We have seen it all from the UNC basketball team this season.
After Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, the Heels continue to confuse fans everywhere with their unpredictable play. The Tar Heels suffered a 73-67 loss at the hands of Wake Forest in the ACC road opener in Winston-Salem.
We have seen ‘the good’ from the Heels this season, as they have defeated then #1 ranked Michigan State in East Lansing, third-ranked Louisville on a neutral court, and #11 Kentucky at home. We have seen ‘the bad’ as the Heels missed 26 free throws in a home loss to Belmont, shot 4-11 free throws in a four-point loss to UAB, and shot 24-47 free throws in a three-point home loss to Texas a few weeks ago.
With the loss to Wake Forest, the Tar Heels have now shown us ‘the ugly’ to add to the basketball display this season. The Heels pulled down 24 offensive rebounds (which is an incredible number) and out-rebounded the Demon Deacons overall by 19. At times the Tar Heels looked as though they were competing in a slam-dunk competition with about five or six highlight-reel throw-downs, but still managed to find a way to lose.
If you were to watch the film from the three big wins the Tar Heels were able to pull off and then watch film from the four unacceptable losses the Tar Heels have suffered, the difference in energy level would be blatant and astounding. UNC seems to be a team that can’t find a way to get “hype” for games when playing against seemingly lesser opponents, and as a result they continue to lose games to inferior opponents.
I mean no disrespect to Wake Forest or any of the teams that have defeated the Heels this season; what I simply mean is that there is a clear advantage for the Heels’ roster based on talent and potential, but they show very few signs of life when playing unranked or ‘inferior’ teams (after Sunday’s loss I have to use this term lightly).
The lack of energy was evident on the defensive end for the Tar Heels and it seemed as though the Demon Deacons were doing lay-up drills in the second half. Of the 26 baskets Wake Forest made during the game, 20 of them were recorded as lay-ups. It is almost laughable how unacceptable this number is. On top of this, Wake Forest shot 33 free throws, while North Carolina shot just 11. This discrepancy is solely because of aggressiveness in attacking the basket by the Demon Deacons, and a lack thereof from the Tar Heels.
There were about 3,000 empty seats in the 14,665 seat Joel Coliseum for Sunday night’s game, with much of the upper level being empty. I understand that playing in a somewhat empty coliseum in front of 11,000 fans isn’t nearly as fun as playing in front of a 22,000 sold-out crowd, but great teams find a way to win regardless of how many people show up to watch them play.
As I mentioned in a previous article, whenever the Heels begin suffering losses there is a decent amount of criticism of Roy Williams’ coaching around Chapel Hill, although everyone makes sure not to voice their displeasure too loudly. However, I found myself questioning Williams’ strategies very loudly while at the game on Sunday.
Kennedy Meeks sat on the bench for much of the second half, while I noticed that Desmond Hubert was on the court with less than four minutes to go in the game. In all honesty, Hubert has absolutely no business being in the game with anything less than 8 minutes remaining in the second half unless someone is in foul trouble (which wasn’t an issue on Sunday).
I have also stated previously that the best lineup for the Heels includes Paige, Tokoto, Johnson, McAdoo, and Meeks, but I did not see this lineup in the game during the final stretch. Meeks adds so much to the lineup when he is on the court: he has great hands, he’s a phenomenal passer, he is a strong finisher, and he is almost always where he needs to be. He sat for such a long stretch in the second half that myself and the other UNC fans around me began to question if Meeks had gotten hurt earlier in the game and if that was the reason he wasn’t playing, but he then checked back into the game with only a minute or two remaining and only two fouls.
Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, and Kennedy Meeks were the only three that played at least decent for the Heels. Johnson shot 6-12 from the floor and finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds in 18 minutes. Tokoto also recorded 12 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 6-11 from the floor, and added 3 blocks, two assists, and a steal. Meeks had 7 points and pulled down 9 rebounds in just 18 minutes of play.
The Demon Deacons completely shut down Marcus Paige and as we have learned already this season; as Marcus Paige goes, so goes the Tar Heels offense. Paige fouled out of the game after scoring just 8 points on 3-12 shooting, made only one three-point attempt on eight tries, and had four turnovers. I continue to be in shock at how little James Michael McAdoo has improved, and while he did score 13 points on 5-10 shooting and pull down 8 rebounds, he led the team with 5 turnovers.
Tar Heel fans blew up twitter for a couple months with the #freePJ and #freeLeslie tweets, and although Leslie McDonald has only been reinstated for a couple of games, he has been fairly ineffective in his return. Heralded as a “great shooter”, McDonald shot just 3-13 from the floor, 1-7 from the 3-point line, and in 29 minutes finished with just 9 points, 3 rebounds and had 3 turnovers.
While they have had instances of good, the bad and the ugly seem to outweigh the positives so far this season. The Heels currently stand at 10-4, but as a UNC fan with high expectations, I have been somewhat disappointed with this year’s team. The Heels look to bounce back from the disappointing loss to Wake Forest with a home game against the Miami Hurricanes, and then the Heels hit the road to play at the Carrier Dome against the 2nd-ranked Syracuse Orange. With what looks to be a down year for the ACC, maybe the Heels can find some good in conference play and put the bad and the ugly behind them.
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