New rules could both help, hurt Tar Heels

Few programs will benefit offensively from the new rules in college basketball limiting physical defensive play like North Carolina will. Defenders won’t be able to impede cutters and hand check ball-handlers like they used to, which presumably will open up scoring.

That happens to be what the Tar Heels have always done well. Carolina has led the ACC in scoring in five of coach Roy Williams’ 10 years in Chapel Hill.

“I like anything that gives you freedom of movement,” Williams said. “I have not liked the physical game and I’ve said that for years.”

A player like forward James Michael McAdoo, whose face-up game already poses matchup problems, could benefit greatly. It could also allow a player as quick as Nate Britt a chance to penetrate the lane more often. But not everybody likes the idea of eliminating some of the physical play from the game.

Sophomore forward Joel James generally likes being able to throw his 6-foot-10, 280-pound frame around.

“Personally, I don’t like [the rule changes]. I feel like that kind of takes away from my physical game,” James said. “But then again, I feel like it can also help me because at the same I can’t put an arm on a big man, a big man can’t hit me more than twice without having a greater chance for an offensive foul. It kind of balances out.”

What the new rules do to help Carolina on offense, the rules regarding hand checks as well as blocks and charges could also balance out that advantage on defense.

The Heels had problems stopping dribble penetration when they could use a well-placed hand check to impede progress. What will they do now? (Dribble penetration is partly the reason why Carolina opponents always seem to have career days shooting from 3-point range. The defensive rotation generally has to make up for weak on-ball pressure, which leaves the wing unattended for an open 3.)

Once an opponent gets in the lane, Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson are Carolina’s best shot blockers but haven’t risen to the level of being deterrents.

Williams noted that taking charges sometimes compensated for not having that established intimidator in the middle and that teams “still need to be able to teach a guy to take a charge 'cause everybody can’t block shots.”

“Every team doesn’t have a 7-footer or a John Henson around the rim to block a shot, so you have to think of a different way to try to defend people,” Williams said. “In the past, drawing a charge has been a part of that.”

Williams said he believes a lot more blocks will be called early in the season while players adapt to the new rule.

“You’ve got to really do a great job of getting there before the upward motion of the shot,” Williams said. “Everybody thinks it’s the gather, but it’s not the gather. It’s as you start up with the ball, so you’ve really got to get there early.”