Why is North Carolina struggling? Opposing coaches weigh in

  • Basketball recruiting insider.
  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

When the buzzer sounded on North Carolina’s loss at Virginia Tech on Sunday afternoon, the Tar Heels made history. They became the first preseason No. 1 team to lose four straight games.

Less than 24 hours later, when the updated AP poll was released, they were given another dubious distinction: the fastest preseason No. 1 team to drop completely out of the top 25. Carolina fell out of the rankings a full 10 weeks quicker than 2019-20 Michigan State.

We can debate the merits of whether North Carolina should have been the preseason No. 1 another time, but the fact remains, this is a team that returned four starters from a squad that led Kansas by 15 points at halftime of the 2022 national championship game. Eight months later, the Tar Heels are a long way from becoming that team again.

So what’s going on with Hubert Davis’ team? We asked a handful of opposing coaches and coaches who have scouted Carolina this season in an attempt to figure it out.

Where’s the chemistry?

While none of them is in the locker room to see it firsthand, every coach immediately mentioned a visible lack of chemistry Carolina is playing with right now.

“It’s obvious there’s turmoil and strife,” one coach said.

“It’s a lot of chemistry issues, not a lot of X’s and O’s,” another said.

Part of the reason the Tar Heels had so much success in last season’s NCAA tournament was that the backcourt of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis shared playmaking and shot-creation roles down the stretch. They seemed to have figured something out over the final few games of the 2021-22 season, and were both terrific. Love averaged 18.8 points, while Davis put up 14.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the tournament. Along with those two, Armando Bacot got consistent touches in good positions and was able to dominate the paint.

Whatever worked down the stretch hasn’t carried over to this season, though, especially when it comes to sharing the ball and playing together offensively.

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