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Dissecting North Carolina's 4-3 Start

December 2, 2010

Before I begin, Teach, I know you'll disagree with half of this, but you know I'm right; after all, you're already dealing with this in your talk of John Henson's unique fear of the rim.

I refuse to go through another season like last year. I'm not unreasonable to the point that I expect a championship each year, but if you have the University of North Carolina jersey on, you should be, at a minimum, in the top 25 each year. You shouldn't carelessly turn the ball over time after time. You shouldn't play scared. You shouldn't decide when you're down by 12 with 4 minutes left that now it's time to start playing D. What makes it worse is that Duke looks unstoppable. They have no holes, as the team I thought would beat them, and still might, got beat up last night in Durham. I'm not here to talk about Duke right now. I don't want to vomit on my keyboard. I need to vent and illustrate what I see, and what can be done about it before it's too late, before I'm watching NIT games sometime in mid-March with lukewarm interest, hoping that next year my team will be back in the Dance.


UNC does not have a leader on the floor. You could see it five minutes into the Vandy game even before all the ESPN talking heads jumped all over the point. Larry Drew is playing not to lose his job, Tyler Zeller makes my eyes hurt trying to defend a pick and roll, John Henson looks like he's just trying to not fall down, and Harrison Barnes doesn't look like he has it in him, yet. The lack of leadership and poise showed itself at the very end of the half against Illinois. Henson got an offensive rebound with about 10 seconds left and just flung it at the rim, Illinois got the rebound and calmly drained a 3, making it 37-30, instead of 34-32, or 34-30. With a clear leader on the floor, Henson knows to pass it back out, holding it for one more shot.

UNC does not play good defense. This is what killed them for the most part last season, and it could be the death of them this year as well. Illinois shot 51 % against them, but without even looking at the percentages, they got way too many easy looks. They were shooting way too many “NBA” threes, where there was absolutely no one near their shooters, to contest. Their rebounding is decent, but they look like a 5th grade team because they constantly lose track of who's guarding whom. Maybe Roy should play zone, but I feel like teams such as Duke would just shoot them out of the gym.

Harrison Barnes and Larry Drew look terrible. After all of the hype, I've been extremely disappointed in the Harrison Barnes Experience so far. I can name off at least 9 freshman I've seen (Terrance Jones, Perry Jones, Tristan Thompson, Tobias Harris, Brandon Knight, Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, Cory Joseph, and Jereme Richmond) who have looked better and more at ease with their surroundings, contributing more to their teams than Barnes has. For the supposed number one recruit and potential number 1 pick overall--should he come out--I expect a little more.

He looks extremely hesitant, and hopefully, he'll break out of it, deciding that it's his team. Someone with his talent can't just fade into the background, at least not on this team. Drew looks like he's regressed considerably. He did have seven assists the other night, but his shooting has been atrocious. He's never been confused with Jimmer Fredette or Austin Freeman, but he was at least somewhat reliable to knock down a 15-footer or an open 3. This year's shooting percentage is 22 %. I can't even describe how disgusting that is. Kendall Marshall hasn't looked great all the time either, but it appears Roy has no other choice than to hand him the keys.

Roy Williams is not doing a good job with his bench. Roy built up enough immunity with his championships and March track record, but after last year and how this year has started, his work has to be questioned. I just don't like his substitution patterns right now.  Reggie Bullock looks like the only reliable outside shooter on the roster, so why is he only getting fifteen minutes a game? Justin Knox had 8 points and 7 rebounds the other night, in 17 MINUTES. So again, why is he only playing 15 minutes. He's running people in and out, trying to find the right combinations and so far the results are horrendous.  I think he'll figure it out, but it's obvious that losing the collective size of the Wear twins hurt more than everybody realized.  Justin Watts should not be playing inside, but he has to if Zeller or Henson get in foul trouble.

I hate coming off all Skip Bayless on everybody here, sounding like I don't even really like UNC at all. I'm just disappointed with how it looks so far. I'm still optimistic it can be turned around; it's not too late for things to fall into place. Beating Kentucky, with Barnes outplaying their three marquee freshman could be the catalyst the team needs. Losing that, and sitting at 4-4 might mean, however, that Carolina is in the NIT again.

Oh well, at least Duke might go undefeated. I hate sports sometimes.

7 comments:

Russ said...

My thoughts as a rival who has watched 3 UNC games:

No leadership and chemistry. Same problem as last year and the biggest problem currently, and that reflects on the coaching as much as the players.

They don't have a PG on the roster who can play like Roy Williams needs him to play. Larry Drew is UNC's version of Greg Paulus except Paulus could shoot. While Kendall Marshall will be better and should play more, doesn't have the quickness needed to be as effective in a Roy Williams offense. They need to recruit a better PG, which is hilarious because they have 6 guards on the roster right now and none of them are seniors.

Barnes isn't as good as advertised, but Roy Williams doesn't know how to use him and won't change his style for him. They don't run any plays for him. No screens set for him. Instead they throw it inside to Justin Knox or Larry Drew penetrates and throws it out of bounds. When Barnes actually gets the ball, he plays one-on-one and doesn't have the ability to create offense on his own consistently. Doesn't make sense. People thought he would be the next Kobe, but he looks to be more of a Kyle Singler. That would be fine, except Roy is still using him like he's a Kobe talent.

December 2, 2010 at 8:41 PM
Deckfight said...

i've just watched the vandy game, but Coach K is making Roy look bad with his use of Kyrie. Williams should be fitting his game around barnes, probably the best talent UNC has right now.

seems like Williams settled when hansbrough was around & lost some of his recruiting ability.

December 3, 2010 at 3:31 PM
Teach said...

What's funny about this whole thing is that the criticisms Duke fans are making of Roy now are exactly the same criticisms that UNC fans made about Coach K during the Paulus years. People thought the game had passed K by, that he couldn't recruit anymore, and that he was not adapting his style to his roster. Now, the roles are reversed, and they'll probably reverse again in a few years. What's made the Duke-Carolina rivalry so good for so many years is that it swings like a pendulum in the same manner that Congress swings between the Democrats and Republicans.

I'll admit that a weakness of Roy's coaching style is his team's commitment consistently to defense, even his championship team, but it's important to remember that just two years Roy did win a national title: the game hasn't changed much since then.

As to his recruiting, the current juniors were freshmen on the national title team. Larry Drew was a top five point guard in that class, and he has yet to be consistent. It's not a matter of whether he can run Roy's system; it's whether he can do it consistently. He's shown he has the ability. Ed Davis was the number three power forward in the class, and Ty Zeller was the number seven. Ed Davis had one healthy year as a freshman and then left early after playing half his sophomore year. Zeller's yet to play a whole season. Justin Watts isn't ranked. This class has been a let down, but the let down is a result of injuries, an early departure, and a back up point guard who was probably ranked too highly out of high school.

The verdict is still out on the current sophomores. The Wears left early, which hurts the depth this class was supposed to bring, but it's too early to say that Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland, and John Henson are busts. Henson was probably overhyped as the #1 power forward in that class, but Dexter and Leslie were ranked as the #8 and #13 shooting guards. McDonald was hurt all of last year and neve played, while Dexter was forced to play out of position. If two of those three guys pan out, then the class is a decent one, and the question isn't about ability, but their mental approach to the game. I think it's silly to rule them out though after just a handful of games into their second season.

The current freshmen were compared to Felton, McCants, and May, but it's obvious now those expectations need to be lowered. Harrison Barnes will find his rhythm; he's too talented not too, and I'll admit now he probably won't wind up being the best player in the ACC (it was a ridiculous statement to begin with). Reggie Bullock has a tremendous amount of upside, and I think it's too early to say Marshall doesn't fit Roy's system. He's a good passing point guard; the two will adjust to each other. Hopefully, they sit down and watch some Ed Cota film to figure out how a point who isn't the quickest can still run an uptempo offense.

Harrison Barnes isn't necessarily a Kobe Bryant type player. Most of the word on him out of high school was that he was a shooter with a midrange game. I was hoping he'd be a taller Joe Forte. Seven games into his freshman year is way too early to say that the whole system needs to be redefined, seeing as how the system has made a lot more Final Fours than Barnes has.

December 3, 2010 at 5:26 PM
Teach said...

eople forget that last year's UNC team was playing pretty well before the injuries to both Zeller and Davis, and that the team lost the Wears, Ed Davis, and Will Graves from last year's team, which affected not only the depth in the post but the guard and forward rotations. Also, take into consideration that Deon Thompson graduated, which means the team lost its top three scorers from last season, a year after losing 80% of its scoring. The team is losing because it's full of players who are being asked to do things they've never done, which means it isn't time to panic yet.

The time to panic will be if half way through the ACC season Roy still hasn't figured out a rotation and no one has stepped up as the go to guy.

December 3, 2010 at 5:26 PM
Teach said...

In other words, I don't know how many elite programs have had to basically rebuild two years in a row and that preseason rankings are waste of everyone's time.

December 3, 2010 at 5:28 PM
Russ said...

Pendulum is a pretty accurate description. Early defection, transfers and busts happened to Duke's 2003-2005 classes, and it showed all the way until two years ago. UNC will be back. Although I will say when UNC is down, its 8-20 and NITs. When Duke is down, its a 6 seed and sweet sixteen exits.

The ship has sailed on Larry Drew IMO. Kyrie Irving scored more points in one game against a Top 5 team than Drew has scored the whole season. If he was better he would have showed it by now. He isn't a leader and plays with little confidence. All of the other players haven't played enough, so I agree its too early to call anybody else busts.

I still think Roy doesn't know how to use Barnes effectively, and that shows through history as Paul Pierce is the only elite wing player Roy as ever had. Which is why I questioned Barnes decision to play at UNC over Duke, where they grow on trees and then play in the NBA for years. Roy's system is predicated on great point guard play and effective post players. Just wasn't a good fit.

I said before the season that I didn't understand the preseason hype. They are a worse team this season so far, but they will play better and the ACC is terrible this season, so I will be surprised if they aren't Top 5 in the conference and a tournament team.

On the bright side, at least you guys got 3 years of Lawson and Felton.

December 3, 2010 at 6:38 PM
Teach said...

While Roy doesn't have a long list of wing players under him, I think you can look at Wayne Ellington, McCants, Danny Green, Jawad Williams, and Kirk Hinrich as wings that Roy has coached into the NBA. Now, Ellington is strictly a shooting guard and Hinrich was more of a combo guard, but the other guys all compare favorably to Barnes, especially Jawad and Green.

Also, Roy's handling of Rashad has to speak volumes about his ability to hold a team's chemistry together. If there are no leaders on a team, then there's only so much a coach can do in that department. One of the true problems with UNC since Hansbrough left has been leadership, not talent, exemplified by Ed Davis' recent comments about cheap hotels in the D-League. This does not appear to a mentally tough group. . . so far.

December 3, 2010 at 7:21 PM

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