You’ve seen this clip before. The worst shooting team on your schedule comes in and has their best performance of the year. It happens. Maybe all too often for North Carolina. But this isn’t new. Think back. No, further back. This has been a concern even back to Dean Smith, on through Roy Williams’ tenure and now with Hubert Davis and the current Tar Heels. Seriously, break out the Google! This mention is only to say that far from the talk of UNC’s NCAA Tournament resume hits because of losses and inconsistent play this year is the fact that North Carolina’s performance today is actually closer to historical performance than many realize. Smith’s teams initially did little to defend the 3-point line and had bad losses. Maybe Smith was ahead of us all on advanced analytics? Most teams shot the 3-pointer badly initially. I can understand the initial hesitation to defend this part of the floor. Williams’ teams periodically played better defense but not great 3-point defense. They simply outraced or out hustled many opponents. Still, both coaches had their share of embarrassing losses to less talented teams when the other team just shot lights out.
Back to the worst shooting team in the conference. Every ACC team has talent! This talent can shoot 29% from the 3-point line for the season, but shoot 60% in any given half. Note: Pittsburgh against UNC at the Smith Center. Look at the box score. It didn’t matter the gym. Of course, UNC not hustling and not playing solid team defense makes it easier for a usually poor shooting team to score, but Pittsburgh also made some incredible shots to go 51% from the floor, 59% from the three, and 18-20 for 90% from the free throw line. Meanwhile, UNC shot poorly throughout most of the game. Where was the play that showed up in the last 7 minutes? Breaking down the whole game and individual performances just to show that the starters shot poorly and played pretty bad defense will not help us understand why this team cannot give a high level of play from game to game. Even great teams have bad days on offense or bad days on defense. It’s the bad teams that don’t play well on both sides of the floor again and again. This is not a bad Carolina team, but their inability to give it all every game on both or even one end of the floor has many still trying to figure out exactly what they are good at.