To say that watching the Indiana game was painful is a huge understatement. I’m still in disbelief that I sat through the entire game. The second half in Assembly Hall was about as agonizing of a half that I remember in my years of watching North Carolina basketball. Yes, I’ve seen the Tar Heels get beat by worse and I’ve seen them lose heartbreakers at the buzzer, but this was different. This year the Heels are young, but they are talented and have a very high ceiling. After last night, the reality set in that perhaps Roy Williams and his team aren’t nearly as far along as we thought.
The game started off good. Carolina took quick shots and fortunately, they were able to get most to fall. The defensive intensity looked good as well. You could tell that our team desperately wanted to prove that they could hang with a powerhouse team in a hostile environment. Freshmen Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson both got early buckets which led me to assume that they would not be intimidated by the opposing team or the raucous crowd that came with it.
As expected, Dexter Strickland and James Michael McAdoo were involved early and often. Whether it was driving to the bucket or facing up for a short jumper, both players seemed poised to really step up for a tough 40 minute battle. After about 16 minutes, the notion became very short lived.
After the under four media timeout, Indiana imposed there will and stormed out to a 32-8 run that continued well into the second half. Pretty soon, what was a tie basketball game quickly became a 30 point deficit. Indiana had the better team, of course we knew that going in, but after a couple close games with Georgia and Georgetown I felt that there was some weakness to their game. I was very wrong.
Cody Zeller is all he is hyped up to be and more. He is so polished on the post at his age and he runs the floor just as well as his big brother we watched for four years in Chapel Hill. Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey are all big time players and just add so many different dimensions to this Indiana team. Not to mention, the Hoosiers were not even at full strength. Once big men Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin become eligible, this team will get even better.
As for the Heels, to me the biggest problem is that no one is willing to put the team on their back and just run with it. McAdoo potentially would like to be seeing that he scores most of the points and takes a good deal of shots, but teams are really starting to key on him making it extremely difficult for him to be effective on every possession. Guys like Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald really need to step up the production. Both players combined for four attempted three point shots last night. FOUR! That is unacceptable. This team has to understand that with the post being down this year, the three point shot will be what wins or loses Carolina games over the course of the season. Reggie has had the luxury of playing behind a guy in Harrison Barnes that had no problem taking a bunch of shots so I’m sure this new role requires some adjustment, but it seems Reggie is reluctant to take the stand.
Once the unselfishness dies down from our key players, the roles will become more defined and games like last night won’t happen as often. The Heels are in desperate need of a confidence boost and the next stretch of games is a great opportunity to take advantage with five of the next six taking place in Chapel Hill. The freshmen have had good moments and will only improve with more experience. I think it’s realistic to think the Heels can finish the non conference no worse than 10-3. Last night was beyond embarrassing and the list of things to improve on is a mile long, but the way the Heels respond to UAB will tell us a lot about where we stand going forward. I think 2010 has got us a little paranoid (hey, I don’t blame you after last night), but let’s not freak out too early just let.