For three years, the North Carolina women’s basketball team had been defined by who wasn’t on its roster.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, though — which began over two years after the four players that made up the top-ranked recruiting class of 2013 unexpectedly transferred — the Tar Heels charged into the program’s newest era hopeful that their program’s darkest days were behind them.
After all, the final member of the 2013 team, Hillary Fuller, graduated in 2017. The shadow that hung over the program due to pending NCAA sanctions was lifted before the 2017-18 season began. And, with the addition of first-year forwards Jaelynn Murray and Janelle Bailey, North Carolina had a means to combat its recent struggles with frontcourt depth.
All this UNC team had to do was put the cultural shift in motion.
“I knew when I came here, I could have a big role…” Bailey said days before her regular season debut. “I think we’re going to shock a lot of people this year.”
In review of the first half of the 2017-18 campaign, the Tar Heels (11-5, 1-2 ACC) have backed up the optimistic rhetoric they spread at the beginning of the season.
The Tar Heels are averaging 78.9 points per game, over six points per game more than the 2016-17 squad, and they’re doing it with a much more balanced offensive attack. Last season, the team put up 25.8 3-point attempts per game; so far this season, North Carolina is averaging 16.7 attempts from deep per game.
First-year contributors Bailey — who was recently honored as the 2017 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year — and Murray are among the team’s top-three rebounders. Bailey is also adding 15.3 points per game.
However, through the first 16 contests Bailey has limited herself on the court when she’s gotten into foul trouble. The center has accumulated 62 fouls thus far in her first-year campaign.