College basketball historians could rack their brains for many years trying to figure out the North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2013-14 season. Just who were they? Was North Carolina the seemingly great team that knocked off Louisville, Kentucky and Michigan State, or were the Tar Heels the flawed team that lost to Belmont, UAB and Miami?
At one point, North Carolina won 12 games in a row. At another, the Tar Heels were bowing out to Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament and losing to Iowa State in just their second game of the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina finished 24-10, 13-5 ACC, but the winding road the Tar Heels took to get their made UNC one of the most enigmatic teams in the country.
It will be building year for players like Marcus Paige, who blossomed into a first-team All-ACC guard, amid a recruiting class for next season that is one of the best in the country. Here is an evaluation of the Tar Heels on offense and defense, as well as overall.
OFFENSE: Paige (17.4 PPG) led a North Carolina team that finished 49th in the country at 76.3 points a game, putting the Tar Heels in the top 15 percent of scoring teams in the nation. UNC was in the top 25 in assists and top 75 in field-goal shooting. Four different players (Paige, James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald and Brice Johnson) averaged in double figures and J.P. Tokoto (9.3) wasn’t far off. But two key factors hampered the Tar Heels offensively. One was free-throw shooting. North Carolina shot a very poor 62.6 percent from the line. If you take out Paige, who shot nearly 88 percent on 146 attempts, the rest of the team hit just 57.6 percent on free throws, which is ridiculous. North Carolina also struggled from three-point range, hitting 33.6 percent. Paige and McDonald hit 129 of the team’s 146 made threes. Unless Paige took over or McAdoo stood out, the Tar Heels often didn’t know where points were coming from.
DEFENSE: In an Atlantic Coast Conference filled with top-notch defensive teams, North Carolina wasn’t one of them. The Tar Heels were 165th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 69.8 points a game. UNC particularly struggled in losing three of its last four games to complete the season. At Duke, the Tar Heels were blitzed by the Blue Devils, 93-81. In the ACC Tournament, North Carolina allowed 80 points to an at times offensively-challenged Pittsburgh team. In the NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa State, the Tar Heels gave up 85 to end the year. UNC did have an excellent blocks-plus-steals number of 12.1, including 7.3 steals a game. But top opponents were able to outscore the Tar Heels as the season wound down and it cost North Carolina in the postseason.
OVERALL: Somewhere inside the Tar Heels this season, there was a really good team. It showed during their 12-game winning streak and their big non-conference games. But too many odd losses and a lack of defense late in the year made this somewhat of a season to forget in Chapel Hill.
Twitter-Style, the 2013-14 Tar Heels in 140 (or less): “UNC games were like a box of candy, you never knew which one was real sour. #MrYuck”