Thought of the week: Imperfect balance

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
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North Carolina has the right balance offensively, even if the scale is heavily skewed toward inside play.

There’s a big difference between being unbalanced and playing toward your strengths. The Tar Heels are doing the latter. They’re not taking – or making – a lot of outside shots because that’s not what this team is good at doing.

Carolina’s frontcourt players have accounted for 67 percent of its scoring including: James Michael McAdoo (13.8 points), Brice Johnson (13.0 points), J.P. Tokoto (10.0 points) and Kennedy Meeks (7.7 points). The Heels have outscored every opponent except UAB in points in the paint.

[+] EnlargeMichael McAdoo
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsJames Michael McAdoo is scoring 13.8 points per game, leading the UNC frontcourt.
“It’s strange because last year, the second half of last season, we were out of balance completely in favor of 3-point shots,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “And now we’re out of balance completely in favor of the inside play.”

At this pace of taking only 9.3 shots per game from behind the arc, Carolina will have its second fewest 3-point attempts in school history. It would trail the 1982-83 season, when the ACC used an experimental 3-point line (that was just 17 feet, 9 inches from the rim) and the Heels attempted just 8.3 per game.

That’s perfectly fine to sophomore guard Marcus Paige, who said the Tar Heels are playing within themselves.

“We’re just finding what works. We understand, as a perimeter unit ... [that] shooting 3s isn’t a strength of ours,” Paige said. “So we’re not jacking up 12 3s, 14 3s a game between the three of us. We understand our strengths are inside… so we’re not really doing things we are incapable of doing and I think that has made us more effective.”

In the Heels’ three victories over ranked teams, Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, they’ve averaged just eight 3-point attempts per game. In those same three games, they’ve averaged outscoring those teams in points in the paint by 18 per game.

Williams would love to have more perimeter shooting to go along with his inside scoring. But as long as P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald are sidelined, that’s not likely to happen. Aside from Paige, I’m not sure the Heels even want anyone else taking 3s, and to their credit, no one is forcing the issue: Tokoto is 3-for-9 and Nate Britt 1-for-6 from 3-point range.

“You guys who have been here have heard me talk so many times about balance. You need to be able to score inside and outside,” Williams said. “If I had to choose, I would take the inside because that also means you’re able to get fouled and at the end of the game some of the best players are not in the game.”

Williams didn’t have much of a choice this season, but the inside game is working out for the Tar Heels.

C.L. Brown | email

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