The Maui Invitational was a great test for the young North Carolina Tar Heels and we learned a lot about this young team. Several questions remain and it’s likely that we won’t truly know the full potential of this team until sometime in 2013. Despite a loss to Butler that was very ugly for most of the contest, I was happy with what I saw from the most part. This season is a journey and one that is likely to be bumpy along the way. In a two part series we’ll take a long at the positive, and the negative signs that emerged during the teams trip to Maui.
This team has rebounding issues: UNC was outrebounded by Butler 39-29 and that was the key stat along with points off of turnovers that proved to doom the Heels in their first defeat of the season. Even against a pedestrian team like Chaminade the Heels only won the rebounding battle by nine and actually gave up one more offensive board than they collected themselves. You can’t expect this team to be nearly as good of a rebounding team as last years group was but they have to do better than they did in Maui. James Michael McAdoo had zero first half rebounds against Butler and he has to be the catalyst. The rest of the team just needs to use their heads and box out, rebounding has to be a team effort for 40 minutes each and every night and it wasn’t in Maui.
Tendency to fall in love with the three: I understand that this team cannot just throw the ball into the post every time down the floor no matter how good McAdoo is. They also cannot become Duke and live and die by the three, they need a better balance offensively. Players like Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald need to make a concerted effort to drive to the basket and create offense for themselves and others. I’d also like to see Hairston use his big body and get in the post more. The mid range jump shot is something that is lost on this team as well.
Marcus Paige still has a ways to go: Paige is an extremely talented player and I like that Roy Williams is starting him and showing confidence in him from the gate this season. But he has a ways to go, especially on the defensive end. Paige has to learn when to speed things up and when to slow it down, when to assert himself as a scorer and when to distribute. The light bulb will go off this season for Paige, it just hasn’t yet.
Team Defensive Woes: This is a young team and playing against a team that works well with one another in the half court can prove troublesome until they learn to communicate better. Butler exposed this team and showed the nation how to get open looks against the Tar Heel defense. UNC had a lot of trouble with ball screens and overall defensive movement in the half court. This is on the veterans to communicate, constantly move, remind each other of their assignments and just do a better job of not getting overwhelmed and fighting through screens.
Dexter Strickland shoots way too much: I don’t know who told Strickland that he has to shoot more this season but they need to take it back. Dexter is awesome in the open court and when a seam presents itself he can slice it to the basket, he is not a shooter. Last season Strickland had excellent shot selection and almost never put up a jump shot and literally never put up a three. This year he’s taking shots early in the shot clock, shooting with hands in his face and it just looks like he’s trying to be something he’s not. Strickland is valuable to this team as a defender, a reserve point guard and a slasher. They do not need him to shoot, leave that up to the scorers Dexter you are not one of them.