Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament
#12 North Carolina vs Belmont, 4:00 PM, ESPNU
Coming off a struggle against Holy Cross, UNC will attempt to find some semblance of offensive organization facing a tougher opponent in Belmont. The Bruins have a recent history of success which six automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament in the past eight seasons and a winning percentage of over 80% in the past three years. This season Belmont has an experienced roster and adequate balance in the physical makeup of their roster to give UNC plenty of trouble.
If anything, this game could present the first real challenge for the Tar Heels on the defensive end. Neither Oakland or Holy Cross moved the needle offensively. The Crusaders in particular not only missed shots but did so badly to go along with sixteen turnovers. In short the Tar Heels have not been greatly concerned with stopping the opposing team through the first two games. The defense has been sufficient even if the offense hasn't been. Belmont will test that to some extent although the outlook on paper points to some deficiencies. The Bruins have struggled shooting the three(27%) and have been outrebounded in two of the first three games of the season. However going against an experienced team is an open invitation for a dogfight, especially givens UNC's offensive struggles.
That rather inconsistent offense offense will undoubtedly occupy the focus in this game as the Tar Heels attempt to figure out how to get the parts to work together. Marcus Paige came into his own against Holy Cross and stepped up to become a legitimate scoring threat at the two. Likewise, the Heels got a second straight double figure scoring game out of Brice Johnson who had gone 21 straight games prior to that scoring in single digits. Johnson in particular was upset by the team's offensive performance against Holy Cross, especially what he thought was "selfish" basketball. Paige also noted that UNC struggled when not being patient on the offensive end. James Michael McAdoo's struggles against Holy Cross resurrect questions from last season concerning his ability to consistently hit shots. For UNC to really shake some of the offensive shortcomings, McAdoo must play better on that end of the floor.
Given the limitations of the offensive personnel, execution on the team level becomes more of a priority than it may have been otherwise. UNC simply doesn't have(right now anyway) enough players who can create their own shot. Those limitations make the team easier to guard since an opposing defense can essentially key on one or two players. Because of this, is imperative the Tar Heels not only work for the best shot but rebound well and protect the basketball. With the relative size of this team, second chance points should be a factor in offensive performance but so far it hasn't. UNC's 28.1% offensive rebounding rate is a fairly mediocre 239h overall which is a surprise given the Tar Heels' interior assets are supposed to be a great strength.
Ultimately, the players UNC does have must adjust to their new roles and get a grasp of what their roles are. That would alleviate some of the confusion and undoubtedly lead to better overall execution. However such a transition doesn't usually happen quickly. That means the chances of this game being another sloppy and poorly executed affair are probably still pretty high.
UNC 80 Belmont 70