After a 2014-15 campaign that saw the North Carolina Tar Heels consistently struggle to close out wins, the main focus of Roy Williams and his team during the off-season was overcoming this tendency. We’ll call this principle “closeability” – the ability to close out games. Teams with closeability are tough, focused, and have a Tyler Hansbrough-type player who refuses to lose. Teams without closeability lack determination and grit and have a propensity for losing games they should win.
Given this offseason focus and a returning veteran squad led by preseason All-American candidate Marcus Paige, closeability sounded like a readily attainable goal for the 2015-16 Tar Heels.
How have they done so far? Some numbers to consider:
UNC has 5 losses (4 on the road, 1 at home). In each of those 5 losses:
- They have held a 2nd half lead
- They have held at least a 6-point lead at some point in the game
- The greatest margin of defeat in any one game is 6 points
- The total combined margin of defeat is 17 points
|Game||Date||Score||Margin||Largest UNC Lead||Held 2nd Half Lead?||Last Tie/Lead|
|@ N. Iowa||11/21||71-67||-4||16 (16:53 – 2nd half)||Yes||Tie – 2:57,
Lead – 7:37
|@ Texas||12/12||84-82||-2||8 (1:06 – 1st half)||Yes||Tie – :02,
Lead – 2:56
|@ Louisville||2/1||71-65||-6||6 (5:50 – 1st half)||Yes||Tie – 12:10,
Lead – 15:58
|@ Notre Dame||2/6||80-76||-4||15 (2:15 – 1st half)||Yes||Lead – 6:36|
|vs. Duke||2/17||74-73||-1||8 (6:31 – 2nd half)||Yes||Lead – 1:10|
These numbers show a certain lack of closeability. There have been several culprits along the way. Lack of defensive intensity. Lack of defensive cohesion. Inability to box out and grab a defensive rebound. Getting away from attacking the interior. Unforced turnovers. Empty, careless possessions down the stretch. Unnecessary jump shots.
Each of these issues boil down to one thing: focus.
Despite these losses, there is good news: This 2015-16 edition of the Tar Heels have not been embarrassed or humiliated in ANY game this season. Remember, even the uber-talented 2011-12 team, with 6 future first-round picks, suffered a humbling and uninspired 90-57 loss at Florida State.
After the recent skid in which they lost 3 of 5 (and even 1 of those 2 victories was a narrow escape at winless-in-ACC-play Boston College), the Tar Heels have been dialed in during their last 2 games. UNC completely dismantled Miami (another potential #1 seed) and patiently overcame their biggest deficit of the year (13 points) to win on the road against NC State and the ever-dangerous Cat Barber.
In a year where there is no single dominant team in college basketball, these Tar Heels have the talent and experience to win every game in which they’ll play.
Unfortunately talent and experience aren’t enough to win games. It depends on their ability to focus. It depends on their ability to demonstrate closeability.
Can these Tar Heels focus and be a team with closeability? Absolutely.
Will they be a team with closeability in the final weeks of the season and cut down the nets in Houston? I can’t wait to find out.