North Carolina Tar Heel fans are seeing a different Carolina team than last year. The 2009 National Champions moved at a pace that made their opponents dizzy. The Heels would give up a basket and five seconds later, you see Carolina getting an easy lay-up.
What's different about this year's team?
There are several arguments that can be made. Obviously, the absence of Tyler Hansbrough is the most used. However, Carolina is still good inside. With senior Deon Thompson, long-armed Ed Davis, seven-footer Tyler Zeller, and the addition of multiple freshman, the Tar Heels have incredible depth down low.
Another argument is that the Heels don't shoot well. That just doesn't hold water. On average, North Carolina is shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from behind the arc. Last year's team shot 48 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three.
There is nothing wrong with the Tar Heel offense, proven by their outing against No. 2 Texas. North Carolina put up 90 points against a good Longhorn squad.
However, North Carolina gave up 103 on the other end. That is the first time the Tar Heels have given up 100-plus points in regulation since 2001-2002. That year was also the last losing season for the Heels, as they went 7-19 and missed the NCAA tournament.
Through 11 games, this year's Tar Heels are giving up 74 PPG. Last year's team gave up 68.5 PPG through the same time period.
The Carolina defense is not solely to blame. The Heels have been much worse from the free throw line this year. Eleven percent worse as a matter of fact.
Last year's national champs shot 75.2 percent from the charity stripe. This year's team is shooting 64.5 percent from the line. Maybe this is one reason why the Heels always seem to fade at the end of games. Free throws aren't being made.
Against Texas, North Carolina was 11-for-19 shooting free throws. That is only 57.9 percent. The Longhorns not only shot more, but made more, knocking down 24 of their 34 free throws. That is a percentage of 70.6.
In addition, the Tar Heels are turning the ball over much more than last year. This year's Heels are turning the ball over at a rate of 16.3 per game. Last year, North Carolina turned the ball over 12.4 times per game.
However, we must keep in mind that this year's team is very young. With just two consistently playing seniors or juniors, this team's talent is still raw. Because of its youth, the turnovers can be excused. That will improve over time.
However, North Carolina must improve its free throw shooting and defense if the Tar Heels want to compete for another title. This team is obviously not as good as last year's. Don't expect too much out of this young squad.