North Carolina Preview

Texas set to host young, but talented, North Carolina squad Wednesday.

Right or wrong, certain coaches get reputations for producing certain types of teams.

Of course, John Calipari is the king of blindingly talented teams comprised largely of one-and-dones. Mike Kryzewski's teams are smart and execute offensively. Bill Self puts out salty defensive squads that pressure the ball. Jim Boeheim puts out salty defensive squads that play zone and frustrate teams with their length. Tom Izzo's teams are blue-collar bruisers on the glass.

Roy Williams has a reputation as well, for putting out skilled offensive squads who run the jerseys off their opponents, but who aren't always as tough as the more physical teams.

And that's a statistical profile that the Tar Heels (8-2) largely fill again this year as they head into Wednesday's showdown with Texas. No, the young Heels aren't as good offensively as they have been, ranking No. 41 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, and they are putting a top-25 defense on the floor. But North Carolina, which ranks No. 21 nationally per KenPom, still has a blistering tempo — its 76.9 possessions per game puts the Tar Heels at No. 2 in raw tempo behind only Seattle — and still doesn't rank among the nation's best in statistics that indicate physical play.

Carolina's primary weakness is that the Tar Heels don't generate free throws — they're 343rd nationally in free throw rate — and they also don't commit fouls, ranking 34th in defensive free throw rate. The Tar Heels also aren't a top-40 offensive rebounding team, and they allow opponents to grab 30 percent of available offensive rebounds, a mark that ranks 108th.

In fact, sophomore James Michael McAdoo (6-9 230) is the only Tar Heel to rank in the nation's top 400 in either offensive or defensive rebounding rate (he's 339th in both). McAdoo has played a huge role for Carolina this year as the team's top scorer (15.4 points per game) and rebounder (8.3 rebounds per game). Five times in 10 games, he's led the team in scoring, and with the Tar Heels lacking a big-time center (or at least one who's ready), seven times he's been the Heels' top rebounder.

The other post spot has been somewhat of a rotating starter, with Joel James (6-10 260) and Brice Johnson (6-9 187) starting the last three contests. Johnson is an intriguing option, as despite his slender frame, he's a decent scorer and rebounder (averaging 9-5 for the year), and he's the team leader in blocked shots. James isn't as active, but is a thicker body.

Other than McAdoo, Carolina's most important player might be Dexter Strickland (6-3 180). The lone senior in the primary rotation isn't a great shooter, and might be a bit out of position as the starter at the two. But he scores almost nine points per game and leads the team with five assists per contest, with a 3.13-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. His steadying hand was apparent in Carolina's last contest, a too-close-for-comfort win over East Carolina where Strickland threw up a 12-point, 10-assist, three-steal, three-turnover night. He also leads the team with almost two steals per game.

Having Strickland has helped freshman Marcus Paige (6-0 157) adjust to playing the point. Paige projects as an excellent starter at the position, though he's going through freshman growing pains. The highly recruited point has 34 assists to 25 turnovers, and is scoring 7.1 points per game while struggling with his shot.

Reggie Bullock (6-7 205) is the lone deadeye in the starting lineup. An outstanding shooter, Bullock is averaging 12.2 points per game while shooting .469 from behind the arc. He's somebody to locate at all times, especially when the Heels get out into transition.

Carolina gets significant scoring punch off the bench with wings P.J. Hairston (6-5 220), Leslie McDonald (6-5 215) and freshman J.P. Tokoto (6-5 185). Hairston is the Tar Heels' third-leading scorer, providing 11.7 points and 4.0 rebounds off the bench, and he takes a team-high 31.6 percent of the shots when he's in the game. McDonald averages 10.0 points per contest and shoots .467 from three-point range. Three times, he's led North Carolina in scoring, including two of the last three games. And Tokoto is a slasher who can get to the bucket.

Defensively, Carolina will still attempt to trap in the corners to try and speed teams up, though that hasn't really led to turnovers, with the Tar Heels ranking 147th in steal percentage and 125th in turnovers forced percentage.

North Carolina is still stocked with McDonalds All-Americans, and they have the pace and talent to make life difficult on many teams. But at least early on, with a young team, Carolina hasn't displayed the killer offensive instincts that typically makes Roy Williams teams so tough to stop.

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