Over the course of the season the Tar Heels have become a predictable bunch. When they play a good team, especially on the road they get crushed early in the game. Sometimes they mount a comeback only to be let down when the surge comes up short, maybe they just get blown out. Even in their victories they typically start slow, pick up the pace and far too often their victories have been less victorious than expected and leave us with a feeling of letdown. Not anymore.
Roy Williams finally made a change, a simple change, to many of us an obvious change, he inserted P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup and is giving him big time minutes. The offense is completely different with Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo on the floor together. Things are opening up for point guard Marcus Paige, the half court offense isn’t slow with players searching for a way to find an open shot, defenses have to pay attention to multiple weapons, the offense is dangerous again.
Roy has changed his typical approach and abandoned the Carolina protocol of deploying two big men and running an inside out approach and he’s playing to the strengths of his the roster he has, the perimeter. The best players are on the floor, playing together and it’s working.
I don’t think we’ll ever know what took Roy so long to make the moves he’s made, the point is, he made the moves and it’s time to really see what this team is made of. Typically two games worth of data doesn’t come close to providing enough insight to make an accurate assessment, in this case however I feel strongly that assuming this strategy is carried out for the rest of the season you can abandon everything we saw for the first 23 games of the season.
UNC held the lead against Duke the #2 team in the country for the first 26 minutes of the game on the road, if they had hit some key free throws they would have won that game. They hung 53 points on the Cavaliers in the second half, more than they give up on average for an entire game, the 93 points they’ve scored is by far the most they have given up since 2010.
Looking at the schedule this team has some challenges ahead, they face NC State next Saturday and Duke to close out the season, they also face a Maryland team that just beat Duke. With the way they are playing I don’t think they will have any problem winning every other game this season and on their home court they have a real chance against the Wolfpack and Blue Devils. This is a strong statement but I see this team winning 22 games meaning they win at least one of those games against an in state rival and it’s going to be hard to keep a 22 win team out of the tournament, especially with a good showing in the ACC Tourney.