In my last article I joked that this year’s UNC basketball team needs a nickname and I think this one fits pretty well. Three consecutive Sundays of basketball have resulted in a home loss to Belmont, a defeat of third ranked Louisville, and a road loss to UAB.
Did you watch the Tar Heels against UAB? I did. I wish I hadn’t.
I think I uttered the phrase ‘what are you doing?’ close to triple digits during that game. As a graduate of UNC, I hate calling out individual players, but it seems like I almost expect bad things to happen every times James McAdoo touches the basketball. McAdoo was supposed to be the leader of the Tar Heels last year and this year, but so far has helped opposing teams nearly as much as his own. In 34 minutes against the Blazers of UAB, McAdoo finished with only 6 points on 3-13 shooting, pulled down just 4 rebounds, had three turnovers, and was 0-3 from the free throw line.
Roy Williams has been criticized over the last few years for not being able to close the deal and ultimately losing top recruits to other schools, and the lack of talent has been evident in the Tar Heels’ two early losses. Marcus Paige is becoming a star on the national stage, but after watching the game against UAB it is clear that he is the only player the Heels have that can create his own shot. Although P.J. Hairston is one of the premier shooters in the country, he continues to sit due to NCAA investigation causing major problems for the Heels on offense. The Heels scored just 25 first half points in the loss to the Blazers and were 1-12 from 3-point range.
In the last four games which have been entirely unpredictable, there have been only three things consistent: Marcus Paige being responsible for much of the scoring load, Kennedy Meeks’ efficiency off the bench, and McAdoo’s total inconsistency.
Without question, Paige has emerged as the leader of this year’s team and even though he is only a sophomore, has showed a considerable amount of poise and confidence in his ability to quarterback the team. Kennedy Meeks has impressed many experts in the basketball world and has received praise from Dick Vitale and former Duke star Jay Williams. Meeks could be a major factor in the Heels success this season. His “basketball IQ” has been on display early on, he has shown that he is an excellent passer as a big man, and he has very soft hands which is crucial for post players’ success.
The Tar Heels travel to East Lansing tonight to square off against the number one ranked Spartans of Michigan State in a much anticipated match up in the ACC/Big 10 challenge. Michigan State enters tonight’s game with a 7-0 record and has solid wins against third-ranked Kentucky and a 21 point drumming of Oklahoma, both on neutral courts. Michigan State is one of the more experienced teams in the country and has a future hall-of-fame coach in Tom Izzo.
Since Roy Williams came to Chapel Hill in 2003 he has had the upper hand against Tom Izzo, including a 17-point beat down of Izzo’s Spartans in the 2009 national championship. Unfortunately for UNC fans, the tables may be turning with tonight’s game. If you compare the experience, depth, and overall skill level of the two teams, without question the Tar Heels are heavily outmatched. Not to beat a dead horse, but P.J. Hairston’s selfish actions are hurting his team tremendously, and the seeming complacency of McAdoo leaves skepticism for Tar Heel hopefuls against the Spartans.
I commented previously that I wasn’t sure which Tar Heel team would show up for each game, and to this point I am still not sure. However, one way to positively identify with the Heels’ bipolar play is the fact that they have looked their best against their best opponent thus far in Louisville. The Heels seemed poised, confident, and ready to play in their first matchup against a top-five team, so maybe they will show the same ability against the Spartans tonight.
Maybe the Heels are saving their lackadaisical sloppy play for their unranked opponents and will actually show up tonight and look like the team that basketball fans across the country are used to seeing. However, the problem with being bipolar is that behavior (and in this case, the performance on the court) is unpredictable, but maybe the Heels will decide to show up tonight in East Lansing.
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