It is only November, but we already know a lot about the North Carolina Tar Heels. We know that they could conceivably go 11-deep without wincing against most teams. On the contrary, we've seen a lack of team chemistry and poor execution result in an embarrassing loss versus Gonzaga. Having faced four tournament teams in Winthrop, Gonzaga, Tennessee, and Ohio State, the freshmen and sophomores will undoubtedly grow at an accelerated pace, but not without bumps in the road.
When the Tar Heels are on, they conduct a balanced inside-outside game on offense coupled with a defense that doesn't allow second chances. In last night's contest versus Ohio State, North Carolina did not show its best face. I repeat. North Carolina did not show its best face ... but they put in their best single-game effort of the year. Let's be realistic. They did not communicate effectively on defense until the latter stages of the first half. This resulted in a slew of open looks and easy baskets for the Buckeyes' guards. As it stands, the Buckeyes shot 52% from the field for the game and made 50% (13-for-26) from behind the arc.
On the more positive side of things, the Heels shot well (53%) from the field and from the behind the arc (44%). Even better, Carolina won the hustle categories - 38 to 25 on the boards, 14 to 7 in offensive rebounds, 10 to 5 in steals, and 7 to 3 in blocks. This begins to explain the gulf in free throw attempts (34 to 13 in favor of North Carolina). Clearly, Ohio State had no answer for Tyler Hansbrough and were baffled when Brandan Wright returned to normal play after the start of the second half.
After the month of November, here is what we know:
1. Ty Lawson is the starting point guard. You cannot let his pace fester on the bench.
2. Carolina really cannot defend the trifecta. Since the 103-50 win versus Gardner Webb, the last three opponents have made half of their three pointers (39-for-78).
3. Teams with a firm grasp on the fundamentals can frustrate the Tar Heels.
4. Assertive guard play prevents defenses from double-teaming Hansbrough.
In December, the Tar Heels play Kentucky (Saturday @ 12pm noon) in addition to a host of teams that possess inferior talent. This will allow Roy Williams to decide on his rotation for conference play and beyond. Dating back to his stacked Jayhawks teams (especially the 1997 team), it has been reported that Williams likes his regular rotation to include no more than nine players. Barring unexpected transfers and injuries, here is my prediction for the rotation:
STARTERS: Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Reyshawn Terry (assuming he can get out of his season-long funk), Brandan Wright, Tyler Hansbrough
CONTRIBUTORS: Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green (if he can avoid pouting about not knowing his role)
BUBBLE: Deon Thompson, Wes Miller, Alex Stepheson
OUT: Quentin Thomas, Mike Copeland, Surry Wood, Dewey Burke
With that said, only time will tell how the players will adjust in adopting the team approach following gaudy high school numbers.