I have a confession: it’s becoming increasingly harder to get my analytical hat to fit these days. The inner Carolina fan in me is tired, angry, exhausted, and flat-out over seeing what we’ve seen in most of the team’s losses this year. There’s only so many creative ways to say that this team is playing with little to no effort, and truly analysis has no business holding hands with carelessness. However, I also feel like I have a responsibility to all of you to at least try and discuss last night’s abysmal loss to a Hurricanes team that threw a fastball of an L at the Tar Heels, giving them their first sub-Quad 1 loss of the season.
So, let’s discuss three things that we learned from last night’s loss, but really, let’s discuss three things that we learned from each major loss this season. Sadly the losses to Tennessee, Kentucky, and now Miami are just carbon copies of each other (Notre Dame wasn’t quite on this level for various reasons), so we should just lump it all together.
Forcing the issue
In the game of basketball, it’s widely known that things don’t always go according to plan. In the case of the Tar Heels, their main game plan for the last month or so has been to feed Armando Bacot early and often, and he would do the rest. The problem last night, however, is that Bacot was being double/triple-teamed all night long, and Miami did a great job of making sure that he barely even had room to breathe. Regardless, the Tar Heels kept trying to feed him the ball, and it made a huge mess out of, well, everything.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about this particular data point because I want to take a deeper dive into it in the next section, but Miami scored 30 points off of 13 turnovers. 20 of those points were scored in the first half, which is also when 10 of those turnovers took place. It was clear what Miami’s game plan was, which was to make anybody but Armando Bacot beat them, and in doing that they made sure Bacot paid every time he touched the ball. This is where the issues started for the night: UNC played stubborn basketball to open the game, and the Hurricanes were more than happy to feast off of their stubbornness.
Icy Hot point guards
If there are two Tar Heels that had a worse night than Armando Bacot did, it is Caleb Love and RJ Davis. Collectively, they finished with a combined 14 points off 5-22 shooting, and between them both they only made one three-pointer. To keep my promise of diving deeper into the turnover issue: Davis and Love also combined for six turnovers, and the number is higher if you factor in how many ill-advised entry passes were made to Bacot. On the defensive side of the ball, both players struggled to contain Isaiah Wong and Kameron McGusty, who combined for 45 of Miami’s 85 points.
There’s a dark truth to Love and Davis’ nights, and that is we’ve seen this play out a few times now this season. In the loss against Kentucky, the two combined for 18 points while Sahvir Wheeler out-scored them both (26 points). They fared a bit better in the other losses, but still gave up a large amount of points to Purdue, Notre Dame, and Tennessee’s guards. Here’s what’s frustrating: when Love and Davis are good, they are really, really good on both ends of the floor. Some of you may recall me praising Love for his defensive efforts against Georgia Tech, and I stand by everything I said. However, when both guards are pressured, forced to make mistakes, and overall things don’t go their way, things turn bad very quickly. Which leads to the third and final thing we learned about this year’s Tar Heel team.
We’ll never get consistent effort out of this team
I’m not one to make such blunt and harsh claims, but there’s something about this year’s Tar Heels that may be completely unfixable. As many of you may recall, Roy Williams harped on how he can’t coach effort up until the day that he retired. The writing was on the wall in bright lettering for all of us to see as he walked off into the sunset and onto the golf course, and I think some of us — or at least myself — thought that there was a chance that Hubert Davis could give this team some type of spark that would keep them from falling into these effortless pits of despair. Well, I was wrong, which further drives home the point that Coach Williams is in the Hall of Fame for a reason.
Let’s call it what it is: this team has a massive effort problem. There are times when it seems like this team genuinely cares, like when they obliterated Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Boston College. However, there are games like last night, when the Heels looked like they couldn’t care less. They get frustrated, they get down on themselves, and you can almost see them check out all at once. It’s really, really difficult to point to any tangible reason for why this happens with any team in sports, but if there’s one thing I can at least try to point to, it’s that the Tar Heels haven’t had a true leader since Cole Anthony went off to the NBA (yes, he was a leader and I will fight anybody on that).
When this team is down on themselves, nobody is stepping up to lift heads up. When things are chaotic, nobody is restoring order. Finally, whenever things are as bad as theyld get, nobody is taking over games in a way that is also getting other players involved. That is what was missing last year, and now it’s missing this year. The most terrifying part is that there is no fix that exists that would save this season. There’s really only two ways to fix the problem: someone during the offseason decides that they have to be an alpha, or Hubert Davis recruits someone that is willing to do it themselves. It is the worst situation to be in if you are a college basketball program, and it’s because of this that I think their chances of making the NCAA Tournament are fading fast.