REPORT CARDS!: Grading the Heels after the first quarter

If the Heels were able to make it to the NCAA Championship game, they would play a total of 40 games this year, so after 10, it seems like a good time to give them a quarterly report card. We’ll start with the team, then move on to individual players.

Offense: Scoring has never been an issue for most Roy Williams teams, and this one is no different, putting up 84.1 ppg. UNC will run with the best of them, though it hasn’t done so as frequently as in the past. That hasn’t seemed to matter though, as according to, UNC is fifth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.

  • Fast Break: Like we said above, Carolina hasn’t been getting on the break as frequently as it likes, though when it does it takes complete advantage. We decided on B+ because we’ve seen a few too many turnovers on the break. Tyler Zeller, who used to excel here because of his ability to run the floor, hasn’t gotten as many easy buckets, and we’d like that trend to reverse before we get them an A.
  • 3PT: Here is a place that the Heels have excelled, or at the very least exceeded expectations. Carolina is shooting almost 43 percent as a team from beyond the arc.
Defense: Hard to give exemplary marks here due to the fact that UNC has been out-rebounded so many times. They pull down the fourth most boards per game in the country, but failing to box out on defense has given up too many easy buckets. They’re still in the Top 10 in adjusted D at kenpom, though, thanks to what has been some pretty decent ball-denial — with the main contributors being Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock. So while the Heels make up for some of those easy boards they give up with soem great man-to-man, they’re not utilizing their strength, which is size. B.
Clutch: While there have been failures in the final seconds, such as the Kentucky game, there have also been successes, like Wisconsin and Long Beach State. Because the very nature of clutch would suggest that you perform well in the biggest games — like at Kentucky — and that was the game that the Heels lost in the clutch, you have to mark them down a little, but with their triumphs in the end-game and with Black Falcon on the roster you have to think this grade is moving upward.
Overall: Ranked No. 6 even after two losses, the coaches poll voters as well as us fans can tell this team has the tools to cut down the nets, even after some of its struggles early in the season. They’ve done well, but will need to improve to attain that A+. A- seems about right.

Player grades

John Henson – “Star pupil” Henson has definitely progressed since last year, particularly on the offensive end. He has twice been named ACC player of the week this season and still plays stellar D. Don’t have any room to complain. He’s quite possibly been the Heels MVP thus far. Grade: A

Kendall Marshall – “Plays well with others” Has 102 assists to 27 turnovers. Has knocked down some shots when defenses leave him alone. The motor behind the team. If he picks it up on defense, he could garner the coveted A+. Right now, we’re not sure that many opposing players dread being covered by him. Maybe not any.  Grade: A-

Harrison Barnes – “Honor Roll” He still looks uncomfortable when he handles the ball and still settles for jumpshots at times he could drive. BUT, he has increased his driving substantially from last year and is getting to the line more often. He also wants the ball in his hands and proves time and again that nothing phases him. Oh yeah, he also leads the team in scoring. Barnes is a tough grade because his ceiling is seemingly limitless. Should he be dominating more, or is he giving this team what it needs from him?  Grade: A-

Leslie McDonald – “Talkative” Has looked great in a suit. Grade: A

Dexter Strickland – “Runs with scissors” Has adopted the role the team has asked of him. Even though he’s been a scorer in the past, he’s embraced the lock-down defender role. We said in our preseason player profile that we’d prefer he not shoot any 3s. He has yet to take one trey, and has kept offensive productivity up when Kendall Marshall is not on the floor. He would get an A if not for still making some stupid decisions and being inconsistent. Remember the turnover near the end of the game against Kentucky? So do we. Grade: B+

P.J. Hairston – “Doesn’t share with the other kids” This kid has no conscience. He’s shot lights out but also has faded out of games. He’s a great spark off the bench and doing exactly what is needed and expected of him. We wrote he doesn’t share well, but that’s what we need out of him — shooting, shooting and more shooting. He gets a good grade for exceeding expectations thus far. Grade: B+

Justin Watts – “Needs to cut down on horseplay” So far his minutes have dwindled as we expected, and he hasn’t contributed much. When he does get in, he’s been a little too excited as he has as many fouls as points. We like Watts, and his energy will prove useful this season. The guy simply plays hard every time he touches the floor, it’s just that he usually touches the opponents as well. Grade: B

Reggie Bullock – “Applies himself” Much like P.J., Reggie is doing big things off the bench in the shooting department. There have been rumblings that he may overtake Dex’s starting role, but that’s message board chatter. He has shown why he was so highly rated coming in as a freshman and that his knee problems are hopefully behind him. Again, like P.J., he gets a good grade for exceeding expectations. Both of those guys are on track to get an A this year. Grade: B+

James Michael McAdoo – “Lacks focus” McAdoo has shown flashes of what he can be but looks lost much of the time. We don’t know where JMMA’s head is but we hope he finds it soon because when the light has come on a few times this season, he has looked like a dominant athlete. Grade: C+

Tyler Zeller – “Has regressed” Hard to criticize 13.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg, but Z is not the same player that he showed he can be last season. Sort of like McAdoo, his head just isn’t in the right spot, but as a senior — and a usually well-performing one at that — Z doesn’t have the same excuses as James Michael. Maybe he’s been stressed while trying to maintain that stellar GPA he’s known for? Who knows, but that UK game was atrocious and much different than what we saw from Z against that same UK team in last year’s NCAA tourney. He must improve his passing out of double teams, this much we know. So far, freshman Cody at Indiana has been the more impressive Zeller.  Grade: C

Stilman White – Played in six games for 7 assists, 1 turnover and 26 minutes. Goes hard when he’s in the game. Grade: Incomplete

Jackson Simmons – Down the road he may be a larger threat, but he has no role on a loaded team. Grade: Incomplete

Desmond Hubert – Had a good game against Evansville. Hasn’t seen floor much. Has tons of upside. Grade: Incomplete

Agree with us? Let us know in the comments.