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UNC at Georgia Tech: Three Things Learned

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When is the Orange Bowl?

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s New Years Eve, and if you are willingly reading about last night’s goat rodeo in Atlanta, then may God have mercy on your soul. A new starting lineup could not heal the troubles that plague this team.

So, here are three things we think we learned.

Enjoy!

Turnovers

My wife probably wishes I was as committed to my marriage with the same passion that UNC is committed to giving the ball to the other team. And, I mean, I really love my wife. I’m wholly committed. Six and a half years. One kid. Another on the way. We’ve lived in four different states.

And yet, this team is even more committed to just coughing the ball up and letting opponents capitalize on the free possessions. Last night, 18 more turnovers led to 19 Georgia Tech points. Over 26% of the Yellow Jackets’ points came from UNC’s aggressive sharing.

The Heels are averaging 16.2 turnovers a game and turning it over on 22% of their possessions. Oddly, opponents are averaging 16,2 points off of turnovers per game. UNC has lost by 2, 13, 3, and 5 points this season.

So. I dunno. Seems pretty simple, yeh?

Yes, some of this is youth, inexperience, and growth. R.J. Davis and Caleb Love both had three turnovers apiece. At some point, though, it’s just who you are as a team as evidenced by Leaky Black and Andrew Platek also having three apiece. It was a whole team effort last night.

OAD and injuries at PG

For years fans clamored for elite recruiting to keep pace with Duke, Arizona, Kentucky, and a handful of other programs. The inability to win in July, August, and September had the fan base enraged. Even though those programs and others (largely), failed to consistently meet expectations in March and April, the idea that OADs made teams “better” permeated popular opinion.

When the NCAA cloud lifted, the heavens rejoiced and the recruiting floodgates to Chapel Hill reopened. This year’s team includes four McDonald’s All-American freshmen. Including the 2017 title season, North Carolina has had six first round draft picks in the last four drafts. Four of them, Nas Little, Coby White, Cole Anthony, and Tony Bradley played only one season at UNC. Two of them, White and Anthony, were point guards.

As such, North Carolina began this season with their fourth different starting point guard in four years. Joel Berry (2017-18), Coby White (2018-19), Cole Anthony (2019-20), and Caleb Love (2020-21) handled, or were expected to handle, most of those ball handling duties. That doesn’t even account for the three additional starting point guards last year (Leaky Black, Jeremiah Francis, and KJ. Smith) when Anthony injured his knee.

Now, with Caleb Love being relegated to the bench last night, R.J. Davis became the second starting PG this year. He was actually the sixth freshman to start at least one game at point guard since that 2017 title. Most forget that Jalek Felton stepped in when Berry broke his hand at the beginning of the 2017-18 season.

Folks, this isn’t rocket science. Consistency and stability matters. It has always mattered. At North Carolina, it just matters a little more. Some of the issues, like Jeremiah Francis, were injury related, Some of this was conscious coaching and/or recruiting decisions.

Regardless of the reasons, until there is stability in the backcourt, these inconsistent starts will be the norm, not the exception.

Paint Production

For the first time all season, North Carolina was outscored in the paint. Georgia Tech scored 24, barely outpacing the Tar Heels’ 22 points. They also failed to score 30 points in the paint for the first time in 14 games. Obviously, that streak extends to the final six games of last season.

Georgia Tech’s defensive schemes are a little funky, and despite the commentators calling for a “hi-lo” connection all night, those are really difficult to achieve against the Yellow Jackets. That doesn’t excuse UNC’s inability to impose their will in the lane.

Numerous times, the ball beat the big men down the court, negating any advantage that UNC’s pace is supposed to have. Poor entry passes, poor positioning, and slow rotations limited touches as well. A complete disinterest in even looking down low plagued the UNC perimeter at key possessions. The result?

All four big men finished a combined 12-23, for 30 points. Sharpe and Bacot accounted for 10 of UNC’s 14 attempted free throws. Georgia Tech finished with just 17 fouls and avoided any impactful foul trouble.

The rest of the team finished 13-33 from the floor. Even if they did shoot 8-20 from three, those shooting proportions won’t lead to many UNC wins. Players not named Kerwin Walton were 5-16 from deep, One of those makes was a Garrison Brooks prayer that banked in with the shot clock expiring. The box score may say UNC hit 40%, but that’s deceiving. Especially when the opposition goes 10-22 (45%).

North Carolina got away from its offensive identity last night, and the result was their fourth loss in six games.