The ACC Tournament is upon us and the #15 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels are set to face the Pittsburgh Panthers in a quarterfinal match up. UNC grinded out a 75-71 victory in the one and only regular season meeting and this game could very well be another nail biter. With that being said, here’s a few things to keep an eye on in this one.
Can James Michael McAdoo stay out of foul trouble?
First off, Carolina has won a few games this season with James Michael in foul trouble. That’s fool’s gold. For the Heels to win this game and to have success going forward, McAdoo has to be on the court. Remember the second half at Duke? Once McAdoo picked up his 4th foul, UNC lost its emotional leader and could never recover. James Michael is the tone setter for this team. When he plays with passion and emotion it becomes contagious but he can’t do any of those things sitting next to Ol’ Roy. I suspect McAdoo will find away to avoid early fouls and that will mean trouble for Pitt.
Can Carolina find it’s offense?
Just 2 or 3 weeks ago it seemed as if UNC had found their mojo offensively. Well, that assumption may have been a little premature. Over the last 4 games Carolina has flat-out struggled on the offensive end. Even though they’ve won 3 of those games this team has shot the ball poorly, they’ve had far too many turnovers and have looked totally out of sync at times. This is a good time to find the O. If the Tar Heels can’t, it will likely result in a loss to Pitt and could be problematic come the big dance.
Will the sense of urgency return?
Even with the Tar Heels winning 12 of their last 13 games, it looks like this team has gotten a little complacent. From the outside looking in, it seems as if UNC expects some of it’s lesser opponents to just roll over. I hope that’s not the case because we know exactly how that story ends. It’s vital that this squad is scrappy and pays attention to detail because this is not a typical Carolina team. When they’re focused they can beat anyone, when they’re not… you already know what can happen. I think this team will come out with a chip on their shoulders and play like their lives depended on it. If Carolina does, a victory should be the result.
Who will be the X-factor?
For the most part, Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo has been steady. However, a consistent 3rd option has been missing for most of the season. Leslie McDonald is more than capable of filling this void but like most of his teammates, he’s been up and down. He’s had big time games like the first contest versus Duke but much too often McDonald’s shot has been off and it really hurts this team. Brice Johnson inconsistencies have been head scratching. This guy is easily Carolina’s top low post threat. With his soft touch, quick leaping ability and athleticism – Brice should be hitting double figures routinely. But his lack of strength prevents him from finishing around the basket and allows opponents to beat him up from time to time. Kennedy Meeks also has the potential to get buckets on a regular basis. He gets great position and has tremendous footwork. However, his lack of explosiveness keeps him from finishing at the rim and that alone has kept Meeks form being that all important 3rd option. I believe one or more of these guys will step up and become a consistent scoring threat. For the Tar Heels sake, I hope that will begin with this game versus Pitt.