Roy Williams’s offensive system is built from the inside out. The closer the field goal attempt, the more likely it is to go in, or so the thought goes. That approach is the reason why names such as Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller are stapled to the records of Williams’s best teams over the years.
The lack of those types of names is also why UNC is off to its worst start in ACC play through five games, a mark matched only once before (’01-02).
The current roster was built over a number of years and heavily influenced by recruiting misses (Cody Zeller in ’11, Kaleb Tarczewski, Mitch McGary and Cameron Ridley in ’12 and Julius Randle in ’13) and the transfer of David and Travis Wear in May of 2010.
Junior forward James Michael McAdoo's strengths reside in his mid-range game and ability to slash to the basket, not back-to-the-basket post moves. His game would likely thrive alongside a skilled big on the block, but there’s not a finished product available to fill that role.
Sophomore Joel James and junior Desmond Hubert are both incredibly raw offensively as evidenced by their offseason efforts to develop go-to post moves. Junior walk-on Jackson Simmons brings plenty of smarts and intensity, but is limited by his athleticism.
Kennedy Meeks is working through the ups-and-downs of a rookie season along with needing to drop weight, while sophomore Brice Johnson needs to add weight in addition to improving his post-up skills down low. Freshman Isaiah Hicks is another option that’s been hampered by having to play on the wing, thereby reducing his opportunities to develop his post repertoire.
Mix in defensive concerns at times within that large group and what you are left with is a rotation heavy on McAdoo (14.4 ppg in 30.7 mpg) and a helping of everyone else. Johnson (10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is the only other big averaging more than 20 minutes per game – barely at 20.1 mpg – and Meeks (7.3 ppg in 15.4 mpg) is one of three north of 12 minutes per game.
“The post guys need to do a much better job of posting up strong, lower - not meaning just your rear end – but lower in the lane, holding off people, not letting people come around and steal the ball,” Williams told reporters on Friday. “And then when you get it, making a quick simple move to try to score. We haven’t been scoring as much in the paint as we want to.”
The post players have been working no improving their positioning “nonstop” in practice, and have made positive strides to date, according to Johnson.
“[Williams] is always preaching to us about getting great position, getting low, trying to get right up under the basket so we can just go up and lay it up,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing he’s always talking about. He said when we post up, we’re posting up by the free throw line or just out too far away to where when we do turn around, we’re not where we should be to get an easy basket.”
The learning curve is a factor in games. Johnson indicated that he often thinks he posts up with appropriate depth during live action until the coaching staff shows him the game film in review.
Subscribers can read here for specific examples of technical breakdowns in the post, written by former UNC basketball manager and current InsideCarolina.com analyst Tyler Brooks.
The immense athleticism that McAdoo and Johnson possess, as well as Meeks’s freakish outlet passing ability, provides UNC with a means to thrive in transition. The halfcourt offense, however, will continue to languish until significant growth occurs in rapid fashion.