Tar Heels get time to rest, regroup
North Carolina is the only school in the 15-team ACC without a league win.
Now the Tar Heels (10-6, 0-3) have a full week between last Saturday’s horror show at Syracuse and this Saturday’s home game against Boston College (noon, ESPN) to avoid becoming the first UNC squad in history to lose its first four ACC games.
“I’m sitting here trying to decide if it’s good to have a whole week between games or (if) I’d rather play this afternoon,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in his weekly teleconference Monday. “But it is going to give us some time to rest up a little bit, heal a little bit and, at the same time, we need some time to work.”
The Tar Heels clearly need to spend time working on its zone offense — UNC is coming off a 45-point performance against Syracuse’s signature zone on Saturday but also shot just 30.8 percent against Miami’s less-esteemed version last Wednesday — but that’s not the only place the team needs to improve.
“This would be the equivalent of taking your car in for a tune-up. They check everything,” Williams said. “You’re going to get some work done on every part of the car and make sure that you’ve got it in position that it can work effectively, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
UNC spent 90 minutes Sunday night watching tape from Saturday’s 57-45 loss to Syracuse, which matched the program’s lowest scoring output in the shot-clock era — but it didn’t start with the miscues and missed shots.
Instead, the Tar Heels began the film session by watching the first possession of the game. UNC made 12 passes in 17 seconds, and all five players touched the ball before center Joel James found power forward James Michael McAdoo for a short jumper.
Williams started with that possession not because it came first but because it was an example of how his team was capable of using patience, ball movement and player movement to create a good shot. Showing the positives was an attempt to make sure the players didn’t get too frustrated with their terrible start to conference play.
“I think we are shook a little bit, but there’s no way to hide from it so we talk about it,” Williams said. “We haven’t done as well as want to, but it’s no time to panic. The only thing that panic can do is make it worse. We realize there’s some stress, but the only thing you can do is lose yourself in the game and give 100 percent.”
The Tar Heels need to find more scoring options besides Marcus Paige and McAdoo, who were the only UNC players with more than four points against No. 2 Syracuse. Point guard Nate Britt and small forward J.P. Tokoto have not been reliable scorers, guard Leslie McDonald is in a shooting slump and centers Joel James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks have been too inconsistent.
Perhaps more importantly, the team also must deal with the adversity that comes from falling short of preseason expectations and losing P.J. Hairston, who may have been the best player on this year’s team before he was declared ineligible for violating NCAA rules.
Of course, UNC’s primary rivals are also struggling. Duke nearly fell out of the top 25 after losing its first two conference road games, and on Saturday N.C. State suffered its worst-ever loss at PNC Arena, — which opened in 1999 — falling 76-45 to Virginia.
Williams said it was too early to give up on the teams from Tobacco Road.
“There’s a lot of success with these programs and it’s stood the test of time,” Williams said. “So my first inclination would be, let’s not bury us yet.”