North Carolina, Barnes Struggling Early

by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

It only took four games, but it appears as though No. 8 North Carolina, much like last season, is doing very little to back up its preseason top-10 ranking. After a trip to Puerto Rico saw the Tar Heels fall to both Minnesota and Vanderbilt, it is very likely that they will fall out of the rankings when they are revealed on Monday.

The talent is there. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes should all have decorated careers on Tobacco Road but against quality opponents, the offensive cohesion is not yet there. North Carolina failed to score more than 67 points against either Minnesota or Vanderbilt, both of which were unranked at the time.

Much of that offense was supposed to come from Barnes, the first freshman to be selected as a preseason All-American. However, he has done anything but live up to the hype thus far. He is averaging just 12.5 ppg and shot 4-for-24 in the team’s last two games, including an 0-for-12 performance against Minnesota.

While Roy Williams isn’t panicking yet, he is looking to make adjustments after a disappointing Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

From The News and Observer:

But it’s also obvious, with three new freshman and zero returning scholarship seniors, that Williams is still looking for the right combination of players that can play consistent defense, take care of the ball and score in the clutch.

“What I’m looking at is five guys who will play together as one,” he said after his team committed 22 turnovers and allowed the Commodores to shoot 63.6 percent in the first half. “We’ve got great kids; you know what they’re saying? They’re saying ‘I’ve got to do this, or I’ve got to score.’ And it’s not that — it’s ‘we’ve got to do it.’ … We’ve got to make better decisions on how touch we’re going to be, getting after loose balls, and when teams get second-half opportunities against us.”

The Tar Heels won’t have long to figure things out. They still have to face No. 13 Illinois, No. 12 Kentucky and Texas in their non-conference schedule before they enter the ACC schedule. While it’s too early to be thinking of the NCAA tournament, even the idea of another NIT appearance is enough to cause panic on the North Carolina campus.