Why you shouldn’t count the Tar Heels out just yet

Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

So far the 6-5 UNC Tar Heels have endured what has been one of the most frustrating seasons in recent history.

11 games in, the Tar Heels have suffered their most frustrating campaign since 2010 when they finished 20-17 and failed to win even the NIT. Much like the 2010 team, the struggles on the offensive end have been flat out brutal, shooting 40% from the field and an ugly 29.5% from three. This is a team that had question marks before the season, however, no one expected the losing streak they’re currently on. Luckily for the Tar Heels, it’s not too late for the switch to be flipped.

The season hasn’t been all-bad with future NBA lottery pick Cole Anthony running the floor.

Unfortunately, for UNC, their leading scorer in Cole Anthony is out for the next 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus. Anthony started the season hot, dropping 34 points in his college debut, however, after a few more good games, his shooting percentage dropped to 36.8% from the field and 35% from deep. Carolina’s offense looks very stagnant when Anthony is not on the floor, which has often led to forced shots. The lone “bright spot” with Anthony being off the floor is that it not only allows Anthony to heal up, but also for the Tar Heels to find an identity when the ball isn’t in his hands.

Another bright spot for the Heels in this dark season is the upcoming schedule. After a brutal stretch of games against ranked opponents including Michigan, Oregon, Ohio State, Virginia, and most recently Gonzaga, UNC has gone just 1-6 against top 25 teams this season. Carolina’s next handful of games include UCLA, Yale, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh–all of which will be huge in turning things around–especially after the embarrassing home loss to Wofford. These are must-win games for the Tar Heels and with Anthony out, expect Roy Williams to have junior Garrison Brooks and freshman Armando Bacot dominate the stat sheet.

Brooks, who is currently averaging 12.5 points to go with 8.3 rebounds, is poised to be a catalyst for the UNC offense. Bacot is averaging 9.5 points and 8.1 rebounds on the year. The two bigs will not only need to provide the team’s scoring over the next few games, but also the energy that the Tar Heels so desperately need. If Carolina can run the paint rather than take the contested jumper late in the shot clock, the overall flow of the offense would become much smoother.

Fortunately for Carolina, the schedule is full of winnable games during Anthony’s absence.

Ultimately, the Tar Heels need to go on a winning streak while Anthony is out. Luckily for them, the slate seems to feature plenty of winnable games. The teams on the upcoming schedule give players such as Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, and Christian Keeling time to find their shooting stroke before conference play heats up in January. Losing Anthony certainly hurts, however, this gives the Hall of Fame coach a chance to get guys more touches and more experience for when Anthony does come back. Even with the disappointing start, dreams of March and April haven’t faded away just yet.