College Basketball 23-24′ Team Preview – NC Tar Heels – How does NC look for the season?
An overview of North Carolina Tar Heels for the upcoming season
Last year, the Tarheels could not handle the high expectations. They were pegged to be a top three team in the nation based on how they finished the prior year. If you looked deeper into that roster and how they performed in the regular season, you could see they were overhyped. Did they have a great March? Absolutely, but if you expand the sample size, they were a below average basketball team. They finished last year 20-13 (11-9 ACC) and this was in an ACC which was as bad as we have seen in a while.
Coming into the season, the expectations are not as high and the roster turnover is one of the bigger we’ve seen in Chapel Hill. Although expectations are not lofty for this group, this is a big year for Hubert Davis. Recruiting wise, Davis has been good but on the court is where the biggest questions reside. The lack of development of the younger core. Developing talent and establishing continuity was never this big of an issue under Roy Williams which has Tar Heel fans wondering if Davis is the right man for the job.
The Tarheels finished 43rd in KenPom last year which was their lowest since 2020. I don’t read much into that year as it was the weird Covid year so all metrics were a bit out of the normal. Prior to last year, the Tarheels finished inside the top 20 of KenPom in five of the last seven years. This includes the 2020 Covid year and finishing 34th in 2021. Hubert must get this offense back to standard which in return helps the defense. Is he capable of adjusting? Is this roster better without Caleb Love? Let’s discuss.
Roster Analysis for the Tar Heels in the NCAAB 23-24 season
There was a big sigh of relief from Tarheel fans and coaching staff that Armando Bacot and RJ Davis elected to return. Both players are experienced and know what it takes to win and be competitive at a high level. As mentioned in the overview, there was massive turnover for this roster, highlighted by the loss of Caleb Love. Is it a big deal? NO! I say that emphatically as a fan who watched him shoot the Tarheels out of games time after time. Did he have good moments? Of course, but his style of play did not translate to winning.
Six players (including Love) transferred out of the program but they gained five players who on paper make the Tarheels more versatile and give them more shooting which is a huge need. Last year the Tarheels ranked outside the top 320 in three-point%. Three of the five incoming players shot at least 38% from deep last season. Cormac Ryan and Jaelyn Withers were both in the ACC last year and should have no issue performing at this level.
Under Roy Williams, you knew you were getting two things out of this team. They were going to play fast and rebound the cover off the ball. The rebounding was okay but not up to standard last year. Bacot was the only reliable threat on the glass but this year with the addition of James Okonkwo (WVU) and more minutes from Jalen Washington, we should see a leap in the rebounding category. The tempo and ball movement were horrendous last year. Tarheels ranked outside the top 90 in tempo which is insane. They also were outside the top 300 in assist% which must improve.
At times last year, I felt like they were forcing the ball inside to Bacot instead of letting the offense flow. With the addition of Elliot Cadeau as a pass first point guard, it allows the Tarheels to have multiple ball handlers and initiators of the offense. If Ryan, Withers and Wojcik can consistently knock down shots from the outside, it allows Bacot to see less bodies in the paint and gives them balance offensively.
Strengths vs Weakness
The biggest weakness of this team (outside of coaching) is the defensive side of the ball. The guards are small and, to put it lightly, not good on defense. Harrison Ingram and Withers on the wing are going to need to be big on that end of the floor. Tarheels struggled defending ball screens and that resulted in easy lay-ups or wide open three pointers for the opposition. Jalen Washington and Okonkwo have the ability to protect the paint for the second unit which excites me but will Hubert play them?
Although its well documented that Hubert leans on his starters a lot, I think the depth is the biggest strength. There is a world where they can go 9 deep without a huge drop off. The added versatility on the wing also allows them to play and experiment with different things which forces teams to prepare for more than one game plan. I do think the offense being good and playing fast can help the defense. They were 46th in defensive efficiency last year and according to Kenpom they are expected to take a leap to 23rd. If that happens, watch out!
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From March Madness to Conference play, NC Tar Heels look solid – here are some Final Thoughts & Analysis about their season upcoming
I like the roster, I really do, but I do not like the coach. Good recruiter but not from an in-game adjustments and overall game-planning perspective. The roster has depth, but Hubert in two years has not leaned on his bench at all. This year, it’s a must with the amount of depth they have. They finished 5-9 in close games which is a direct correlation to coaching (and maybe some Caleb Love) along with losing nearly every game when they stepped up to play quality opponents.
The improved shooting on the roster has a chance to be special. Not saying they will jump to a top 25 unit but just getting into the mid 100’s is MASSIVE. They also were a bit unlucky last year, ranked 327th in KenPom’s luck metric. Some positive regression could be looming for the Tarheels and I think they have a shot to win the ACC. The out of conference schedule is always top tier and will prepare them for the ACC schedule which will be much improved.
In summation, I think we see an improved Tarheel team that ends up as a four or five seed in March. If Hubert can improve, this team should be a top 20 team throughout the entire year. The veteran presence of RJ Davis and Bacot mixed with the youth and improved depth is intriguing. Look out for the Tarheels to be one of the more improved teams in the nation and don’t be surprised if they make a run in March.
THIS IS AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY DELONTE SMITH
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