One Encouraging Development For UNC's Offense vs. Virginia (Seriously)

Brant Wilkerson-New

The numbers in the box score are tough to read and the 0-2 was indeed that bad for North Carolina, as the Tar Heels set several records for futility and were held to fewer than 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since the 1947-48 season.

To preface the rest of what's to come, there should be no illusion that this Carolina offense will reach the lofty standards set by teams that came before it. Beyond Cole Anthony, few Tar Heels can create their own shots, the ceiling for shooting is average at best and depth is lacking in the post.

With that said, there's a path for the Carolina offense, which currently ranks 36th in efficiency per KenPom.com, to become effective.

And while it wasn't completely successful in Sunday's loss at Virginia the Tar Heels showed where things might be headed and it all starts with Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks.

The Cavaliers, who have the nation's best defense, were able to clog the lane, but other opponents figure to have trouble with the Carolina big men once things are fine-tuned.

Counting on Cole

Here's where the offense has faced major issues this season.

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Unable to penetrate or get get the ball inside, it frequently ends up in Cole Anthony's hands at the end of a shot clock. With few options, the freshman is asked to create and the other nine guys on the floor know exactly what's coming.

It's been a mixed bag, with Anthony occasionally bailing out the Tar Heels and occasionally making the type of poor decisions you'd expect from a freshman point guard.

Sometimes it's happening early in the shot clock, sometimes late. At any rate, the unfortunate reality for Carolina is that a wild drive like this one is often the best option among perimeter players.

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ACC Digital Network

"He’s frustrated," Williams said on Sunday. "He’s been our most gifted player … he’s trying to do too much. Driving too much when it’s too crowded.

"He’s probably pressing more than he should. Got to get him more help, got to get the ball inside so we can be more balanced." 

Bacot agreed.

"Cole, he’s trying his hardest," he said. "We’re kind of just stagnant watching Cole."

Making an Effort

For the past several weeks, Williams has been harping on the need for big men to be more effective in running rim-to-rim and establishing position, and for guards to get the ball inside quickly and effectively.

It appeared the message finally got through on Sunday as the Tar Heel big men did an excellent job of winning the race down the floor.

Sometimes Carolina got buckets, and other times Bacot and Brooks got fouled in the post. 

As much as the Tar Heels would like to get a post touch every trip down the floor, having  big men in the paint opens up the offense in other ways.

Here, Virginia's defenders are paying so much attention to the Tar Heels in the paint, they leave Brandon Robinson alone on the wing. Shot didn't go in, but that's a look you'll take every time down.

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On this break, Brooks getting into the paint and Pierce running hard toward the wing means the Cavs aren't able to help. Anthony going one-on-one with a smaller guard is money in the bank for Carolina.

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A great job by Garrison Brooks to get to his spot and draw a foul, and an excellent pass from Leaky Black, too.

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ACC Digital Network

Big-to-big

Here's where Carolina has an exceptional opportunity for growth offensively, and the opportunity to take some pressure off Anthony and the guards to create.

Bacot and Brooks are both above-average passers, and in particular, they're developing some nice chemistry with one another.

If one is double-teamed, the other isn't. If it's Bacot one-on-one under the basket, that's almost an automatic two.

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ACC Digital Network

Both players are capable of stepping out to the high post. Either can knock down jumpers to the free throw line and they're getting on the same page with finding one another down low.

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If Brooks can consistently knock down this shot, it opens up the paint a little bit more.

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And it's not just big-to-big passing. If someone finds space, Bacot and Brooks both have the basketball I.Q. and ability to make the play.

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It's Not Tough

Basketball isn't a complicated game, as proven by this chart from Fifth Factor Plots.

When Carolina shoots the ball close to the basket, it wins. When it doesn't, it loses.

Some of those shots didn't go in on Sunday vs. Virginia, which is to be expected against the nation's best defense, and while there was plenty for Williams and the Tar Heels to not like about what transpired in Charlottesville, there were some hints of future success if a few shots bounce the right way.

If Carolina's offense is to begin a turnaround before ACC play, it will start in the hands of Bacot and Brooks in the paint and trickle down to the rest of the Tar Heels.

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