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Tar Heel Hangover: Three games, three wins

Thoughts on a bounce back week.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Davidson Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s game, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

Let’s start with a formatting change. The format of the THH was introduced during the football season. The points of analysis for one-game-a-week football, however, just do not work for multiple games per week basketball. Therefore, with the change in sports season comes changes to THH.

Do not be concerned, loyal readers. This article is not going to delve into politics, NC State recruiting, or any other depressing and controversial topic. Instead, we will focus more on trends than individual plays and attempt to provide some broader perspective to the season.

The Elevator Speech: The State of the Team.

The team sits at 8-1 overall, having just completed a very busy stretch of games. The Michigan State contest was certainly a low point of this young season, but it is too early to tell if that poor shooting performance was an aberration or an omen.

Words of Wisdom? A Thought from MGD.

“I just don’t think they are as cohesive as this time last year. It just does not look as smooth.”

My Grumpy Dad has been watching Carolina basketball since it was first televised, and listened to it on the radio before then. Those seven decades have born a lot of pessimism (or realism, depending on your point of view). Nevertheless, his nuggets of wisdom and off-hand observations are worth reflecting upon due to the extensive context from which he delivers them.

When the offense breaks down on this team, it seems to be from a lack of ball movement. Perhaps this stems from the less dominating traditional inside game that the Heels present this year. Perhaps it is a reflection of the ball-handling prowess from multiple positions and the ability to create individual shots.

Last year, the Heels had 722 assists on 1226 field goals, which is nearly 59%. This year, the numbers are 142 assists on 250 field goals, which is 57%. That is not a substantial percentage decrease, but is certainly something to keep an eye on.

Lying In Bed, I Am Worried About. . .

The team three point and free throw shooting percentages. This year, those stand at 35 and 73 percent, respectively. Last year, they were 36 and 70. Those are not statistically significant differences and that is the problem. With a team that has no Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks or Tony Bradley, the perimeter game will need to carry the load. When your starting power forward in the form of Luke Maye is shooting nearly 46% from three, then one would fairly imagine the team percentage would be much higher.

To win close games against big teams, it will need to be.

When I Talk to Haters, I Brag About . . .

Luke Maye. His numbers are historic. He is doing it with limited help inside. Tulane tried to double him in the block on multiple occasions and his passing prowess still led to easy baskets.

More importantly, Maye’s early success has allowed Joel Berry II to take his time recovering from the pre-season hand injury. Berry has looked closer and closer to his championship form from a year ago and the team will eventually need his scoring touch. Fortunately, having a surprise scoring force like Luke Maye takes the pressure off everyone else.

And again, this is all without Cameron Johnson. This could be a fierce offensive squad in January. And March. And April.

Looking Forward: Western Carolina on Wednesday.

The Heels will look to build on their pre-conference momentum with another home contest. Look for ball movement and good perimeter decisions to carry the day.

Final Thoughts

There is no statistic or objective measure to support it, but this is a very likable team. At their best, they are scrappy and athletic. There is a tremendous amount of potential here with high character young men.

It is easy to be excited about this team.