North Carolina’s question from the preseason on was going to be its ability to score and defend on the perimeter.
On the eve of the ACC, the Tar Heels haven’t been able to solve that issue confidently. Not having starters Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves against the College of Charleston on Monday night meant the Tar Heels were down their top perimeter defender and their top 3-point shooter.
What that did was give Charleston the green light to launch 3-pointers. And the Cougars didn’t hesitate, making 13-of-32 in a thrilling 82-79 victory over the Tar Heels to create a worthy court-storming at Carolina First Arena.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels made just 1-of-6 as guards Dexter Strickland (2-of-11) and Larry Drew II (3-of-10) struggled mightily from the field. Without Ginyard and Graves the Tar Heels just don’t have the personnel to defend someone like Andrew Goudelock, who has speed and the ability to launch shots over taller defenders. He did that in making 10 of 20 overall and 4 of 8 3s, including the game-tying, overtime-inducing 3-pointer with 2 seconds left on the Cougars’ final possession.
As ESPN researcher Jason McCallum pointed out, the Charleston starting backcourt outscored its UNC counterpart 52-17. Carolina's starting guards scored or assisted on just 11 of the 27 shots the Heels made. Yikes.
North Carolina can’t win the ACC unless Ginyard and Graves are healthy, and even with them, the guard play hasn’t been as consistent as say rival Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith at Duke. Charleston should be in the mix for the Southern Conference title as projected in the preseason. The Tar Heels were considered an ACC title contender and a possible Final Four-bound team. If the guard play doesn’t improve, then the potential of big men Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and David Wear won’t be enough for UNC.