Roy Williams

Wish List: ‘Tis the season for Heels to open their gifts

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

I don’t mean to sound like a Scrooge, but the Tar Heels need to be a bit more selfish this holiday season. They’re giving up far too much on both ends of the floor.

Gotta have it list-topper: Pure point

This sounds dumb. Wouldn’t every team in the country love to have a premiere point guard? Certainly. But the case can be made that Roy Williams’ offense simply does not function without an elite passer. Witness two seasons back, when Larry Drew II — while sporting a respectable 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, led his Tar Heels to five losses, including a 20-point blowout at mediocre Georgia Tech. Kendall Marshall took over and led the team to the Elite Eight. The long tail of the data shows that the Tar Heels couldn’t make hay in last year’s tournament after Marshall got hurt, and Drew is averaging 8.4 assists per game in Westwood. The takeaway is: it’s not good enough to be a good point guard at Carolina. What works elsewhere does not work in Chapel Hill.

We’re seeing it again this year. Dexter Strickland, Marcus Paige and Reggie Bullock have each shown the ability to sling the rock, but the team still loses games it shouldn’t. That’s because the Roy Williams offense is at its best when the ball hits the hardwood least. In transition, the long pass ahead to the man with the right angle to the basket is the key. In the half-court, it’s crisp ball reversal on the perimeter and a sharp eye for the cuts and screens that free up interior players. This ain’t no dribble-drive; Carolina needs to find someone who can drive this buggy at top speed without over-steering. On offense and defense, where the Heels are giving up way too much.

Stocking stuffer:  More from McAdoo

Yeah, he’s already the team’s leading scorer. Yeah, he’s just a sophomore. Yeah, he doesn’t have someone like Harrison Barnes to take some of the scoring load. Tough nuts. You don’t come to Carolina to be “pretty good.”

McAdoo is shooting 47% from the floor, which sounds pretty good until you turn the pages back and see that Ty Zeller shot well over 50% in the final three seasons of his UNC career. When you’re considered to be one of the year’s most likely breakout stars and one of the best big men in the ACC, you have to make opponents pay every time down the court.

Planning on re-gifting: Charity

‘Tis the season for giving. But you know when you give someone a new gadget and then notice that they never use it? What was it, the wrong color? You can’t at least set it on the table when I come to visit?

The Heels are  337th in the nation in Kenpom’s ratio of free throws attempted per field goal attempted, so they’re really not getting to the line much. And when a stingy opponent finally does reluctantly hand them a nicely-wrapped present, they squander it. They’re shooting 65.3% from the charity stripe as a team. Worse yet, they’re giving until it hurts on the other end, putting dead-eye shooters on the line far too often. These other guys know: when someone hands you a gift, the only gracious thing is to say thank you and make the most of it.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.