It’s obvious that UNC has struggled so far this season, but it might not be completely clear (at least to NC State fans) why. I got in touch with Brian over at Tar Heel Fan to see if I could find out just what’s up with the Heels and see what NC State fans should expect to see Tuesday night in Raleigh.
Brian and I exchanged questions for each other to answer and put on our sites. Below are my questions with Brian’s answers. Go here for my answers to his questions.
1. Guard play and perimeter shooting have appeared to be a glaring problem at times. What is the most important change UNC needs to make to turn things around right away?
Turnovers are the biggest issue facing this team. UNC simply gives the ball away too much to be effective. UNC’s penchant for giveaways means opposing teams are simply getting more shots overall, some of them easy ones. The offensive execution likewise has been horrid. Even when the ball is not turned over, passes are not clean or accurate. Interior players who are open for a second, fumble the entry pass giving the defense a chance to recover. Overall the players need to make better decisions with the basketball but also focus on the little things like catching the ball. It seems silly but fundamentals might be the one thing that saves this team. I also think Roy Williams needs to consider slowing this team down. The offensive pace seems to create some of the problems and they might benefit from being in the halfcourt more.
2. What are Carolina fans thinking right now? Is it shock? Surprise? Was this expected?
It seems like the five stages of grief. First there was denial(hey those 23-1 runs by Syracuse, Kentucky and Texas were just random right?) Then after the loss to College of Charleston came anger. We were all bargaining during the Clemson game, depressed after the loss to Georgia Tech and with the latest defeat, acceptance that this team has a long way to go has started to kick in. The problem was the expectations by both fans and media. UNC had no business being 4th in any poll and would have been better off to toil quietly to begin the season. There is also this notion that the 2006 season was the rule rather than the exception. Looking at this team on paper it appeared to be in a better position than the 2006 squad and Ol Roy did it once he can do it again right? Unfortunately quite a few things have not panned out. For one, John Henson and the other freshmen have been slow to develop. Injuries have been a wrench in the works. The once touted “best frontline in the ACC” has been troubled by physical play in the post. I also think this team has fails the eyeball test. They simply look bad at times. If they were losing games because shots did not fall or something along those lines, it would be easier to handle. The losing is a result of poorly played basketball and that is a tough pill to swallow for most.
And no, I am not a subscriber to the “UNC lacks talent” theory that has been postulated by some. The talent is there, it simply needs to be molded into an effective unit on the floor. That may just take more time than they have right now.
3. Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis have been hurt recently. Certainly that’s had an impact. How is the team health wise?
Ed Davis was supposedly 85% prior to the Wake game but Roy Williams opted to hold him out. Barring another setback he should play at 100% versus NC State which should give us a nice Davis vs Smith matchup to watch. Tyler Zeller will be out until March probably. The rest of the team is physically healthy. However, if you could list things like “low confidence” on the injury list they all would be on there.
4. How do you expect the Tar Heels to approach the game with NC State?
I think they will be up for it. Roy Williams has made it abundantly clear via threats to withhold nourishment from his team, that he considers the State game a big frickin’ deal. UNC is right on the edge where another loss puts them in such a bad position where NCAA Tournament margin of error is concerned. Anything less than everything they can bring will be sorely disappointing.
5. Based on what you’ve seen this season so far, is this a team that will get things straightened out and get into the NCAAT?
I think it is possible they can correct some of the mistakes and get a nice run put together. The problem is getting that first win. When rendering first aid on a nasty cut the first order of business is to stop the bleeding. Once you do than then you move forward. Winning cures a variety of ills and with a young team playing well and getting on the right side of the score could do wonders to propel this team forward. Not to mention this team has not done well on the road and just given away two home games they desperately needed. A win in Raleigh might be just what the doctor ordered.
What do Carolina fans think of Roy Williams’ antics so far this season?
Speaking for the THF community I think the general feel has been one of: “I wish he would handle certain things in a different way.” For example, when he had the Presbyterian fan removed from the Dean Dome, I thought there was a better, quieter way to handle it. Likewise with the tirades during the call-in shows and what not. It is as though Roy does not have a grasp of the media age he is living in…well…because he doesn’t, by his own admission. He probably could stand to phrase things in a nicer manner but unfortunately that is just not his thing. If he has a filter it is in need of an upgrade. What is funny is how polar opposite he is from Butch Davis in this regard. Roy will say practically anything on his mind whereas every single word that comes out of Davis’ mouth is vetted and couched in his head before he says it. Which is to say the UNC media folks probably enjoy football season more than basketball. It also means I spend a lot more time trying to figure out what the heck Davis meant than I do Roy who usually leaves very little mystery.
I think it is also a “warts and all situation” On one hand you have the winning, the titles, the program being very active with the community(i.e. Special Olympics clinic) and overall it is just a great basketball program. However you also have some negativity there which means enduring Joe Ovies constantly playing Roy soundbites which are not very flattering or ribbing from rival fans.
To be a bit cliche: It is what it is.
Check back tonight for more discussion of tomorrow’s big game, including a plea to students from an NCSU alum.