Facing the Syracuse matchup zone is always a challenge for a team, but North Carolina faces even more hurdles as the Orange come to Chapel Hill on Tuesday night.
The Tar Heels are starting a pair of freshman guards—RJ Davis and Caleb Love. It’s always a steep learning curve as a freshman tries to learn Roy Williams’ offense on the fly, and this year’s team has shown the usual symptoms as Davis and Love try to digest everything coming at them. Carolina has struggled with shot selection this season as well as turning the ball over more than usual. Both of those problems can be fatal against the Orange’s zone defense.
“I don't think you ever get comfortable, but you just realize how significant it is,” Williams said of facing the zone.”You can't make the borderline passes. You can't make the soft, casual, careless passes or anything like that. So for freshmen, it's like hitting you in the mouth. And I do believe that it'll be a challenge for us. We can try to simulate it in practice, but we don't do a very good job because it's not who we are and not what we do. Jimmy (Boeheim) has always been adamant about enjoying it, liking it, and he should, because it causes other people a lot of trouble. For us particularly with starting two freshman at the guard spots, that’s been difficult for us to get ready for it.”
The Tar Heels also haven’t had as much practice time to prepare for it, since the Syracuse game was only added to the schedule after Saturday’s game with Clemson was cancelled, on Friday afternoon.
“It was crazy,” Williams said. “We were going over the Clemson scouting report on Friday and were walking out to the court to do a little Clemson walk-through. All of a sudden, the message comes through, and we had to scramble. We stopped working on the Clemson walk-through and just tried to do some things to make our own team better.”