By: Keith Hartley
Today on the “Hope and the Nope,” I’m going to be explaining four reasons why I think our Tar Heels will be making the Final Four this year and one reason why they won’t (as if that’s even possible). Come along this journey with me as this article will surely be irrelevant when we get upset by a double-digit seed that won’t stop hitting 3’s and taking charges… oh my bad, for a second I thought I was transported to the DOOK blog.
Joel Berry: Watching JB play throughout the first few weeks of the season really had me worried that this would certainly be a down year for us, however, the version of JB that has been on the court lately has really elevated his game and leadership to a level I didn’t even see last year.
He is the heart and soul of this team and is part of the reason why our offense has been so much more efficient in the last week or two. His turnovers are down and he is noticeably more aware of what the team needs and when. The experience and maturity that he brings to this team are invaluable for calming the waters when the sea might seem pretty rough.
Roy Williams: One of Roy’s most noticeable and consistent qualities as a coach is how effective he is at teaching the game to the young men he takes in each year.
Without fail, his teams learn, grow, progress, gel, and come together throughout the year like most other coaches/teams can only dream. But to be perfectly honest, I just did not see the potential in this team to be a final four team. While I admit some of my renewed hope and expectations might be heavily influenced by the lack of many dominant teams throughout the CBB landscape, this does not underscore the progress the Heels have made throughout the year and the cohesiveness they now exhibit – all of this due to one man’s dedication.
Roles: Part of the evolution of the team this year, which is continued evidence of Roy’s mastery, is getting everyone to accept their role on the team and how the collective will always be better than individuals. Adjusting the lineup to play a 2 PG, 2 wing, 1 PF lineup was one of the major turning points of this season.
I say 2 PG because that is largely the functional role which Theo Pinson has been playing on this team. I’d say JB and Theo are similar to the style of the 2 PG lineup that the Lakers are playing now with IT and Lonzo. There is an understanding that one of them likes to shoot and the other likes to pass. Which is just the epitome of what Roy preaches, know your role, excel in your role and the whole is better than the sum of its parts.
3pt Shooting: Well this is certainly unfamiliar ground to be in as a Carolina fan. The M.O. of UNC teams (at least the successful ones) has been frontcourt dominance and controlling the paint with inside scoring and offensive rebounds. While we’re still a top offensive rebounding team, it’s now by hustle and mentality rather than size.
I can’t remember another team like this one where 4 out of 5 of our starters can be called capable 3-point shooters (and even Theo has been getting 3’s to fall lately). However, this is a double-edged sword as 3pt shooting is a dangerous mistress to be depending on come tourney time
Depth: Having a lack of depth is pretty rare territory for most UNC teams as Roy has usually forced his own hand in this area due to the blazing fast tempo which coach implores his team to run.
However this year, the first two guys off the bench are normally our 2 centers which to say is atypical is a vast understatement. The starting 5 are all playing 34ish minutes a game on average which could eventually take its toll with an extended run in March.
All this being said, my renewed excitement for this team and their journey through the tourney is gaining some serious momentum. I hope y’all are getting just as excited for this ride as I am and don’t forget to wear your seatbelts.
Keith Hartley runs the “Keith’s Carolina BBQ” blog. Catch up with his writings on the season right here.