For Ol’ Roy, North Carolina, it’s back to the drawing board

north carolinaNorth Carolina coach Roy Williams is the anti-John Calipari, who would throw his team under various busses after a bad loss like the one UNC had at Virginia on Sunday.

Ol’ Roy threw himself on the ol’ sword after the Tar Heels’ 56-47 loss in JPJ.

“I’m just beside myself. Since last year, last two years, last three years I’ve gotten to be the worst coach I can ever remember because we are doing some of the most unbelievable things of any team I’ve ever had,” Williams said.

He’s taking the fall here. It’s on him.

And actually, it’s not on his team, because, c’mon, even the most diehard Carolina fan would have to admit that there just ain’t much there to work with.

OK, there’s star frosh point guard Cole Anthony, the #2 recruit in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2019, but since his 34-point breakout performance in the opener with Notre Dame, Anthony is shooting 34.4 percent from the floor, 31.4 percent from three-point range, with more turnovers (30) than assists (26).

And why that is has as much to do with the limited talent around him as anything wrong on the part of Anthony.

Before you watch a Carolina game, you know intuitively that Roy has a point guard capable of pushing pace, bigs who can rebound and score back to the basket, and guards who can knock down open shots created by the point guard pushing the pace and the bigs demanding attention in the paint.

Williams has the point guard, he has the bigs – Garrison Brooks (11.6 ppg, 8.1 rebs/g) and Armando Bacot (10.6 ppg, 8.1 rebs/g) – but he doesn’t have the guards who can knock down the jumpers.

The Tar Heels are shooting 28.4 percent from three, down sharply from what they shot in 2018-2019 (36.2 percent), but that’s just part of the story.

According to Hoops-Math.com, UNC is also much less effective at the rim – shooting 56.2 percent, down from 70.1 percent last season – and its rate of two-point jumpers as a percentage of total shot attempts is up nearly 5 percent from a year ago.

In the new basketball thinking, two-point jumpers are bad – because they’re usually contested, they’re almost as low-percentage as threes, and they’re only worth two if they go in.

With respect to UNC, the numbers are a reflection of what you see with your eyes. When opposing defenses don’t respect the ability of the guys on the three-point line to knock down those shots, they can focus on taking away drives into the lane and shots in the post.

Last year’s group had Cam Johnson, Luke Maye, Coby White, Brandon Robinson to account for.

Only Robinson is back, and after shooting 46 percent from three last year, the 6’5” senior is shooting 29.2 percent from behind the arc through nine games this season.

The only guy shooting better than the team average rate from 2018-2019 is reserve Leaky Black, and he’s only 4-for-11 (36.4 percent) in what you could call a small sample size.

Effectively, your best shooter from three is Anthony, who is 35.5 percent from the line on the season, but, problem here, he can’t drive into the paint and dish it back out to an open Anthony on the three-point line.

And because he can’t, and because it’s hard to figure who is on the roster that you can expect to just step up and start knocking down shots, it’s hard to figure what Ol’ Roy is going to be able to do to make it so he doesn’t have to dust off the “worst coach in America” speech a few more times this winter.

“We got a job, we got to try to get better later this week, give them some time off the next three or four days to work on exams,” Williams said, hangdog as ever in those rare moments when he has to address reporters after a loss.

“One-for-fourteen, as I say, and we’re not making free throws and we put them on the line 25 times. We had one assist at halftime, one assist. That’s not the way that, hopefully, I’ve tried to coach for 32 years, but that’s the way that we’re playing right now so we have to get that changed.”

To be fair, not everybody in the ACC is going to be able to do to Anthony what Virginia can do to a point guard.

Virginia sophomore point guard Kihei Clark hounded Anthony all night long, and he famously hounded Ty Jerome, hero of the national-championship win, now playing point in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, into throwing a ball at him in practice.

(There was also that time Justin Robinson, then of Virginia Tech, now in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, so lost his cool after a night of having Clark in his grill that Robinson got himself teed up at the end of a loss to UVA in JPJ.)

Anthony finished with a hard-earned 12 points, but he was 4-of-15 from the floor, and had zero – zero! – assists and six turnovers before Williams relieved him of his duties with a minute and a half to go.

There will be more nights when Anthony puts up 34s against second-division ACC teams, but the Dukes, the Louisvilles, the Florida States, they can game plan ways to stop Anthony, and then execute those plans into frustrating the youngster and his coach.

And coach, for his part, is already there.

“It’s frustrating. I’ve been very fortunate in my life, been very lucky, won a lot of games, had a lot of games where we didn’t play well but … I guess that I haven’t had two games in a row in 32 years where we scored less than 70, much less 50,” Williams said.

He continued a little later in his postgame presser.

“This is the most frustrated I’ve ever been,” Williams said. “I’ve been very lucky coaching-wise, but this is the most frustrated I’ve ever been. I don’t think we’re playing basketball the way that I want us to play, and that is probably the most frustrating. Pushing the pace, sharing the ball, competing like crazy. I’ve been very fortunate over the years, find the right buttons to push to get guys to do that, and I haven’t found the right buttons to push to get these guys to do it that way.”

More frustrating may be that there may not be buttons to push.

Story by Chris Graham

         
 

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