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UNC vs. Alabama: Three Things Learned

A number of mistakes ultimately doomed the Heels to lose two games in three days.

NCAA Basketball: Phil Knight Invitational-North Carolina at Portland Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 1986, the Tar Heels lost consecutive games as the #1 team in the AP poll after their 4OT loss to Alabama. Even worse, Carolina is 208-3 when they score 100 points, meaning that yesterday’s loss was an extreme exception to what is otherwise usually a sure-fire rule. Why do I say all of this? Because it needs to be highlighted just how chaotic this weekend has been for Carolina basketball.

However, one thing needs to be made clear: it’s still November, and we’ve been here time and time again having some type of version of the conversation we are about to have. This is just how it goes, and how it will likely keep happening in perpetuity as long as UNC continues to face potential NCAA Tournament teams in the non-conference slate of their schedule.

Let’s go ahead and discuss three things we learned from the long, highly competitive loss to Alabama.

When Caleb Love goes cold...

Reading this header, there are a number of you that know what I’m going to say. Before we get to that part, though, let’s discuss his impact on the game yesterday: he finished the game with a career-high 34 points, a career-high nine rebounds, and four assists and played 57 minutes, which is one minute shy of Phil Ford’s 58 minutes in the only other quadruple-OT game in UNC history. He caught on fire in the second half of the game, but then cooled off going into overtime. Once we got into the four overtimes, that’s when things got interesting to say the least.

Here’s the thing: at this point we all know who Caleb Love is. He is an aggressive scorer, and lives and dies by his shooting production. At this point in his career, he likely isn’t going to change, but what can change is what happens in situations such as the Alabama game. Numerous times we saw Caleb bringing the ball up the court, playing iso, and not looking for the extra pass for a basket. There was one specific play when he finally got it to Bacot off of the pick and roll, which was there a few times thanks to Alabama double-teaming Love in the paint. I can’t figure out how much of this was on Hubert Davis, or how much of it was Love having too much control of the play-calling in certain situations, but all I know is this: the ball stopped moving on multiple occasions during the four overtimes when Love had control, and in critical moments, things didn’t go very well.

When Caleb Love goes cold, it is time for someone else to take the shot.

Seth Trimble is shining despite his box score

So far this season, I have had a hard time getting over just how effective Seth Trimble has been when he’s in the game. No, he hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard, but he has proven to be the epitome of a “dirty work” player, meaning he does everything that you won’t see on box scores. His defensive performance against Alabama was impressive, and he ended up on the floor on a few occasions. He even had a game-altering interception of a pass to an Alabama player that ended up going out of bounds, and the possession went to UNC. This kid has a lot of fight in him, which is great because Hubert Davis may need him to come off the bench quite a bit as the season progresses.

When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, Trimble has definitely shown promise outside of the game against Alabama. Right now he is shooting at a 46.2% clip from the field, and is 1-1 from the three-point line. His bread and butter has been driving to the rim, and has been very effective doing so. I love what he’s been able to do outside of the box score, but once he is able to have more of an impact scoring the ball, he is going to be that much more dangerous of a weapon off of the bench.

Armando Bacot should sit against Indiana

If you don’t know what happened during the Alabama game, let me catch you up to speed: Armando Bacot sat a decent amount during the fourth overtime, and now we have learned that he is experiencing a sharp pain in his foot.

We’ve been down this road before with Bacot’s ankles, and what we learned during the NCAA Tournament is that him playing on his injury only got worse and worse. Granted, we don’t know the severity of the injury or if it is similar to what he dealt with during the tournament, but if it is anything lingering, I personally would like to see him sit against Indiana.

UNC has a pretty unique problem compared to past seasons: the ACC currently only has three ranked teams. This means that the game against Indiana could be really important in March when it comes to seeding, but here’s the thing: it’s in everyone’s best interest to play the long game in this situation. Aside from the game against the Hoosiers, Ohio State could end up ranked by the time the Heels play them December 17th, and the game against Michigan could end up being a high-quadrant game as well. Sure, the Indiana game is important, but I would hate to see him play injured and on short rest only to risk making his injury worse.

The good news is that as I mentioned earlier, we do not yet know the severity of Bacot’s injury yet. Hopefully we will hear more in the next couple of days, and from there we can decide how concerned we need to be.