North Carolina has had an exhausting start to their schedule playing in seven games over the 18 games from November 9th through the 27th. The Tar Heels left Chapel Hill and traveled to California to face Long Beach State before they went off to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational Tournament where they played three games in three days.
A six day break wasn’t enough to get ready for the toughest non-conference game of the year as the Heels were embarrassed by the Hoosiers before bouncing back against UAB when they finally returned to the Dean Smith Center Saturday night.
The long, exhausting road the Heels traveled did not come without a price.
PJ Hairston missed the Indiana game after he sprained his knee in practice. Reggie Bullock suffered a contusion of the fingers on his right hand after Cody Zeller stepped on it going for a loose ball. And finally freshman point guard Marcus Paige suffered a “jammed” shoulder at Friday’s practice and missed the game against UAB.
Dexter Strickland is still recovering from the ACL injury he suffered midway through last season. While Strickland looks pretty good moving with and without the ball he still cannot do certain things, particularly on the defensive end where his lateral movement isn’t quite at 100%.
Leslie McDonald has had over a year to recover and while he’s physically at 100% it takes a while to regain full confidence in all of your movements, particularly in action that results in contact. McDonald looks to be gaining confidence in himself and his game with each passing day and as time passes I expect his game to continue to improve.
The Tar Heels have a lot to work on during their break before they return to the court to play East Tennessee State this Saturday. Getting healthy is the most important thing, this young team needs each and every one of their players and cannot afford to lose any of them this season. This break has come at a perfect time, the Heels have a lot to work on and key assets that need the time off.