Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s games, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.
Two very comfortable wins on the hardcourt along with a home victory on the gridiron. Football is nearly over and basketball is off to a promising start.
Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .
For basketball, the primary concern at this early point in the season is maintaining game momentum with so many personnel and line-up changes. Luke Maye is leading the playing time statistic but is only averaging about 26 minutes per game. Nine players are averaging over 13 minutes per game and Brandon Robinson is a close tenth with nearly ten minutes per game. This would seem to be a near-historic level of balance through the first four games.
There are numerous upsides to such a high degree of competitive playing time distribution. First, this serves as a guard against late season fatigue. I thought this was particularly evident with Luke Maye through the last month of the 2017-2018 season. Limiting his early season minutes while increasing those of Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley should be a long-term benefit.
Second, this year’s deep bench can serve to protect against prolonged scoring droughts. Each of the first ten players that Roy Williams has played this season (eleven including spot minutes from Andrew Platek) have the ability to score. While there is no lock-down defender coming off the bench (although Nassir Little has been very impressive defensively), there is a constant point production potential. Last year, Carolina’s losses largely were the result of extended scoring slumps. That does not seem to be a problem this year with five players scoring in double digits. More on players six, seven, and eight below.
One issue to keep an eye on, however, is continuity. Thus far, Coach Williams has played his deep bench through big chunks of minutes. In other words, this has not seemed like a constant revolving door at every dead ball. There have been three and four minute stretches of different lineup combinations on the court, which allows time to get comfortable together. Although the rotation will likely tighten as the season progresses, this will be an ongoing narrative throughout the non-conference schedule.
A Word of Wisdom from MGD . . .
Like many of us, My Grumpy Dad continues to be focused on the point guard play. Coby White and Seventh Woods are both seeing significant time. White averages just over 21 minutes per game and is contributing 10.5 points. He is clearly an offensively-minded point guard who is not afraid to look for his own shot. Woods, on the other hand, is playing over 15 minutes per game and is distributing the ball very well with 5 assists per game (to only one turnover on average).
Both point guards are extremely athletic and both have room to improve. White is very fast but has gotten out of control at times, which leads to turnovers and disjointed play. Woods is more of a traditional point guard. The question for fans (and Coach Williams) over the next month or two is which one makes the rest of the team better. This will be an ongoing narrative.
Now let’s look at team scorers six, seven, and eight. Sterling Manley is averaging 7 points and nearly 5 rebounds at 13 minutes per game. For many of us, me included, this looked like a breakout season for Manley. While his play has been solid, he is not yet the inside force that we were looking for. I would place him as a solid bench piece with development potential.
Two players are averaging 5.8 points per game. Leaky Black has been an early season stat-stuffer with rebounds, assists, steals, and limited mistakes. He is taking advantage of his opportunities and getting four more minutes per game than Robinson.
Kenny Williams is a cause of concern. While I am not ready to sound any emergency alarms, there are warning signs. His defensive effort has been tremendous and his unselfish play is leading to three assists per game. His shot, however, has been off. For the season, he is 2-16 from three. This is not the smooth stroke that looked at times last year like he could not miss. Its easy to overlook some poor shooting when the team as a whole is filling it up but Kenny needs to start hitting his shots.
Looking Forward: A quick peak ahead.
I have yet to touch on the football team’s 23-point victory against Western Carolina. It was nice to get a home win even if it was against an FCS opponent. No victory can be taken for granted in a year like this. Saturday’s NC State game brings an end to the season and potentially the Fedora era. With Kansas already making the first big coaching splash, a change needs to happen immediately.
One more tune-up for the basketball team before heading to Vegas. The end of the week will be challenging to say the least with games against Texas and possibly Michigan State. Look for interior defense, three point shooting, and turnovers to be the major themes. We will know a lot more about this team by this time next week.
A big sports week to go with the holiday feast. Happy Thanksgiving and go Heels!