About a week ago #11/12 North Carolina (1-0) began it’s basketball season with a win over Oakland. They did so without both junior P.J. Hairston and senior Leslie McDonald. Tomorrow night Carolina will once again be in action, this time against Holy Cross (1-1), and still without the services of its two perimeter players as told in today’s press conference.
Just like against Oakland last week, this game against Holy Cross, it is once again a lot more about what UNC can do compared to what the competition will do against the Heels. Let’s face the fact, unranked non conference opponents haven’t won in Chapel Hill since Febraury 20, 2002. For those that want the numbers… it’s 81 games in a row. I do not see that streak ending tomorrow.
What I do see changing a lot tomorrow is the line ups, as I am sure that head coach Roy Williams will be shifting and tweaking as much as possible with the players he has. All the while knowing that this is for not once (or if) the two guards come back with the team.
Just like in the season opener, look for the coaches to insert a variety of players in this one. Against Oakland there were eight players getting ten minutes or more. It should be more of the same tomorrow night, if it’s not do not look at the score board, you might not like what you see. This mixing and matching should be the case for a couple of more games after Holy Cross, until Carolina finds itself against Louisville in the first of their tough out of conference games.
Coach Roy Williams said in the presser that the best player at practice is Hairston, with the second best being sophomore J.P. Tokoto, who had a good game in the season opener. Against Holy Cross more of the same should happen for the young guard.
However, and this goes even more until Hairston comes back, the one player that all are focusing on is junior forward James McAdoo, who started off the season with a double double and should once again be a key player in this one and many more to come. Along with McAdoo all the UNC bigs should do well against the Crusaders, as they will be both taller and more physical than their opposition. This should be the scenario for a very large part of the season, so look for the Heels to play inside-out once again.
“Really, my role is just to do a little bit of everything, but just lead by example,” McAdoo told the school’s official website. “I don’t have to score 100 points or grab 50 rebounds, but just go out there and do what I can do each game. Trying to pick up the slack, as well as everyone else is.”
The one player on the blocks that I will be watching is Brice Johnson, who has bulked up some over the summer and could be an asset as the season progresses. With the likes of McAdoo, Joel James and Kennedy Meeks all needing minutes Johnson is going to have to be aggressive on both side of the ball in order to get time on the hardwoods. It will be one of the ongoing story lines of the 2013-14 season.
In the back court it’s once again the double floor general line up with freshman Nate Britt and sophomore Marcus Paige starting together, the latter sliding to the off guard. Both of these guards are going to need to contribute in order to open up down low for the big men. The more the Heels can hit from outside, the more the post players will not be sagged on. When Hairston and McDonald come back it will be interesting who coach Williams sticks with the point, and who will come in as the back up. Another story line for this season.
Just like in the season opener look for North Carolina to come out hard and strong, making a statement, hopefully what will change from both the exhibition game and the first real one of the season is that UNC does not let go of the pedal in the second 20 minutes. The Vegas lines have the Tar Heels as a 20 points favorite against the Crusaders, for those that go to games and do not gamble the thought will be more about whether or not they get a free biscuit. In the end I can see Carolina beating the spread in this one, with the final score being 96 to 68, but leaving the fans without an after game treat!
What a heck of a weekend this is, with basketball taking center stage on both Friday, as shown above, and then again on Sunday, when the Heels will face off against Belmont. Sandwiched in between it’s the football squad, who fights to get to .500 and a bowl game, traveling to take on newly entered ACC foe Pittsburgh. Make sure to come back to ISPORTSWEB throughout the weekend for all previews and recaps of the games!