over 400 yards and Johnny White had a career day or they may have lost this one....oh wait, wrong sport.
College basketball is an amazing thing isn't it? Eighteen days ago in Chestnut Hill, UNC ran BC out of their own building dropping 106 points in a game that had all of us starting to believe that maybe the offense was finally coming together. Today with the same two teams on the court(minus Larry Drew for UNC) the Heels score one point less for the whole game than they did in either half of the first game. It is really sort of amazing how fickle these games can be sometimes. Plus, today appeared to be full of funkiness for ranked teams across the country. UNC was in the same boat it would appear and for the third time this season watched a player on the opposing team miss a three that would have tied or won the game. At some point one of those is going to fall. Fortunately it wasn't today.
First of all, most of the credit for this win goes to what UNC did on the defensive end. I really thought the defensive effort was one of their best of the season, especially on the perimeter shooters. The Heels did a great job on close-outs and really stopped BC from getting a lot of shots off or causing them to settle for shots which were contested. The Eagles had 51% of their FGA come from the three point line(season average is 43%) but only shot 25%(season average is 37%) from beyond the arc. Yes, BC missed some open looks but as Roy Williams noted so did UNC. In short the defense did its job as attested by two shot clock violations and numerous times where BC was running offense inside of five seconds left. In fact two Eagle threes came at the shot clock buzzer. And for all the nice defense, the lack of a consistent offense(and when I say consistent I mean scoring on three straight possessions) put UNC in a precarious end of game situation.
So what is the main issue with the offense? Aside from not shooting the ball well, the big issue in this game was turnovers and a lack of FT shooting. Boston College should get some credit for creating turnovers, not fouling and generally speaking a solid defensive effort. The opposing defense is often ignored when we critique our team's offense and today BC's defense mattered. On the UNC side, this was not a good game from Kendall Marshall in the ball handling department. Marshall did have a nice points and assists line with 10 points and 7 assists. The five turnovers were problematic, especially since two of them came during a stretch of five turnovers on as many possessions. UNC ended up with a 22.3% TO rate which is not something the Heels have struggled with this season. Couple bad shooting with poor shooting and you get a woefully inefficient offense. Do that while up 15 and there is a good chance that lead is going to dissipate in short order just like it did.
So what is wrong with the offense? The shooting catches the most attention, especially the three point shooting. UNC was 2-11 from three which is another 18% shooting game from the perimeter. However, the "good news" there is UNC only took 11 threes or 19% of all FGA which is actually below their average of 26%. Obviously the lesson in practice since the Wake Forest game was to make better decisions on perimeter shots which is what happened today despite BC showing zone quite a bit. While some better three point shooting would be helpful, it is the two point shots that are probably the biggest concern. UNC shot 41% from twos in this game. Not horrid but with the interior presence UNC has it should be better. However, this really could be a case of the offense being only as good as Harrison Barnes is. Barnes shot 4-14 from the floor versus BC and 1-4 from three. Not to play the ESPN Hypothetical card but Barnes shooting the ball better would not solve everything but it would be helpful.
Outside of the shooting, the other offensive problems have not really been problems and I do not think they will be going forward. The Heels do a good job taking care of the ball in general and I do not expect UNC to have many games where they only shoot eight free throws. The shooting remains a constant bugaboo and one can only hope it evens out with some "hot" shooting performances over the next few games. Another point is I think the Heels still struggle with basic execution, especially versus a zone. The lack of perimeter shooting becomes more pronounced here but watching the Heels in the half court offense today, it always seemed like they got going too late or simply did not make the best passes to break the zone. I think that is where inexperience might come into play but also being able to adapt on the fly to the opposing team's defense. Of course the lack of good shooting probably causes the team to press a little bit and have even more suspect offensive possessions than perhaps they might otherwise.
Now, I know the way UNC looks is a concern. Prior to last year, the Roy Williams Era at UNC as been some of the most enjoyable basketball to watch in terms of aesthetics. It does spoil a fan base to the point that this two season stretch of suspect offensive basketball is driving us all a little nuts. At the same time, there is the concern that the offensive failures will send the Heels home early from the NCAA Tournament. The only thing I think we can to that is "we hope not but...." The bottom line is this team in its current form is more prone to mediocrity on offense than they are greatness. The middle stretch of the ACC schedule where the Heels had a points explosion looks more like the exception rather than the rule. It has really reached a point where we can only hope UNC gets on that kind of tear again for March. Opposing defenses matter however and I think there has been some adjustment after UNC got rolling. Some sort of counter-adjustment from Roy and in how the players execute is probably in order.
All of that being said, UNC has won 20 games overall and 10 in ACC play. The former happened in April last season and UNC only won half of the latter total in conference play. Spending five seconds thinking about last season ought to be enough to breed all sorts of warm, fuzzy gratitude for 20-6 and 10-2 regardless of how well the offense plays. UNC made this win harder than it had to be today by playing poorly on the offensive end. However I am not sure I have ever seen a team with such a limited offense find some many different ways to pull a win out. In college basketball, sometimes you are good and sometimes you need a break or three. This particular group of players is still a work in progress. All we can do as it pertains to the current season is be thankful the Heels are where they are and hope they keep findings ways preferably with an offense that does not look like something Herb Sendek would love.