The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off what is and likely will be their worst loss of the entire season. Give credit to Wofford. They came into the Dean Dome with a winning mindset and that’s exactly what they did. Fletcher Magee is clearly a phenomenal shooter but their supporting cast was what won them the game.
However, allowing a mid-major school to step onto your home court and dominate you in every phase of the game is simply unacceptable for any team that thinks of themselves as Final Four contenders. The bad news is that Wofford exposed some major flaws on both sides of the ball for UNC. The good news is that championships aren’t won in December, so there is plenty of time to right the ship. Here are three things to watch in the Heels’ next outing against Ohio State:
This is easily the most important one. In years past, Roy Williams’ teams have been knocked for being soft and folding too easily. That script was flipped, though, with the arrival of one man: Joel Berry II. Berry’s performance in the 2017 NCAA tournament (with two bad ankles) was as gutsy as it gets. He’s been the toughest player arguably since he arrived in Chapel Hill, so it’s only natural that the team follows his lead during his senior season.
With that being said, the lack of intensity against Wofford partially falls on him. Coaching was clearly to blame as well, but given his role on the team, Berry is responsible for making sure everyone has the right mindset going into each game. It may seem unfair to put so much on just one player, but even he was quick to take blame for the lack of effort after the game, which is exactly what you want to see out of your leader and most important player.
Given all of this, look for the intensity level to take a huge step up against the Buckeyes. This team has guys that have been in this situation before. They understand that they need to play a lot harder if they want reach any of their goals. We know Coach Williams isn’t happy, we know the players aren’t happy, and we know both parties are eager to prove Wednesday’s game was not an accurate representation of this team. Expect the Tar Heels to come out with some fire on Saturday.
Beyond just the general effort level, this team seemed to forget what has made them so hard to defend against Wofford: unselfishness. Guys were more fixated on their individual roles as opposed to letting the game come naturally.
For instance, Theo Pinson, known for his playmaking ability, was forcing passes that weren’t there all game long. While his affinity for passing the ball may appear unselfish, Theo was playing for Theo. The result was a putrid five turnovers and just four assists.
The team as a whole didn’t fare any better in the assist-to-turnover category. The Tar Heels recorded 14 total turnovers and just 11 assists. It’s extremely hard to win games with an assist-to-turnover ratio below one, which is why that’s a stat they’ll be looking to improve on.
One of the biggest things that plagued the North Carolina offense against Wofford was its lack of a true post scorer. The progression of the freshmen bigs has been a hot topic of discussion so far this season. While it would be nice for Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley to be as sound offensively as Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, that’s simply not the case right now, which is why Luke Maye has to provide more paint production.
Maye shot a semi-respectable 2-6 from the perimeter, but he shot just 2-10 from inside the arc. He has been questioned for his ability to show up in big games, but for him to disappear against the BPI’s 162nd ranked team was alarming. He has to play stronger and smarter down low and set the tone for the younger big men.
Look for the Tar Heels to throw the ball inside and find more ways to get their bigs involved when they take on Ohio State.