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UNC Basketball vs. UNC Wilmington: Three Things to Watch

Carolina looks to bounce back from its dreadful loss to Michigan.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels have now had a week to digest their embarrassing loss to the Michigan Wolverines. After the game, Roy Williams succinctly summed up his feelings. “Right now, we stink.” Carolina jumped out to an early lead, but after the first eight minutes, they were flat-out dominated.

There are clearly plenty of areas to improve on before this team can start playing up to its true potential. A matchup with a struggling UNC Wilmington squad could offer an opportunity to get things back on track before a daunting two-game stretch that features games against top ten opponents Gonzaga and Kentucky. Here are three things to watch in this one.

The Return of C.B. McGrath

Carolina fans will get to once again witness C.B. McGrath on the sidelines at the Dean Dome, only this time he’ll be coaching for the wrong team. Not long after the Tar Heels won the 2017 national championship, the longtime assistant to Roy Williams was hired to be the head coach at UNC Wilmington.

It comes as no surprise that Williams scheduled this game with his close friend and protege. He makes an apparent effort to arrange meetings with former assistants and/or people with Tar Heel roots. We’ve seen it before with guys like Jerod Haase (UAB, Stanford), Wes Miller (UNC Greensboro), King Rice (Monmouth) and more.

Coach McGrath was always extremely respected and well-liked by coaches, players, and fans alike. It should be a pleasant experience welcoming him back to Chapel Hill, even if he is on the opposing bench this time.

Defending the Three Ball

Before the Heels rolled into Ann Arbor, Michigan was shooting a pedestrian 32.6% from deep. After just that one game, the Wolverines went up to 35%. In our three things to watch against Michigan, Brandon noted their three-point shooting woes as something to potentially exploit. He also recognized that those woes could very well disappear because, of course, this is UNC basketball. He was right on both counts.

Michigan matched its best shooting performance of the season, netting 11-22 from the perimeter. Carolina’s inability to defend ball screens and stay in front of the ball opened things up for the Wolverines’ offense. Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis, granted two of their best shooters, combined to go 7-12 from beyond the arc. But even Charles Matthews, who’s hitting less than 30% of his deep balls, was able to knock in two of his four attempts.

Here are some examples of those defensive struggles:

UNC Wilmington is currently shooting a respectable 37% clip from three point land. Ty Gadsden is the name to watch, as he’s hitting at an incredible rate of 60%. The Tar Heels need to figure something out defensively, and quick. Though they aren’t necessarily a high-level opponent, shutting down Gadsden and the Seahawks’ offense could provide some much-needed confidence heading into a tough stretch.

Could we see more of a two-point guard approach?

Before Seventh Woods suffered a concussion, he was quietly providing crucial minutes off the bench. Through the first five games, Woods held an impressive 4.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and was arguably playing better than Coby White.

Then, of course, Las Vegas happened, and White exploded for 52 points and 11 assists, going 11-17 from three over two games. The scoring ability he displayed in those contests essentially cemented his starting spot for good, but it doesn’t take away from what Woods has been able to do.

In the utter disaster that was the Michigan game, White and Woods were actually a couple of bright spots, if you want to call it that. White went 6-12 from the field despite not being able to knock in any deep balls, and he committed just one turnover. Woods played just 12 minutes, but the majority of those were alongside four other bench players. He recorded two assists and one turnover, and had a nice and-one finish in the early stages of the game.

The point guard position was a big question mark coming into the season, but it may actually be this team’s biggest strength. Given how well these two have played and the fact that White has more of a score-first mentality, it seems criminal that they haven’t once seen the floor at the same time.

Coach Williams is no stranger to the two-point guard approach, either. He nearly won a national championship with both Joel Berry and Marcus Paige in the lineup. I’m not saying Woods should start, but we I’d at least like to see him and White play together some. Maybe this is the game we’ll finally see it.