North Carolina Basketball: Tar Heels Need An Identity

By Gregory Philson
Marcus Paige
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina has one of the most impressive resumes in the country based on victories over highly-ranked Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky during the non-conference part of the season. But coming off an overtime victory over Davidson and three losses to unranked Belmont, UAB and Texas, there is no real sense of what kind of team this year’s installment of the Tar Heels really is.

The Tar Heels are a dynamic offensive team that averages more than 80 points per game, but have had severe problems at free throw shooting. They hit only about 61 percent from the stripe, and that is with superstar sophomore guard Marcus Paige recording an ACC-high 92.3 percent from the line.

North Carolina also has a length advantage at nearly every position, but has had its problems controlling the boards. The Tar Heels were outrebounded in the losses to UAB and Texas.

North Carolina also can be a very rugged defensive team, but also a very loose defensive squad. Sometimes, the Heels can lock down into a full-court press and throw off solid backcourts. Other times — even just minutes later — the defense will allow open drives to the hoop. James Michael McAdoo has improved drastically as an off-ball defender and can disrupt everything from mid-range jumpers to layups, but when he slouches just a little bit, he is quickly beaten to the hoop.

Brice Johnson is also a talented player inside on defense, but he will lose his man on a block-out and will give second-chance efforts to teams with much smaller frontlines like Texas and Davidson.

Carolina has non-conference games against Northern Kentucky and UNC-Wilmington before ACC play opens against Wake Forest. The Heels should use these games to find out what kind of defense hides its weaknesses and highlights its strengths. North Carolina can score with any team in the country, but if the defense continues to be as flaky as it has been in the team’s losses and against Davidson, the conference schedule will be much more difficult than it needs to be.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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