Last night was painful. This doesn’t need to be overly emphasized because the score line speaks for itself. The Tar Heels got hit in the mouth by their dreaded rival and subsequently dropped their seventh loss in the last nine tries to the Duke Blue Devils. I tend to believe however, that the cycle will come back around in UNC’s favor over the next year or so purely based on who is leaving for the Blue Devils once this season ends. Either way, as hard as it is, we must accept the facts and move on because as Marcus Paige so eloquently put it: “Say what you want, our season is not over.”
We finally can look towards the post season now. UNC did enough to clinch the third seed and a first round bye in the ACC tournament and is widely considered to be a lock for the NCAA tournament. The Duke loss aside, there are plenty of big things ahead that we can focus on that, in terms of big picture, mean a little bit more. Even though the Tar Heels have won 6 of their last 7, there is still clearly plenty of things that the young team can improve on.
The thing that sticks out to me, is that UNC needs a post game. James Michael McAdoo is a nice player and has been playing really high level basketball as of late, but he is not the dominant force that Tyler Zeller was down low that the Tar Heels can lean on to get every rebound and score 20+ every night. McAdoo definitely stretches his game away from the basket and that’s where he feels most comfortable and gets all of his productivity. If Carolina plays a team during a tourney that spreads the floor similar to them, the Tar Heels should be able to make having the lack of a true post player work, but if a team with a dominant big man shows up, Carolina can’t afford to go 1-14 from three because they will lose. I don’t think the Heels can do much better than they have been rebounding the basketball, but in order to over compensate their lack of inside presence, they need to be patient and wait for their best shot.
Their other area of concern is point guard play. Good shooting and consistent point guard play are the ingredients that can win games the way that UNC chooses to play. Marcus Paige has improved by leaps and bounds since he first started at North Carolina, but he still has a tendency to get overwhelmed at times. If Paige can get past the on court scenario and just get back to playing basketball, I think he has the potential to help facilitate a bunch of Tar Heel wins.
Last night was awful, but UNC is now facing crunch time. Everything that this team has worked for this season is about to become reality in a little less than week so the best thing to do is continue to push forward. This team is not nearly as bad as they showed last night. It should be fun watching this team react win they are put in a must win scenario where every game could be their last. So far, they’ve responded when they needed to deliver. Let’s hope this pattern continues.