UNC 72, Michigan 51: Three Things Learned
This win seems more important than a game played on December 1 should – maybe it’s because of how some of this UNC team’s early-season issues came to light, or how infrequently UNC has been able to beat ranked teams not located in Durham over the past few years, or maybe it was just because we haven’t seen a UNC team deal that kind of blows to a good opponent in a while – Or maybe all three and then some. Nonetheless, while it’s difficult to predict the trends of a match, let alone a match played before the start of the conference, here are three things that I hope we can take away from this match:
After Mohegan Sun made it clear that the combination of a weak defensive effort from UNC and an adjustment to a new pattern was untenable, we saw some adjustments against UNC-Asheville ahead of Thanksgiving. The Bigs covered the ball screens a bit harder rather than falling, and the perimeter defense were less concerned with the midfielder giving up and paid more attention to assisting the ball from a pass, making more of what they had been trained to do last year. , and that seemed to help some, but there were always issues, and UNC-A, without disrespecting, isn’t exactly a team you want to tune your defensive barometer on. After another match with these changes, this one against a Power 5 rated opponent who had already had a top 15 attack, there’s a lot more reason to be happy. While the UNC-A game was more notable for schematic adjustments, the defensive takeaways in this game are all focused on effort: Caleb Love and RJ Davis both did a much better job fighting across screens. and recovering to a ballhandler, Armando Bacot held his own against every great Michigan had (including 2nd Team All-American Hunter Dickinson), and the team wreaked havoc at the point of attack and in the passing lanes, creating 13 turnovers (including 6 live). It was the kind of defensive effort that everyone on the list was missing, and if that level of membership can become consistent, watch out.
I had a few issues with the officiating – Caleb Love was called in for a block because he was nudged in the face being my biggest gripe – but at the end of the day it was fun and refreshing to watch a college basketball game who was only 18 years old. faults called. The flip side, however, are some statistical anomalies for UNC, especially after an offensive philosophy over the years that has prioritized the free throw line. The Heels took just three free throws, making 2 (the third was a Dontrez Styles miss in garbage time) to complete and a chance. I don’t have the record book, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 3 were the fewest free throw attempts for a UNC team since before Roy Williams, and I would be surprised if a modern UNC team had. already played a full match without a single two-stroke foul before this one. There is nothing new to say that this team have been pretty fantastic offensively so far, but it bears reiterating that an average of 1.13 points per possession while shooting just 3 free throws is worth reiterating. obviously absurd, especially after a first half of 29 points. This is a really good sign that the offense won’t go away when the Heels feel like they’ve got the whistle short, which will undoubtedly happen throughout the season – this game wasn’t an exercise to overcome refereeing, but the team’s ability to score as a group in live ball situations makes me feel like they won’t be blocked by some calls that won’t happen in pivotal moments later this season.
The first home games of the season went well just because we had some returning fans at the Dean Smith Center, but they still hadn’t felt quite as Carolina basketball should, thanks to a combination of many new faces on the team, a lackluster defensive effort that makes it difficult for a crowd to keep up the excitement and some early season opponents that fans don’t really care to upset. This game, however, felt like a vintage Caroline, with the Dean Dome as loud as ever for a non-conference game thanks to the aforementioned defensive intensity and sustained excellence at both ends of the pitch, especially in the second half. But it wasn’t just the crowd that felt different; the heels to the floor also felt amplified in a way we haven’t seen since maybe 2019. Both and 1 on the squad felt important thanks to teammates celebrating loudly, and that did not always been the case for 6 games. And most obvious, Caleb Love, after hitting a three-point around Charlotte for his fourth of the night, stepped back about 50 feet with the biggest smile I’ve seen on his face since he was. become a Tar Heel. This game just seemed like fun for the Heels in a way that basketball hasn’t been at UNC since the pandemic began. Hope this is a harbinger of things to come, both for its own sake and because when those heels are having fun they are really good at basketball as well.