There are four losses in a row now for the Tar Heels: Britain, then Wofford and now, perhaps worst of all, the star champion Cole Anthony will be lost for four to six weeks after knee surgery.
The pitch heels could survive any of the first three defeats. The state of Ohio ranks first on KenPom.com, so falling to the Buckeyes was no shame. Virginia is the dominant NCAA champion and has the nation’s largest defense with significant margin. The Wofford game was at home, and this is not the same team that dominated the Southern Conference and advanced to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but the heels were playing this game without Anthony.
This is one way to see how bad this could get.
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Anthony’s aggressive scoring ranked 5th among high-profile players. Only 16 Division I players from more than 4,000 used more assets than he did in his first 9 games as a club. He downgraded the Tar Heels to 33 minutes per game, attempted 67 more shots than his next business partner – even if he played one less game – and still represented 13 more assists than any other North Carolina player.
This season became one of the most discouraging of Roy Williams’ Hall of Fame career.
“Obviously not having a Cole caliber player is going to be a huge challenge for our team, but we have to play,” Williams said in the school release. “No player is going to replace the production that Cole Anthony gives us, so it’s up to everyone who puts on a North Carolina jersey to increase his game and help our team play better.”
Without Anthony, junior K.J. Smith will inherit much of the guard’s responsibility. After a short run in the first nine games, he went 26 minutes against Wofford and gave up four assists while committing two turnovers. He is the son of former American Kenny Smith of North Carolina. Anthony has significant help from rookie Brandon Robins, who is averaging 3.2 assists, including five in the game against Wofford that Anthony lost. He went 33 minutes, scored 16 points and got six rebounds in that loss.
Even with Anthony, who is arguably the top draft pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Tar Heels have had the problem of creating enough offense to be dangerous against many of their best opponents. They scored 49 points against the State of Ohio and 47 against UVa, though they were previously successful in games against Notre Dame and Oregon, now the No. 8 team in the AP poll.
The heels have a busy week traveling to Gonzaga on Wednesday, followed by a visit to Las Vegas for UCLA to face the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday afternoon.
The good news is that their early schedule is not overwhelming. The next six opponents of the league, which started on January 4 against Georgia Tech, have an average KenPom score of 82. This doesn’t mean games should be easy, but they are not the same as Duke (No. 3). and the State of Florida (No 16).
If the heels can find a way to work with dignity between now and Anthony’s possible return – the outer limit of estimated recovery time is about the date the Heels travel to NC State opponent – they could keep the NCAA campaign alive. Tournament.