North Carolina Lost To UNLV And We Shouldn’t Be Surprised

Posted by KCarpenter on November 27th, 2011

There is a formula for an upset, and it is as old as the three-point line: make your shots from beyond the arc, slow the pace, and play physical, punishing defense. UNLV did two of the three, opting to keep the pace up, but their execution was perfect. Since last season, the flaws of this North Carolina team have been no secret: John Henson and Tyler Zeller get frustrated by strong physical defense, Kendall Marshall is a mediocre on-ball defender, and the UNC defensive system that relies heavily on rotations and recovery is susceptible to three-point shots from the weak-side, particularly after collapsing against a drive. If you are experiencing an odd sense of déjà vu, it is because this is almost exactly the blueprint that Kentucky exploited to beat the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. It worked then, it worked last night, and there is a good chance that it will work in the future.

Marshall's On-Ball Defense Will Remain A Liability in North Carolina's Defensive Scheme

Specifically the near future. Against Wisconsin on Tuesday, North Carolina will be dealing with one of the nation’s stingiest interior defenses, coupled with elite three-point shooting, and a punishingly controlled tempo. Kentucky’s surplus of talent becomes more apparent each and every game and the Wildcats ability to play tough, muscular defense as well as athletic guard play seems designed to give the Tar Heels fits. North Carolina was going to go into both of these games regardless as the underdog, regardless of who won in Vegas or what the polls said. Both of these match-ups are tough, and weirdly, by losing on Saturday, North Carolina should be able to go into these two games with appropriately readjusted expectations.

This can be a very good thing. The 2005 team’s season-opening loss to Santa Clara had the eventual national champions on the defensive, playing catch-up all year against an Illinois team that nearly went undefeated in the regular season. The 2007 Elite Eight team lost to Gonzaga in November. Last year’s squad lost to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Illinois, and Texas in a span of a month yet finished the season playing in the Elite Eight while all of these other teams were sitting at home. Roy Williams-coached squads, for a variety of reasons, often lose in the fall. Last night’s loss, or even a series of three straight losses by this time  last week might feel terrible for North Carolina, but it won’t be as meaningful as pundits might say (excepting a series of blowouts). Teams grow and change between November and March, and a loss or three won’t cripple the psyche of this young team. Losses don’t hurt forever especially in November games.

KCarpenter (269 Posts)

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7 responses to “North Carolina Lost To UNLV And We Shouldn’t Be Surprised”

  1. chris says:

    Exploited what? Bad observation on your part. Mainly because when your shooting 3’s like UNLV did 13 for the game, thats 39 points!!! If you’ve played against a team when they are hot from the perimeter like that, trust me it’s hard to stop

  2. KCarpenter says:

    I absolutely agree. Anyone would struggle against a team making that many threes, UNC’s problem is allowing the open looks. Poor play on the pick and roll, and help defense’s slow recovery led to way too many open looks for UNLV.

  3. Sam says:

    The article is correct however it did fail to mention the 13 missed free throws the Heels had and the fact that Roy Williams will not call a timeout to try to stop a run. Coach K will always take a quick timeout to squash a run. These are 2 areas where the Heels exploit their selves and to go far in March they need to correct defending the 3 and to start making foul shots.

  4. Ted says:

    UNC fans dont get it. UNC allowed those wide open looks. punch UNC in the mouth and they get scared. Its almost like Coach Rice watched when Kentucky beat UNC twice and said lets do that. they cant shoot except for hairston. the best thing for me is media hyping them like no other and they go on to lose in November. it was almost as bad as espn overhyping everything Duke.

    We all seen this coming when MSU gave them a hard time. MSU isnt good.

  5. Scott says:

    Every aspect of the Heels game looked slower than usual. Slow to help on D, shots falling short, the whole pace of the game, and aggressiveness on the interior. It wasn’t that the Heels got out-muscled, they just got beat by a hot team from 3 that had more energy, period. It’s tough to beat any team that hits 13 3’s.

    Part of the problem with the team being lethargic might have something to do with the scheduling of 2 cross country trips in two weeks. The Heels have traveled right at 7500 miles in two weeks in a crazy back-and-forth fashion from east coast to west coast. I know, other teams travel too. But that back-and-forth mess takes a toll on the energy levels needed to play the way Roy wants to play. By the time they get get back to Chapel Hill, the Heels will have traveled close to 10000 miles in the first 2 weeks of the season.

    Not an excuse, just an observation.

  6. uncfanjvb says:

    sam. you are on the money. l posted very similar thoughts on an espn blog. roy gets mad after the run gets out of hand and pulls the floor. what is that crap? momemtum is too impoetant to trust to kids. that’s why he’s the coach.

  7. Rob says:

    Ya know what is great about this? When UNC is playing deep into March, which it will, nobody will care about this game. Credit UNLV for playing with more passion, fire, and energy. UNC flat out got beat, but it happens. These days, no team is going to go undefeated. The 2009 Championship team was by far the most powerful team in the nation all year, but they too lost. Now they look back at the 0-2 start to the ACC and laugh it off as a learning experience. Let’s just hope that this UNC team can have a hearty laugh as they lift the championship trophy in April.

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