Is it time to panic about the former North Carolina No. 1?

Is it time to panic about the former North Carolina No. 1?

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  • December 2, 2022
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North Carolina had a 15-point lead at halftime in last year’s NCAA championship game against Kansas. The Tar Heels would eventually lose that matchup — but they went into the 2022-23 season as the No. 1 team in America and national title favorites. After all, Hubert Davis had brought back key players from that Final Four roster, adding Northwestern transfer Pete Nance to replace Brady Manek.

But November was not good for the Tar Heels, who lost their third straight game on Wednesday – all against ranked opponents – with a 77-65 loss in Indiana. The pre-season buzz is gone now. And a North Carolina roster that still has matchups against Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Michigan before starting the bulk of its ACC roster in January will soon need some answers.

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, Joe Lunardi and Myron Medcalf discuss how Hubert Davis can get the ship back on track, what it all means for his seeding – and whether we’re overreacting to three losses for the former No.1.

North Carolina has 3 losses in a row (Iowa State, Alabama, Indiana). What have those losses taught us about the former No.1?

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This UNC is an unusual preseason #1. It’s only the fourth such team in 62 years to lose three games in a row, according to a study by ESPN Stats & Information.

So far in 2022-23, the Tar Heels have been less effective on either side of the ball. Part of that is just the luck they had last March when six NCAA tournament opponents shot 27% on their 3s. Those days are over. Aside from a 3-of-13 performance from Indiana, opponents are connecting a far more usual 35% on 3s this season. North Carolina’s Interior D wasn’t particularly hard either.

Meanwhile, Caleb Love and Nance together shoot 29% of 3, and – I never thought I’d write those words in reference to the Tar Heels – the team as a whole tries to record at a surprisingly normal volume. There’s work in Chapel Hill. —John Gasaway

So is it time to panic already?

Losses happen, and Iowa State, Alabama, and Indiana are all good teams. But the way the Hoosiers bullied North Carolina for most of Wednesday’s game would have me panicking if I were a fan of the Tar Heels. Indiana had 50 points in the suit, which North Carolina more than doubled around the rim. It shot 57% inside the arc and outperformed the Tar Heels in transition.

When North Carolina was best under Roy Williams, it was down to two big lineups and the second break. But Indiana was tougher, more physical and more aggressive.

There are a lot of problems right now. The Tar Heels shoot 30% of 3; the magic that helped Caleb Love wear them in the NCAA tournament is gone; Armando Bacot and Pete Nance don’t work quite as well as Bacot and Brady Manek; The bench has been mostly absent this season. Some of these things are worked out as the season progresses, but the things that were so effective during the NCAA tournament run just aren’t happening right now. -Jeff Borzello

What must Hubert Davis do to save his team’s season?

He has mastered the first task. Davis continues to preach patience in his program. As North Carolina battled through the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland over Thanksgiving weekend, he said the most important thing for his team was to be No. 1 in April, not November. And Tar Heels’ Final Four run proved that a team can stumble through the college basketball season for months and still end up with a glorious ending. You just have to believe that they are around the corner.

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But Davis also needs to instill a greater sense of urgency, especially with his team’s offensive weaknesses. He favors the NBA style and allows his players to be creative, which is fine if you have NBA talent. But a team that shoots 30% from the 3rd line is not.

In the team’s three consecutive losses, Love and RJ Davis accounted for 115 of the team’s 200 field goal attempts (58%). North Carolina won’t beat top programs with more disciplined and efficient guard play unless they can be catalysts for a squad that needs to be better at finding the best shot with every possession and eliminating the hero ball that is theirs influenced the season. – Myron Medcalf

Many games will be played until the next edition of Bracketology. How far could the Tar Heels fall after this loss?

First things first: No one should be surprised that North Carolina isn’t the best team in the country. The Tar Heels have always been a contender for slipping from the No. 1 rankings — in part because they only had one way to go, and in greater part because they’re simply the latest example of a team ranked more by that what happened in March than in the four months before.

However, losing to three consecutive NCAA-level opponents is a cause for concern. It’s not like UNC is in any danger of missing out on the tournament, but a return to the Final Four is a lot easier for a No. 1 seed than the 5 seed they had already fallen to in this week’s bracket. A win at Virginia Tech on Sunday would likely keep the heels on that line, but another loss would mean at least another drop in the seed line. – Joe Lunardi

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