North Carolina Basketball: Tar Heels Must Improve Outside Shooting

By Gregory Philson
Marcus Paige
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels always have a great backcourt — especially since coach Roy Williams took over. However while having speedy and quick guards is nice, these players must also be able to hit outside jumpers if opponents are to respect the all-around talent of a team

This was not the case at all during the 2013-14 NCAA basketball season in Chapel Hill. Guard Marcus Paige (39 percent) was the only reliable player from three-point land and no one else came close. The team shot only 33.6 percent from the outside last season. That simply is not good and must be better next year. Paige was deadly from pull-ups and coming off of screens on these shots, but teams could close out on him and wear him down. Paige did have some huge late-game moments, but he also showed the signs of getting bumped around in other games.

This reason alone puts a lot of pressure on incoming freshman point guard Joel Berry to be at least average from deep and from likely starter Justin Jackson to be a legitimate threat from perimeter. The Tar Heels made 146 three-pointers last season, and Paige was responsible for 86 of them. There are several reasons why this must change and the biggest is helping the inside game of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson. Obviously, defenses gravitate towards the paint when the three-pointer is not falling. Williams loves using the post game, but this becomes more and more difficult when defenses have four players clogging the post. Meeks is strong and can will his way to baskets, but he also can get into foul trouble early and be taken out of games before he even gets a chance to get started. Johnson is long and can shoot over defenders. This is fine, but he will not make every basket. And if opponents have 80 percent of their lineups under the basket, offensive rebounding will also suffer.

The Tar Heels do not need to lead the ACC in three-point shooting in the 2014-15 season, but if a significant improvement does not happen sooner rather than later, upsets and an early exit in the NCAA tournament could be in store.

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

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