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Analysis: Two takeaways for UNC men's basketball from the 2023 ACC Tipoff

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UNC men's basketball head coach Hubert Davis answers questions at the 2023 ACC Tipoff on Oct. 25, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There’s something special about this year's Tar Heels that Hubert Davis finds particularly promising.

“I like diversity,” the UNC men’s basketball coach said at the 2023 ACC Tipoff. “I don’t want a team full of incoming freshmen, and I don’t want a team full of transfers. I like a combination of a number of different things. That’s one of the things that I really like about this team.”

This season, North Carolina’s 14-man roster has seven new players, including first-years like Zayden High and Elliot Cadeau, along with a flurry of veteran transfers like Cormac Ryan and Paxson Wojcik.

As North Carolina looks to bounce back from a lackluster year — one that saw the preseason No. 1 Tar Heels miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 — it’ll be both old and new faces leading the way.

Players from the league's 15 schools gathered in Charlotte today to preview the upcoming season. Here are the takeaways from this year's ACC Tipoff.

Makers, not shooters

Sure, the Tar Heels have plenty of options willing to shoot from deep: namely, RJ Davis, Wojcik and Ryan.

But that’s not what Hubert is concerned about.

“We don’t need shooters,” the head coach said. “We need makers. There’s a difference between [field goal attempts] and [field goals made]. I also think there is a link between shooting percentages and our lack of team assists.”

UNC’s outside shooting isn’t a question of talent — across a combined 11 collegiate seasons, RJ Davis, Ryan and Wojcik totaled 480 3-pointers for their respective teams. For a North Carolina squad that posted the ACC’s worst 3-point percentage last year, Ryan and Wojcik should certainly help improve that number.

But turning shooters into consistent makers means that the Tar Heels will have to distribute the ball more to reduce contested shots. UNC’s 11.97 assists per game last season ranked as the ACC’s third-worst and, as Hubert said, was directly correlated with the team’s shooting woes.

Moreover, North Carolina plays closer to its ceiling when graduate center Armando Bacot is at his best – but it’s a two-way street. If opposing defenses direct their focus onto the star big man, as they often do, they won’t be able to afford to leave 3-point shooters open.

“For us to be able to be confident, knock it down from three, kind of takes off the pressure from 'Mando [Bacot] from being double-teamed, triple-teamed each game,” RJ Davis said.

Discipline and details

Hubert requires all of his players to meet with him individually at least once a week. 

“You can’t play for me unless you know me," he said. "And I can’t coach you unless I know you.”

Not over “text, tweet or TikTok,” the coach continued, but actual face-to-face interactions. Usually, it’s more than that weekly meeting, as he’ll often share breakfast, lunch or dinner with his players.

Given that half of his squad is new to the program, it’s one piece of Hubert’s larger plan to ensure everyone’s on the same page and limit the mental lapses that plagued the Tar Heels last year.

One rebound, miscommunication or turnover can decide a game — 12 of UNC’s 13 losses last season were by single digits.

“Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” Hubert said. “But you gotta make it bounce your way. By the energy, the effort and attention to detail. I feel like we have a group that values those things every day and consistently practices that [so that] it can translate in a game.”

@danielhwei

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@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com


Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.