Five Things to Watch as UNC Meets Wofford: Anthony's Workload, Full Focus and Supporting Cast
After a week off for exams, North Carolina returns to action in Carmichael Arena against Wofford at 4 p.m. (ACC Network)
Here’s what to watch for on Sunday afternoon as the Tar Heels (6-3) and Terriers get together for a matinee:
Clear Heads, Full Focus?
With exams going on, it’s been a quiet week for players as they focus on schoolwork.
Roy Williams was out recruiting all week before returning on Thursday, and Carolina was set to practice on Friday at the Smith Center and Saturday in Carmichael.
Brandon Robinson said he’d rather have been practicing all week, but a little time away might do some good for a Carolina team looking for answers after two straight losses that saw it score fewer than 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since the 1947-48 season.
“In both games, I think we didn’t handle the toughness, the pressure of a close game and being able to fight every possession. I think we didn’t handle that as well as I wanted to,” he said. “You have so many games that every possession is really important. You’ve got to fight through and guard every possession, get the best shot you can get every possession and I don’t think we did either one of those.”
A Little Less Cole
Quite simply, Cole Anthony is being asked to do too much right now, and Williams knows it.
With a 32.1 percent usage rate, Anthony ranks 29 nationally for possessions used while taking 32.9 percent of Carolina’s field goal attempts.
That workload is taking a toll, as Anthony’s field goal percentage has dropped to 36.8 percent — 37.8 percent on 2-point attempts and 35.5 percent on 3-point attempts.
The coach put some of the blame on himself.
“I’ve got to get him to trust everybody else more, trust what’s going to happen and not take it upon himself to try to do too much,” Williams said. “I think that’s probably the biggest problem he’s having right now is he feels like he’s got to do more and trying more things.”
Helping Cole, Helping the Offense
Before Carolina can improve its shooing percentages, it has to start getting higher-percentage shots.
Right now, the Tar Heels feel like they’re not getting great looks.
“I think we’ve got to have better movement, work together more on offense, set screens and cut harder and we’ll end up getting those easy shots,” Robinson said.
Going back to Williams’ thoughts on helping Anthony trust the offense, Robinson said some of that blame also falls on the rest of the Tar Heels.
“We can help him out and we have to do a better job of making him feel comfortable and making him trust us, because we haven’t been hitting shots,” Robinson said. “Going forward, if we hit shots and knock down looks that he gives us, that can ease that pressure and help him play better.”
Role Player Rotation
The rotation could be in for changes in the near future as Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris get healthy.
Both made their Carolian debuts on Sunday and could figure into the plan moving forward as Williams tries to get more out of a supporting cast that hasn’t found its stride this season.
“We have B-Rob and Andrew (Platek) and Leaky (Black) who have played some, but they’ve never been pushed out and win or lose has depended on how they’ve played,” Williams said. “So, getting them to understand, ‘Come on guys, you’ve got to get your level of play to here and maintain it,’ so that’s been the biggest frustration.”
Williams did point out that Black has been injured all season, but with more bodies available, the competition for playing time will heat up and allow for different lineups with Francis and Harris.
“I hope it gives me a lot of opportunities to try a lot of things,” he said. “Practice, we have 18 guys and we have nine or 10 that are capable of practicing. That’s about the way it’s been the whole season.”
There’s a large section of Carolina fans that can say they’ve never watched a game in Carmichael, and because of the finances of college athletics, it’s unlikely this will become a regular occurrence.
It’s unfortunate, because these are the kind of games that make ACC basketball special.
Take in the history of a place that saw Tar Heel basketball flourish under Dean Smith and legends like Phil Ford, Michael Jordan and James Worthy.
Take in the intimate environment created by fewer than 7,000 fans packed into the building that saw Williams get his start as an assistant.
“It was just a great place to coach,” he said. “The enthusiasm, the noise; it was a tremendous home court advantage, which is what I liked.”