Roy Williams and North Carolina have seen this act before: a house of pain degenerating into a house of cards in the flip of a calendar.
A national championship in 2009 lapsed into an NIT appearance one year later. Fast-forward two more and the Tar Heels are following up a championship-caliber squad—nevertheless snakebit by an untimely injury—with an encore that smells of another NIT song and dance.
Following his team’s nine-point loss to Virginia in the ACC season opener, Williams gathered his players for a three-hour session of film study and open discussion that left one player still unsatisfied. Reggie Bullock, the bombastic swingman who has taken over the vacant team leadership role by default, called a players-only meeting. It didn’t work.
North Carolina could use another players-only meeting, only with better players. Otherwise, Carolina’s next best recourse may well be a players-only game, shutting out the head coach who has allowed a plethora of talented former recruits to wallow in a system incompatible with their prevailing skill sets.
Williams’ secondary fast break is predicated upon a shifty, playmaking point guard who can quickly get the ball up the court—either by the pass or dribble—and spot the open man in transition. Marcus Paige, a scoring-minded combo guard masquerading as a point, doesn’t fit that bill. In the half court, Williams needs skilled big men in the post through whom he can run roughly 70-percent of the team’s offensive sets. Once again, this year’s Heels come up empty to that end. Too bad the stubborn system the head coach swears by won’t accommodate those deficiencies.
North Carolina’s post players are raw and inexperienced, no match for a system that’s demanding of bigs. Desmond Hubert has no semblance of an offensive game and freshman Joel James is a work in progress. Together, the two pivots combined for just three points and three rebounds in Thursday’s home loss to Miami.