And while the team only lost seven of those 20 contests, those 3-point numbers aren't promising for a squad hoping to make a run. So what does head coach Roy Williams think will keep the problem from carrying over this season? The addition of three newcomers to the team that have replaced Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II.
"Well the new guys, I think Coby is really good defensively and has a chance to be really, really good,” Williams said at ACC men's basketball media day. “I think Leaky is really good defensively and has a chance to be really good. Nassir is so athletic that he can be really good as well and he works really hard. So I’m hopeful that all three of those guys can be very good defenders.”
Two scrimmages and two games against smaller programs isn't enough of a sample size to tell whether the same problem will persist with White, Little and Black on the court. In their first two regular season games, the Tar Heels have not yet broken the 10 3-pointer threshold, holding Wofford and Elon to nine and seven made shots from beyond the arc, respectively.
Against Wofford, the Tar Heels held 2017-2018 Southern Conference Player of the Year Fletcher Magee to just 3-for-16 from behind the arc, compared to a 4-for-12 showing last year, so there has been some improvement so far.
But in the "secret scrimmage" against Villanova, the Tar Heels struggled defensively, giving up at least 20 made 3-pointers by just three players, a number that could have been higher had the rest of the team's 3s been documented in the release.
After the contest, Roy Williams called it "a slap in the face" for his team, saying he "was most disappointed in our defensive play, rebounding and running the floor."
The competition provided by Villanova was a good marker of where UNC needs to be if it wants to eliminate last season's Achilles' heel this year. Last season, the Wildcats gave up 6.8 3-pointers per game, which was nearly three less, or nine points fewer, per game than the Tar Heels.
Last season, UNC gave up nine or more 3s to eight of its 11 top-25 ranked opponents, notably giving up more than 10 3-pointers to Clemson twice and nine to Duke on two occasions to split the pair of regular season games with both schools.
Twenty-four points can make the difference in a game. Cutting that total down by just a few made shots per game would transform the defense of the team.
In the age of the Golden State Warriors, the increased reliance on shots from beyond the 3-point line isn't likely to go away. So expect the Tar Heels to be better after an offseason working on it.
But if they aren't, that severely lowers the team's ceiling for this season.
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