KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Villanova fans had no idea when Miami beat North Carolina 68-59 back in January that something bad had just happened to them.
It was then that a discouraged Roy Williams decided to stray from his long-established coaching philosophy and install a smaller lineup. As a result, Carolina (24-10) has turned its season around and developed some topflight 3-point shooters.
That could be a problem when Villanova (20-13) faces North Carolina on Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament because perimeter defense has been a season-long bugaboo for the Wildcats.
“They definitely shoot the ball well,” said Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono. “In practice earlier today we were working on it. That’s what we’ve been trying to do these past couple days, just trying to get better at defending the 3-point line.”
Carolina has hit 255 3-pointers — almost eight a game — and accelerated the pace as the season wore on. Complicating things for anyone trying to guard the perimeter against the Tar Heels is the height of some of their top shooters, Reggie Bullock (6-7) and P.J. Hairston (6-5). Hairston, a part-time starter, is 81 for 208 from behind the arc while Bullock is 84 for 192 — a solid 43.8 percent.
The Wildcats have given up 30 more 3-pointers than they’ve scored.
“They have great guard play,” said Arcidiacono. “Great shooters, great defenders. Me, Darrun (Hilliard), the rest of the guards we have great responsibility. But at the end of the day, it just falls on just doing what we do. We have to focus on the little things. It’s just a matter of not letting them play harder than us.”
Williams admits it was tough making the decision to go in a different direction.
“It’s been interesting and it’s also been scary because it’s not something I’ve been comfortable with,” Williams said. “Most coaches develop a philosophy, a style that they stick with most of the time. If you’ve done it for 25 years as a head coach, you’re probably not going to change very much.”