The North Carolina Tar Heels face Long Beach State tonight for the first of five road games in 11 days. Tonight’s game will act as UNCs warmup game prior to heading to Maui for the Maui Invitations Tournament. Carolina has underwent a ton of changes from last season and is relying on the contributions of four freshman and a roster made up of players adjusting to larger roles than they have ever played at this level.
After an up and down season opener against Garner Webb, head coach Roy Williams stated that he believed the team improved after a rout against Florida Atlantic.
“I do believe we got better, but we need to get better because things start really getting drastically higher competition-wise when we get rolling now,”
UNC is going to be a busy bunch with three games in as many days in Hawaii starting Monday against Mississippi State. The field in the invitational tournament isn’t as strong on paper as we are used to seeing with the Heels as the only ranked team. Make no mistake, this will not be a cake walk for the Heels with strong teams such as Texas, Illinois, Butler and Marquette.
The team will need to continue to get better with each contest in the tournament as they head to Indiana to play the #1 ranked Hoosiers on the 27th. It looks as though they have already found their go to guy in sophomore power forward James Michael McAdoo who has averaged over 22 points and 12 rebounds in the Tar Heels 2-0 start. McAdoo will have to continue to assert himself as the offensive leader of this team and put them on his back when the perimeter shooting fails them.
Shooting from the perimeter and beyond three point range as well as the free throw line must improve drastically. UNC has shot just 25% from three point range and a dreadful 45% from the line. They cannot afford to leave that many points on the board and must capitalize on their opportunities at the charity stripe if they want to contend against the real competition which they have yet to face this season.
McAdoo and Bullock cannot do it all offensively and players like PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald and Marcus Paige need to start knocking down the jump shot to help open things up inside the post.
Something to keep an eye on is the rotation against Long Beach State and throughout the road trip. Roy has hinted that he is considering a change at center where sophomore Desmond Hubert who has yet to score this season has started the first two games of the season. Freshman Joel James has started the second half of both games and he and fellow freshman Brice Johnson threaten his starting spot and his playing time.
The rotation has been pretty friendly to everyone as Roy is giving the entire field a chance to separate themselves from the pack. UNC is stacked with talent at the perimeter but so far all we’ve seen is a bunch of shooters and zero makers as Roy likes to put it. Look for that to start to change towards the end of the tournament and the rotation to tighten around the time the team heads to Indiana.
At the end of the day, UNC will handle Long Beach and move onto 3-0, but that’s not what this game is about. This is about getting better each and everyday and coming together as a unit.