Davis gives players more insights on opponents than he got playing for Dean Smith

By R.L. Bynum

Current Carolina players are exposed to much more information about opponents than they got in the days when Coach Hubert Davis was playing for the legendary Dean Smith.

While Davis believes and follows the reasoning behind that approach, he gives players more insights on player tendencies than Smith did.

Smith thought that his teams should just concentrate on how they play rather than the opponent. Davis says that this approach is helpful for the No. 3-seed and No. 18-ranked Tar Heels (23–8) this week because their opponent at 9:30 in a Thursday quarterfinal at the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn could be No. 6-seed Virginia Tech or No. 11 Louisville.

“His theory was, if you just do the things that we’ve practiced in practice, it doesn’t matter what team you play, what play that they run, it’ll put us in a position to be able to defend it and play it the right way,” Davis said of Smith. “And I really believe that.”

Davis has his assistant coaches prepare scouting reports for each potential opponent and presents information to the players. But he says that, at some point, scouting is overrated. He contends that the teams that play the best in tournament play are the ones that are doing what they’ve worked on all season.

“It’s not about scouting reports. It’s about us,” Davis said. “It’s about us playing the right way on both ends of the floor. And if you do that, we’ll be in good position to win the game.”

Smith didn’t give his players much information about the opponent other than letting them know which players were dangerous shooters.

“We didn’t do any scouting reports,” Davis said. “Coach Smith used to write the names of the opponent on the board, and he used to put a star next to a guy that could shoot and put two stars next to a guy that can really, really shoot. And that was it.”

He remembers that N.C. State’s Tom Gugliotta and Rodney Monroe got two stars. He took a dig at his good friend Chris Corchiani by pointing out that he got “zero” stars.

“I hope I would have gotten two stars. I hope so,” Davis said with a loud, hearty laugh.

Smith didn’t want his players to take in too much scouting information and decide on their own how to approach an opponent. He wanted to process the insights on an opponent and have the players only acting on how he told them to play.

These days, players get more information on player tendencies before a game. Davis doesn’t use the star system but highlights who should be defended closely. For this UNC team, most games, that means who All-ACC Defensive Team pick Leaky Black guards.

“We do identify guys that can really shoot the ball better than other teammates and how we’re going to defend them differently, how we’re going to close out to them in help situations differently, how we’re gonna be on high alert in transition and make sure that we find them and we don’t leave them open,” Davis said.

So, Carolina may not yet know which shooters it has to watch out for on Thursday. But it knows how it needs to play that night and, Davis hopes, for two nights afterward.

Doing that well could lead to an ACC title and Tar Heels cutting down nets on Saturday night.

ACC Tournament bracket

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