The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday February 28th

How UNC men's basketball can bounce back from last year's injuries, shooting woes

UNC's men's basketball coach Roy Williams speaks to press members after a game against Boston College in the Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. UNC fell to Boston College by just one point in the last minutes of the game, making the final score 71-70.
Buy Photos UNC's men's basketball coach Roy Williams speaks to press members after a game against Boston College in the Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. UNC fell to Boston College by just one point in the last minutes of the game, making the final score 71-70.

Last year's 14-19 season —  the worst of Roy Williams’ Hall of Fame career — is a painful memory for the North Carolina men's basketball team to recall.  

But that's in the past. Williams and the returning players for the Tar Heels have put the memory of last season behind them and will open their new season on Nov. 25 ranked No. 16 in the preseason AP poll. 

Here's a look at some of the reasons the Tar Heels struggled last season and how they can avoid a similar situation in the coming months:

Injuries

Injuries are part of the game, but having to use 10 different starting lineups certainly doesn’t do a team any favors. 

After rising as high as No. 5 in last year's AP poll, the Tar Heels never got to show what they could accomplish if everyone stayed healthy. 

The depth of this year’s team should allow North Carolina to be better suited should those challenges arise again. The 2020 recruiting class features six players with at least a four-star rating, according to ESPN. Four of these players will slide into the point guard and wing rotations — units that were the most impacted by injuries last season.

One player whose return will be a big boost for the Tar Heels is redshirt first-year guard Anthony Harris. Though he's still recovering from a torn ACL that cut his season short in December, on Oct. 21, Williams labeled Harris as only a few weeks away from returning to five-on-five drills. 

Harris was a spark plug off the bench in limited action last season, most notably in his 14-point showing against UCLA. If he can return and play with that same level of energy, his experience, albeit limited, will bode well with a young backcourt that features two first-year players in Caleb Love and RJ Davis. 

Shooting

In the modern era of fast-paced play, perimeter shooting is vital to any team’s success. The Tar Heels were far from exemplary in this area a season ago, shooting 30.4 percent from behind the arc and ranking 310th in the nation. 

This part of the offense should be bolstered this season with the new additions to the team. Love, a top-three point guard in this year’s recruiting class, projects as a three-level scorer who should be comfortable scoring at will. In his senior season, he averaged 26.3 points per game en route to winning the Gatorade Missouri Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. 

Another figure who will be tasked with scoring at a high clip is Davis. Although a bit undersized at 6 feet, he improvises with a quick release on his jump shot, which is part of the reason why he averaged 26.5 points per game on 34 percent shooting from 3-point range in his senior year of high school. 

Similarly, other first-years Kerwin Walton and Puff Johnson have both been evaluated as above-average shooters and should be able to slide right into the marksman role left vacant by Brandon Robinson's departure. 

The most consistent aspect of the Tar Heels’ lineup last year was the front court rotation, as Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot remained mostly steady during the team’s struggles. While Brooks may have an expanded range in his fourth year, he still not a reliable threat from the three. The addition of five-star recruit Walker Kessler could give the team another option at either power forward or center.

Kessler’s game translates well into today’s era of basketball, as he can move up and down the court and stretch the floor with his shooting. Even if there are times he isn't looking to shoot from deep, he can draw opposing defenders away from the basket, which will open up driving lanes for other players to attack the rim.

Not much went right for UNC last season, but the foundation of an ACC contender still exists. If the team utilizes these adjustments and is motivated by last year’s outcome, the Tar Heels should have a path to return to national prominence.

@nelsonhunter_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.



Comments

Black History Month Edition

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive