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Tar Heel Hangover: Hope for the New Year

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A win against UCLA and an upcoming bowl game provide a glimmer for the future.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at North Carolina Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our 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.

A poor second half performance against the Zags brought on the fourth loss in a row. Historically bad. Saturday, there was a bit of hope off the bench in the form of Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis. Let’s be honest, though, this team needs Cole Anthony.

A quick explanation for the absent article last week and a shout out to middle son Jake. Late in the evening on Sunday, while being very nice to his sister, he got tangled up with the puppy and fell head first into the door frame. Five staples later, he is fully on the road to recovery. He is a real trooper and a huge fan.

Additionally, Happy Holidays to everyone!

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

Two weeks ago, in discussing the offense, I noted that, “I have seen enough to be concerned.” Without key weapons, these concerns have been verified.

This is a team that sits at 7-5 on the year, but lost 4 in a row and has frankly looked lost at times. They are unranked for the first time in six years. Honestly, I thought they should have been unranked a couple weeks ago, but that was likely an overreaction (Note that going in to the Bahamas, I thought the number one national ranking was possible; it has been a rapid fall). While the opponents have been good defensive teams in Michigan, Ohio State, and Virginia, and an offensive juggernaut in Gonzaga, the losses have come with an ugly offense. Thus it is time to look for possible solutions. Enter Saturday.

1. According to My Grumpy Dad, the best thing to do is not watch the games at all. Save the stress and disappointment. Just find other activities this holiday season like sit in your recliner in the dark. That sounds like fun.

While this has been a frustrating few weeks, the season is far from over. Look at this stretch as bestowing the gift of perspective. Remember all those high scoring games last year when the threes fell like rain and the wins were easy? You should have appreciated them more. Those days will return at some point.

2. Quit shooting threes. It is time for this team to go full Jackie Manuel. For his career, Manuel shot 28.2% from the arc. And it was a much closer arc. A superb defender and awesome team player, Manuel decided to put his shot away and do other things to help the team win. After shooting 78 and 70 threes his first two seasons, Manuel saw the light and shot only 10 his junior year and 18 his senior year.

This year’s Heels are collectively shooting a very similar 29.8% from beyond the arc (including an unexpected 33.3% on Saturday). Take away Cole Anthony’s 35.5% and the rest of the team is far worse (about 26%). Consider this; on the season prior to last week, the team was shooting 45.4% on two point shots. That means that if this team shoots no threes, they will generally score more points (28.7 * 1.5 (because they are three points instead of two) = 43.05).

Maybe this changed Saturday. Harris went 2-3 in the second half and looked very comfortable scoring 14 second half points. He also barely left the court. Paired with Francis, the backcourt pair took control of the game and provided a freshman hope going forward.

3. Change the lineup. Roy has used line-up changes before to spark the team. This offense needs a spark. The second half against an only OK UCLA team may be the clue. Harris and Anthony on the perimeter. Bacot and Brooks inside. Put Leaky Black at the three and let Brandon Robinson once again dominate off the bench. Survive for 3-5 more weeks and then all Carolina fans can have a very fun debate about what position Cole Anthony should play when he returns.

4. Make outlet passes. The fast break has been lacking despite good ball handlers and fast players. No Luke Maye means no automatic rebound and kick to half court. Armando Bacot is a great rebounder but he does not initiate the offense when he clears the glass. The same is largely true for Garrison Brooks. The team is also much slower after opponents’ made baskets than the last couple of years. This results in more offense against set defense and more difficulty scoring.

Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.

Only one game this week and it is a Bowl Game!!!!!!!!!! An up and down, emotional, and very tight regular season has gotten the Heels into the Military Bowl against Temple.

The Owls come in at 8-4. Temple had two top 25 wins against Maryland and Memphis and three of their 4 losses came on the road. The are statistically very similar to Carolina but are a 5 point underdog heading in to Friday.

Following a very exciting up and down year, and an incredible signing day, this is Carolina’s opportunity to shine in Bowl season.

Final Thoughts

Happy Holidays to all. This is a great time of year to rest, relax, enjoy time with family, and cheer on the Heels in the Military Bowl. The basketball team has a well earned week off.

Go Heels!