Carolina won two sloppy games in their opening week. The Heels were plagued by defensive inconsistencies and stagnant half-court offense. In both contests Carolina kept their opponents in the game until pushes before halftime brought their lead up to double digits. After the break, the Heels pulled out wins of 24 points against Temple and 27 points against Fairfield.
The scores are not indicative of the team's level of play as Carolina had starters in foul trouble in both games and never really got into a rhythm on offense. There were some players who showed measurable improvement and others who appear to have regressed.
Get Something from the Freshmen: C
Luke Maye and Kenny Williams played a combined 10 minutes in each game. Maye appears to be able to hang with stretch fours while Williams is a good man defender. Williams recorded a steal in each game while Maye showed he can rebound. Each player still has a lot of work to do and neither are near the level that Theo Pinson or Justin Jackson were entering last season.
Find a Sub at Point Guard: B+
Roy Williams seems to have picked Joel Berry as the Heels' point guard replacement but Nate Britt is making things quite interesting so far. Britt has been Carolina's best and most consistent player so far this season leading the Heels' backcourt and playing like a veteran. Britt has been the better shooter and distributor so far, shooting a tidy 7-10 from three and handing out 6 assists and only 2 turnovers. Berry has been Carolina's main creator and really carried the offense through the first half against Fairfield (whether that's a good thing or not.... let's say remains to be seen). Berry is 10-27 from the field but shooting 5-10 from three. Berry really struggles with turnovers, he had 8 assists and 6 turnovers last week, showing that he's not quite ready to run the offense just yet. Ultimately, the Heels need to figure out which player is the best alternative to Marcus Paige, another week will hopefully give players a chance to sort it out. However the guards have still been the more reliable players on the Heels and have surpassed expectations with Paige out.
Justin Jackson Picks Up Where He Left Off: F
Justin Jackson has been Carolina's 6th best player so far and he has not been particularly close. Jackson's stats are padded a great deal by a few breakaway lay-ups to end the Fairfield game, which even then were the result of cherry-picking. Jackson has been in foul trouble in both games, shot an artistic 0-6 from 3, and managed to grab 0 rebounds against Fairfield (he had 2 against Temple). Jackson is also 1-5 from the free throw line. The sophomore has been incredibly disappointing so far, on offense and defense.
His defense has been more worrying. Jackson has been jumpy on defense and has been completely lost when run around the floor. Multiple times teams have moved him around and he's ended up on the opposite side of the floor as his opponent. Jackson has also failed to stay at home and collect defensive rebounds, preferring to leak out into transition, this has really hurt the Heels who have given up 24 offensive rebounds already this season. Jackson has to improve now if he wants to hold onto the starting spot and not be replaced by Pinson once Paige is back.
Brice Johnson Takes Command: C
Johnson has been inconsistently on the floor due to his continued offensive fouling problem. However, when on the floor, he has been just as good as he was to end last year. Johnson was the player who really helped Carolina pull away against Fairfield when he solved the Heels' defensive rebounding issues. Johnson has shot 58.8% from the field and most impressively, 75% from the free throw line. Johnson has been solid, and worked for the two double-doubles he has to start the season.
Carolina Finds Some Range: B+
Carolina found three shooters in the first week in Nate Britt, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. These three all hit 50% or better last week and the team shot 42.9% (mostly down because of Jackson's 0-6). The Heels played these three players together quite a bit and it was by far their most effective offensive lineup. Pinson has been especially impressive and looks like the Heels' most improved player. He's second on the team in minutes and leads the team in assists. With these three, the Heels have found players who effectively stretch the floor and this will be useful when Marcus Paige is back and the Heels' games are tougher.