With an up-and-down season, the North Carolina women’s basketball team is slowly nearing the end of another year. With challenges due to COVID-19, heavy roster turnover and trouble finishing games, the Tar Heels have had their fair share of obstacles.
Coming off of a three-game losing streak, the Tar Heels faced No. 4 N.C. State on Sunday, a team that has taken down two different No. 1 teams this season. The Tar Heels knocked down 11 3-pointers and stunned the Wolfpack to pull off the major upset in their most complete game of the season.
Still, the team stands with a 9-8 record and 11th in the ACC. While the Tar Heels are 9-3 for home games, their record for away games stands at 0-5. Here's a look at some factors that have led to UNC's up-and-down performance this season.
It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 has thrown college sports for a loop. Scheduling games has been tough all year — with the chance of any staff or team member being exposed to the virus, things can change in an instant.
Earlier in the season, the team flew to Miami on a 36-hour notice after its game against Louisville was postponed. It's quick turnarounds like these that have kept the Tar Heels on their toes, but have also left them underprepared at times.
On top of this, there is always the possibility that a player or staff member could contract COVID-19, potentially leading to multiple games being postponed or canceled. North Carolina experienced this setback firsthand last month, which contributed to a three-week break from games for the team.
These are setbacks that no player on the team has faced before this year. But the struggles have been particularly harsh for all of UNC's new members as they endured an unusual offseason.
Last year, the Tar Heels said goodbye to six players. This year saw five first-years and two graduate transfers join the squad. With only one returning senior, center Janelle Bailey, there is no doubt UNC has faced some challenges in developing younger talent.
With the senior leadership changing and new players needing to learn the ropes of college basketball, learning to play as a cohesive unit hasn’t been easy for the Tar Heels — especially with the offseason being shortened by COVID-19.
However, this season has presented an opportunity for growth and learning for the younger players. They have had to learn to adapt quickly — which will be valuable for seasons to come.
The Tar Heels have seemed to struggle with finishing games this season.
UNC has especially struggled with turnovers in crucial moments this year. The Tar Heels have 226 total turnovers for the season, and during their away loss against Miami, they had a season-high 18 turnovers.
North Carolina has finished with 10 or more turnovers in 15 of 17 games, and lost more than half of those 15 games.
Another issue of consistency has been shooting. The Tar Heels have shot just 41.3 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from deep, and they've yet to lose a game in which they hit 10 or more threes.
If UNC can focus on minimizing turnovers and missed shots, it will have a better chance of finishing out games and securing a better ACC standing.
If the win over N.C. State was any indication, the Tar Heels are capable of stringing together wins against some of the best the ACC has to offer. Moving forward, UNC's hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid are looking out of reach, but a strong end to the season could see the team control its own postseason destiny.