CHAPEL HILL, NC – Roy Williams expressed a “high” confidence level on Friday that his 14th-ranked Tar Heels would play N.C. State as scheduled on Saturday evening despite winter weather descending upon the Triangle.
As of late Friday afternoon, a mix of rain, sleet and snow was expected to start falling as temperatures plummet below freezing. Weather forecasts are calling for 6-to-8 inches of snow in the Chapel Hill area ahead of Saturday’s 8 p.m. tip time.
UNC announced in a release on Friday that school and ACC officials would make a decision regarding the basketball game “as soon as possible on Saturday based on the actual weather conditions.”
ACC game management policy highlights the ability of the participating teams, game officials and event staff to safely get to the competition site as the primary factor in whether or not a game should be played or rescheduled.
While Williams said he has not been involved in any of the game status discussions, he opined: “I think we’re going to play.”
What would you attribute the high amount of turnovers over the last three games to?
“I attribute them to bad decisions… The Georgia Tech game was an unusual game. I think the other night, the number of turnovers…. Again it’s a 45-minute game, but I don’t know that we had any turnovers in the overtime. I don’t think we did. The pace of the game was up. I look at percentage of lost balls as opposed to just the number of turnovers. I do realize that the last three games they’ve been a lot more than I want them to be, particularly the point guard turnovers. Joel I think has had 11 in the last two games.”
Over the last month you’ve expressed varying levels of frustration after games. Are you far enough in the season for you to figure out the identity of this team?
“I haven’t. It’s strange because the Kentucky game the game was just high level, up and down, intense performance…. The Monmouth game it’s a 19-20-point game and then all the sudden they make three or four threes in the last four minutes and now it’s an eight- or nine-point game. Then we go back and it’s a weird second half with the technicals. Georgia Tech I’m still trying to figure out what happened with our confidence level and our efficiency during that game. The Clemson game was just like a backyard brawl; they did this, then we did this. We withstood some runs of theirs and they withstood some runs of ours. It was a much different game then we’ve played recently. They’ve all been different. Then we went two games without Joel [Berry], then we get him back in and he played pretty well but didn’t make any field goals. Then he made a bunch of field goals, so the whole performance has been pretty unusual and it hasn’t been smooth for us. My answer is no, but maybe that’s what I’ll figure out later on.”
How much can the identity change when Theo Pinson gets back?
“Oh, I think it will change; how he performs, how many minutes we have him in the game. He’s such an effective player and such a stat sheet stuffer, he does a lot of different things and some of them are not positive. You’ve got to say okay, can I go with this? It’s going to be a seat of your pants decision on how much to play him, and he’ll be searching. He’s not going to go out there and it be smooth sailing…. I think the chemistry of our team will change a great deal when Theo gets back in that rotation.”
Your thoughts on Dennis Smith?
“My thoughts are that when I recruited him I thought that he had unbelievable potential. I thought he had a chance to be one of the best point guards that I had ever seen. His early play at North Carolina State has made me feel that same way. Their entire team against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night was about as impressive as I’ve seen. I mean that team that I watched Wednesday night against Virginia Tech was better than Kentucky, it was better than Indiana, and those are the best teams that we’ve played. Dennis doesn’t really have any weaknesses at point guard. He can shoot it, he can drive it to the basket and finish with his tremendous leaping ability, he can pass the ball, he can defend, he can take the ball away from you. He’s got the whole package. He’s one of the premier point guards in our country already.”
What’s the biggest thing you want to take away from him when you’re trying to defend him?
“I think you’ve got to defend the total game because that’s what he does. He’s not just a shooter, he’s not just a penetrator, so you can’t say, ‘okay we’ve got to stop his penetration,’ because if we back up he can shoot it in… We’ve fortunately had a couple guys like that as well, but I think you’ve got to play the total defensive game and you’ve got to try to do everything.”
Kennedy Meeks had 10 offensive rebounds on Tuesday, but as you mentioned, a lot of them were off of his own misses. Was it just one of those nights, or does he have to do something different to be able to put it back in once he gets it?
“To be a premier player in this league you can’t go 5-14 as a big guy. Now you love ten rebounds and he made two great passes late in the game that show he’s got tremendous ability to see the floor against the press. He’s got to finish plays… I like the 10 offensive rebounds but I’d like the 10 offensive rebounds to be when he’s 10-14 because you know he’s getting offensive rebounds on other possessions.”
Your team leads the nation in rebounding margin. Against a team like Clemson, for example, that’s smaller, how do you gauge how good of a performance it is?
“Rebound margin is a stronger characteristic of how you’re doing as opposed to number of rebounds because the number of shots you take has to do with that. Ours is a little skewed because we’re ‘Moses Malone-ing’ it, we’re laying it up, missing it, laying it up, and missing it again. We’re padding them daggum totals. Ours might be a little more misleading than I’ve seen in the past.”