North Carolina still can’t be defined.
Not in the sense that you’d expect this deep into the season and with ACC play looming. With only two games left in the nonconference schedule, how the Tar Heels are going to play from game-to-game is still largely guess work.
The only thing we know for sure now is the roster is set since Leslie McDonald was reinstated and the Tar Heels decided not to attempt to get P.J. Hairston's eligibility restored.
Saturday’s overtime win over Davidson was a clunker most of the way until the Heels found their sense of urgency late.
“It was a frustrating game in so many different ways, but that’s my team, you’ve just got to understand that,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
Williams understands it all too well. That’s why he’s lost his cool with this team.
Not in an anger-management kind of way (although Williams did admit he’d never called out a team he’s coached the way he did about free throws), but in whatever it takes to win fashion. Even if that means doing something he despises like playing zone.
Williams said the reason why coaches are reluctant to playing zone was, “Probably stupidity -- and you could probably put me in that group too -- but I just like guarding a guy man-to-man.”
Not with this team. The new rules’ emphasis on freedom of movement has made it especially difficult for the Heels to contain the ball handler.
“Guarding the dribbler has gotten to be by far the most difficult thing to do in the game today,” Williams said.
He’s put pride aside and has already consistently mixed in more zone defense this season than arguably any other team he’s had in Chapel Hill.
Carolina showed some full court pressure for the first time this season against Davidson, which resulted in turnovers. Williams said he was, “just trying things,” but it could actually become something else opponents have to worry about. The Heels have the athletes and the length to use that pressure or their halfcourt scramble, which they also used against Davidson, more in the future.
In that sense, being undefined isn’t entire a bad thing for the Heels. But center Kennedy Meeks said they did need to take the guess work out of at least one category.
In UNC wins this season, the Heels have won the rebounding battle by an average of seven. That changes to an average of minus-three boards in their losses. And to Meeks, there’s nothing technical about those differences.
“It’s just effort,” Meeks said. “If we don’t put forth the effort the team is going to beat us.”