After yet another embarrassing loss, the Tar Heels are preparing to take on Clemson tomorrow at 2pm in the Dean Smith Center. It’s hard to find the words to describe how badly the Heels need a win, because truly every game has been a must-win game for a month now. UNC has still only logged one Quad 1 win in the NET rankings, and that was to an Ohio State team that is so bad that it probably shouldn’t even count. There was a point and time when playing the Tigers would give them another opportunity, but this one will count as a Quad 2 game since it is at home.
As of right now, UNC is the 7.5 point-favorite in this game per DraftKings.com. Let’s go ahead and dive into the three ways UNC can
avoid further embarrassment end their three-game losing streak.
Let’s forget the X’s and O’s for a moment: the biggest problem that the 2022-23 North Carolina Tar Heels have is that for some reason they do not have a strong enough desire to win games. This has been a disturbing pattern ever since the infamous Cole Anthony season, and in hindsight, I’m really surprised last year’s Final Four run even happened. We’ve been seeing lackluster play from this team for a while now, and if you think about it, the core of this team has been together for three years.
I am not here to point fingers and call players out by name, but there’s something to this veteran core that just isn’t right. It’s even more disturbing that Armando Bacot is still having to say things like this:
“Yeah, I don’t know, that’s what I don’t get,” UNC senior forward Armando Bacot said following the loss at Joel Coliseum. “We had two good days of practices, and I thought no question we were going to come into this game and win. Then we get out there and it’s like we are not communicating.
“I just feel like we are more worried about ourselves, and it’s discouraging because I want to win, that’s why I came back; coaches want to win.”
I don’t know that there’s anything that could drive fans crazier than having to read “we are not communicating” and “we are more worried about ourselves” for three years. Again, it’s not my place to point fingers, but I will say this: whatever is going on in that locker room, it needs to be remedied immediately or Clemson will add on to the embarrassment tomorrow night.
Repeat the final 20 minutes of the game against Wake Forest
After going into the locker room down 25-47 against the Deacons, UNC finally showed some fight to close out the game. Most of that fight came from Caleb Love, who scored 22 points during that timeframe, and drilled four of his eight three-point attempts. As a team, the Heels scored 60 points in the second half compared to Wake Forest’s 45, and 21 of Wake’s points were free throws via Tyree Appleby.
Here’s the thing: either Wake Forest backed off the Heels and let them run up the score, the Heels finally got their acts together, or both. No matter what the answer is, the important thing here is that they were finally making shots. There have been numerous stretches over the last few games where they couldn’t buy a bucket, and yet in the second half of this one they shot 46.3% from the field. I don’t know what ultimately changed from the first half, but if they can finally do this for 40 minutes (which I realize I’ve been begging for all season long), then maybe there’s a shred of hope left that this team will be ok.
Use your words
Going back to Armando Bacot’s comments, it is puzzling to me that this team refuses to talk on defense. What is even more confusing is that they have been decent on defense all things considered — they held Duke to 63 points off 39% shooting, and even Wake shot at a 44% clip while making just 26% of their three-point attempts. Is that stellar defense? Maybe not, but once again, this was all done without this team properly communicating.
Jeremy Roach was interviewed after the win over UNC this past weekend, and he said something that will haunt me in my nightmares for the rest of the season:
“I told him to slip it. We knew [North Carolina] would kind of mess up on their talking, which they did.”
***Screams into a pillow***
I think it’s fair to say that the communication issues with this team are directly tied to selfish tendencies that this team has. Roy Williams always emphasized communicating on the defensive side of the ball, and Hubert Davis has been doing the same. So often fans are quick to blame coaching, but riddle me this: how can you blame coaching when the reasons this team is losing have been coached into them this entire time? There are only so many motivational speeches you can give, so many laps you can make players run, and so many times you can scream “TALK” at the top of your lungs in Cameron Indoor Stadium before there are no ideas left. This team has a serious player problem, and the only people that can fix it are the players themselves.