By R.L. Bynum
Faced with another stretch of pandemic-fueled scheduling chaos, Carolina coach Hubert Davis is focusing on what he can control and fixing his team’s issues.
At the top of that list is a defense that gave up layup lines and many easy shots in embarrassing losses to Tennessee and Kentucky, and the need for energy and toughness to prevent any more games like that.
After COVID-19 issues in the Virginia Tech program forced Wednesday’s scheduled home game with the Hokies to be postponed, the Tar Heels (9–3, 1–0 ACC) are scheduled to play at Boston College (6–5, 1–0), albeit a day later than originally scheduled, on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPN2).
“There are going to have to be changes and there are going to have to be tweaks,” said Davis, who added that he has nothing to do with any scheduling adjustments. “So, the schedule as it is right now is going to have to be tweaked, it’s going to have to be changed and we understand that and we know that. Whenever they tell us to play, whatever time, whatever opponent, we will be there.”
Carolina has been more fortunate than other ACC teams health-wise, as Davis said that the Tar Heels haven’t had any COVID-19 issues in the program.
Davis’ commitment to good defense has translated to the court in some games but has clearly been lacking in others. Since the team resumed practices Sunday, that’s been his focus.
The biggest problems defensively, Davis said, have been on-the-ball defense and giving up too many points inside. He says containing the ball has been a big emphasis.
“If you contain the basketball, then you don’t have to talk about the help and the rotations because you’re able to guard the ball,” Davis said. “So, just the importance of the competitive fight to be able to say that ‘I don’t need any help. I’m going to guard my man one on one.’ ”
Giving up lots of inside points has been a problem in all three losses and some of the victories, whether it be on layups, post-ups or off offensive rebounds.
“We talk about our end game from a defensive standpoint of things that we don’t want to allow,” Davis said. “And one of the things that we don’t want to allow was any layups or dunks in any situation, whether it’s in transition, full-court, whether it’s coming off of ball screens, our end game is to protect the paint. And that’s something that we have re-reinforced over the last 11 days and I’m excited to see what it looks like when we play an opponent.”
Davis said that he’s seen a lot of energy from his team during the practices since Carolina’s 70–50 home win on Dec. 21 over Appalachian State.
“Our practices have always been really competitive because everything that we do in practice is competition,” Davis said. “So, if you’re not a competitive person, if you don’t bring the energy and effort and a toughness that I’ve talked about — that is not just needed, it is required for our team every day — then you’re going to struggle in practice. So our practices have been great.”
The Tar Heels conducted an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday when they were supposed to face the Hokies so that they could simulate a real game even though they couldn’t play one.
“I really felt like that we benefited from that,” Davis said.
Davis endured the curveballs and last-minute schedule changes last season as a UNC assistant coach and says the program is better able to deal with the chaos this season because of that experience. The players are ready to take it all in stride.
“The guys were laughing about it because this is something that they have dealt with over the last year, year and a half,” Davis said. “One of the things that I continue to tell them is, we’ve got to focus on the things that we can control.
“We cannot control who we play, where we play and at the time we play,” Davis said. “So, let’s not spend any time thinking about that. Let’s focus on the things that we do have control over. We have control over how we practice, how we prepare and how we play. We have control over our energy and our effort and our toughness. So, if we bring our energy, effort and toughness, and we practice the best that we can, we prepare the best that we can and we play as hard as we can play, it really doesn’t matter who we play, when we play and the time that we play.”
For now, it appears that his team will play at Boston College on Sunday, then visit Notre Dame at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. But in this season of scheduling chaos, stay tuned.
UNC season statistics
day, time, TV
|5||83–55 exhibition win||Home||Elizabeth City State|
|9||83–67 win, 1–0||Home||Loyola Maryland|
|12||94–87 win, 2–0||Home||Brown|
|16||94–83 win, 3–0||Road||College of Charleston|
|20||93–84 loss, 3–1||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 3 Purdue|
|21||89–72 loss, 3–2||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 14 Tennessee|
|23||72–53 win, 4–2||Home||UNC Asheville|
|December (5–1, 1-0 ACC)|
|1||72–51 win, 5–2||Home||X — Michigan|
|5||79–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACC||Road||Georgia Tech|
|11||80–63 win, 7–2||Home||Elon|
|14||74–61 win, 8–2||Home||Furman|
|18||98–69 loss, 8–3||Las Vegas||Z — No. 18 Kentucky|
|21||70–50 win, 9–3||Home||Appalachian State|
|2||Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN2||Road||Boston College|
|5||Wednesday, 9, ESPN2||Road||Notre Dame|
|8||Saturday, 1, ESPN||Home||Virginia|
|15||Saturday, 8, ACCN||Home||Georgia Tech|
|18||Tuesday, TBA, ESPN||Road||Miami|
|22||Saturday, 8, ACCN||Road||Wake Forest|
|26||Wednesday, RSN||Home||Boston College|
|29||Saturday, 2, ACCN||Home||N.C. State|
|31||Monday, 7, ESPN||Road||Louisville|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Home||No. 2 Duke|
|8||Tuesday, 9, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Clemson|
|12||Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2||Home||Florida State|
|16||Wednesday, 8, ACCN||Home||Pittsburgh|
|19||Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Virginia Tech|
|21||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Louisville|
|26||Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||N.C. State|
|28||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Syracuse|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Road||No. 2 Duke|
Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic