January 23, 2008 - Doyle Returns: On the Terps, Relationships, and Defensive Communication

I’m as happy as Lou Dobbs manning the firehose at an immigration rally to be back among my adoring fans here at the CHG. While I misplaced a few days in Vegas, I was still conscious enough to catch my beloved Heels fall to the Maryland Terps on Saturday. If I’d had any guts left, I would’ve dropped a few C’s on the Terps prior to tip, because this loss was as inevitable as the confusion and loathing that follows one of my neighbor’s key parties. As Roy likes to say, the Heels' orgy of victories was “fool’s gold,” and it was bound to come to an end.

Great relationships (God, how that word has been tainted by that self-serving bastard in Durham!) and great defense start with communication. If you’ve been watching this Carolina team play defense over the past month, and you were astute enough to notice, these Heels just don’t communicate enough on the defensive end of the floor to be successful in March and April (in my best Jim Mora voice: April…April?...don’t talk to me about April!). I’m sure they are as tight a group as we’ve all heard, but sometimes that doesn’t translate to cohesiveness on the court.

It’s worth noting that there are several team defensive basics that these Heels just don’t execute consistently. Everyone gets caught on a switch now and again – it’s how your teammates cover your back that counts. Everyone gets taken off of the dribble – it’s how quickly your brother is there to step up and take the charge that matters.

When is the last time you saw a Heel step into the lane and draw a charge while helping a teammate? It doesn’t happen often. The swarming, dogged intensity that you know these kids are capable of displaying only makes it that much harder to stomach these mediocre defensive performances.

The level of intensity that we’ve shown in the defensive paint has been particularly woeful. Not one of our big three of Hansbrough, Stepheson or Thompson has consistently defended the post. And while it is not unusual for even a talented college big man to not play stellar one-on-one post defense, it is very unusual for a championship-caliber team to not play fundamentally sound help defense on the interior. Unfortunately, that is what UNC is dealing with right now.

I will say that defense is a skill. Contrary to most fans’ understanding of it, defense is not all about effort. One has to be drilled and taught how to see man-you-ball, how to talk, how to switch and cut off a drive, how to move your feet, anticipate, hold position, etc. I hate to say it, but it doesn’t look like these Heels are being taught or drilled effectively in practice.

Maybe we have focused on ball pressure to the detriment of solid, fundamental team defense. Sue me.

Perhaps we get well against Miami and then pull off a string of runs culminating with a beat-down of the Dukies on February 6 in Chapel Hill. This Heels’ squad is entirely capable of it.


How would you rate last night's defensive effort?

Marcus G had his best game of the season. We played pretty good team defense. I didn't think that we closed out on their shooters the way we have to, and they hurt us in transition in the first half. I've always said (and Maryland did this) that you really have to run on us to have a chance and get back against us and force us into the half court. Miami tried, we were just too much. The Ty's were absolutely sick.

Tell us about the confusion and loathing you feel after your neighbor's key parties. Where do you live? I'm guessing Fire Island?

How long you been in prison, Mike? Fire Island is soooo legwarmers and green neon! Hey, don't sweat it, what happens in Sing Sing, stays in Sing Sing. Right?

No, this Doyle guy is definitely Myrtle Beach material.

Doyle is the best thing they got here. Bring it, dog!

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