As Carolina basketball continues its development into a respectable team worthy of an at-large tournament berth, I think it’s worth taking a look at how its two freshman point guards are developing. Robbed of a typical summer to prepare for the rigors of ACC play, Caleb Love and R.J. Davis were instead thrown into the deep end with minimal time to acclimatize to the college game.
When Roy Williams began the season with both freshmen in the starting lineup, Tar Heel fans could be forgiven for filling their heads with visions of Marcus Paige and Joel Berry (or at least Nate Britt and Seventh Woods?) leading the attack, stressing defenses with their varied offensive repertoires. It hasn’t quite played out that way.
As Al pointed out, this year’s team is off schedule. Having a few multi-directional schools and North Carolina schools needing a paycheck game would’ve helped Love and Davis tremendously.
Roy finally pulled the plug on starting both freshmen after the ACC opener, a 79-76 loss to NC State. Beginning against Georgia Tech, Kerwin Walton broke up the two-point guard system to add much-needed shooting. What Kerwin couldn’t solve was the lack of playmaking. From the Georgia Tech loss through the win at Pitt, Caleb Love has had a woeful 22/25 assist-to-turnover ratio. R.J. Davis is better at 19/14, but he’s not the ghost of Kendall Marshall.
An interesting statistic jumps out when studying Love’s assist/turnover statistics. Except for the Pitt game where he had an outstanding and season-best 5/1 ratio, in games where Love has a higher amount of assists, he equals them in turnovers. Perhaps in games where he experiences success, he is also a victim of aggressively trying to set up his teammates when the option isn’t there. Caleb definitely has an eye for making a play, but a combination of bad passes and bad hands from the post players have hurt the team’s offensive flow.
Here’s an example of when Caleb’s cooking:
Alley-Oop from deeeeeeeeep— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) January 27, 2021
@espn - https://t.co/uShDYi91w6 #CarolinaFamily pic.twitter.com/AxONex3BXY
Love appears entrenched as the starter for the rest of the season, and he averaged more minutes per game during the single-point guard period (24.4 to Davis’ 19.5), but the minutes have swung in the opposite direction during the Notre Dame game. Davis’ minutes shrank during the Miami game.
What can we expect going forward from the point guards? Your guess is as good as mine. Both freshmen are showing signs that they are figuring out how to maximize their talents and hide their weaknesses to an extent. Caleb shoots a poor overall percentage, but is hitting timely three-pointers and getting to the basket more. R.J. is finding space in the middle of the floor to get his shot off, which is great because he still can’t buy a foul call from ACC refs.
Wheeeew, RJ goes behind the back and drills the smooth PUJIT 2 pic.twitter.com/VJlpkmAQVa— Trevor William Marks (@twmarks_) January 23, 2021
As much potential as they have as shot-makers, Carolina will probably find their potential limited if these freshmen point guards don’t improve as playmakers. With a devastating trio of big men to feed, it will be imperative that Love and Davis feed the post without turning the ball over. Spacing the floor with their shooting and slashing should come second. The NC State and Pitt wins were a fantastic first step in that direction.