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.
Let’s start with the good news: Carolina football will face the Temple Owls on December 27 in the Military Bowl. This is an absolutely awesome development for the team and a glimpse at a bright future.
Now the bad news: the Carolina basketball team went 0-2 and looked terrible in doing so. Granted these were highly ranked and highly talented opponents, but that brings the total to three of the last four that the Carolina offense could just not put enough points on the board. As my colleagues have continuously reminded me this week, this is not a team in crisis. But it may not be far off.
Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .
I would be thinking about how much to make of these last two games. And three of the last four. This is a worthy debate to have at an early point in the season. Is this team destined to mediocrity from a pretty good defense and a deficient offense or is it just an offense in a funk that will break out and lead to plenty of victories?
I have seen enough to be concerned.
The last two games have been against very good defenses, but the team scored a total of 96 points in those two games. Two games of not breaking 50 points. On the season, the three point field goal percentage is now hovering just above 30%. Free throw percentage is under 65%. This is a team that thus far has just not been able to shoot from distance. That is why the 80 point mark has been a too-distant goal.
It could be that this is just a collective slump, but it is affecting the mindset of the team. Leaky Black only attempted one three pointer against Virginia. Andrew Platek also attempted only one. Christian Keeling did not try from deep. These are players who were thought to be deep threats in the pre-season and now they are not attempting shots a mere nine games in. This means that while the shots are not falling, the available players to take the shots are also shrinking.
Perhaps the key to turning around the offense appeared in the final seven minutes against Virginia. Maybe the debuts of Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris will provide needed depth at the guard spots and allow for more ball movement and open shots. Maybe those two allow Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks to get a little more room inside while Cole Anthony doesn’t feel like he has to do everything on his own.
While all fans should be certain that Coach Roy Williams will improve the offense as the season goes on, the real question should be whether that improvement occurs faster than opponents’ defenses improve.
I recognize that this is a highly ranked team that just lost to three teams ranked in the top 10 over the last two weeks (and defeated then 11th ranked Oregon). They are not, however, passing the eye test. I am looking for a precipitous drop in the polls today and series of games that are struggles until they can find their footing as a team.
In other words, count me among those who are throwing up the warning flags.
Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.
This team needs a break. They need to get everyone healthy and work in the newly returned pieces. They need to work on their free throw shooting. They must hit enough threes in practice to return their confidence.
In golf, occasionally it can be good to take a little time off and get the swing reset from a physical and mental standpoint. I hope the same is true for the Heels from the perimeter.
The Heels get a full week off before hosting Wofford. A trip to Gonzaga is just over a week away. This may be the most important week of the entire season as the coaching staff gets time to get the team reset and focused on the path forward.
Last week was really hard to watch for Carolina basketball fans. There was no offensive flow. There was little transition. There were few threes. It is hard to watch a juggernaut that suddenly is stuck. We all know it is December and the most important days are ahead of this team, but it sure would be nice to get some confidence before then.