One week down in a young season, three victories notched, and a head coach who is already putting his team on alert.

“How many Division 1 teams are there?” Coach Roy Williams retorted to media when asked what he thought of his team’s defensive performance Monday night against Stanford. Told that the nation’s top flight basketball programs numbered 351, Williams quickly shot back, “Then we’re close to three-fifty-one.”

The defense didn’t play poorly wire to wire, holding The Cardinal to twenty-six first-half points on just over 35 percent shooting while keeping them off the free throw line entirely. The second half was a wholly different story, however, as Stanford shot nearly 45 percent and forced fifteen free throws.

A strong defensive first half followed by a mealy-mouthed second has been an early theme this season that many are chalking up to Carolina’s approach to their opponents. Like most major programs, UNC’s early slate of games features plenty of contests they could just as easily sleepwalk through, which is what they have appeared to have done in the second halves of their victories against Wofford, Elon, and now Stanford.

Each of those games saw the Heels dominate the first half while pulling back on their defensive pressure, playing sloppier basketball and generally allowing their opponent to show some life in the second. Fortunately, Carolina had built enough of a cushion early in each game to withstand any late-game surges.

Luxuries like those early-game cushions will soon be gone, as Carolina’s pre-ACC schedule is about to get pretty real. After the Heels’ upcoming bouts with Tennessee Tech, St. Francis, and an underrated Texas team, they’ll square off with eighteenth-ranked Michigan, tenth-ranked Kentucky, and third-ranked Gonzaga, each of whom will require a forty-minute effort on both sides of the court if Carolina expects to head toward ACC play with momentum—and, ideally, an undefeated record.

Something Carolina has shown early is depth. Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye are early bedrocks for this team, as was expected going into this season. And while Kenny Williams struggled in the first two games, he arrived against Stanford, playing sharp on offense and defense With contributions from Seventh Woods, Coby White, and Leaky Black at the point, a quiet-ish twelve-and-eight night from Garrison Brooks, and good minutes from Nassir Little, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Robinson, the Tar Heels carry enough talent both on the floor and the bench to stay somewhere in or just outside the top ten all season.

Whether or not they can put together the requisite full-game performances to do so might be the season-long question.