Coming off a below average game against Holy Cross it’s once again time for #12 North Carolina (2-0) to get onto the hardwoods in the friendly confine of the Dean Dome. This time UNC will be up against Belmont (2-1), a team they have never faced, in probably the hardest competition that the Heels will have faced this young season. And they will have to do it once again without the services of junior guard P.J. Hairston and senior guard Leslie McDonald.
“It’s what it is,” Head coach Roy Williams said. “Everybody’s trying to do their best. We’re trying to move along.”
On the other hand the team has seen sophomore Marcus Paige, who has moved from the point to the off guard, stepping up and becoming the leader of the team. In the first two games the second year player has hit seven three pointers, making him the first (and maybe only) resource from the perimeter.
“Marcus is a good scorer, but Marcus is a basketball player,” Williams said. “He has tremendous savvy, he’s good defensively. I’ve got to try to get him more breaks where he doesn’t play 36 minutes in a game.”
Against a Belmont squad who is going to match up well inside the one player that must rise up today is junior forward James McAdoo, who had a good game in the season opener, but was plagued by fouls and only scored 11 points vs Holy Cross.
Coach Williams told the media that right now the only two that had starting spots on the squad were Paige and McAdoo. Both of them have to be on top of their game today, tip off at 4:00 p.m. EST, if Carolina wants to get their third win of the season. Truth be told, the pair will need to be on top of their game for the whole season if this squad wishes to reach their potential.
North Carolina has won 82 straight home games against unranked non conference programs. On the flip side, Belmont has lost 17 straight against ranked opponents. And while all of this favors the Tar Heels this one is by no means an easy match up today.
This game is once again about how UNC plays/does things more than how the opposing squad behaves. With or without the two missing perimeter players Carolina is the better team, if they can show it on the hardwoods they will come out with a W. On the other hand, if they were to falter, play stagnant, like the did in the first half Friday night this could be a long day for the team.
The fans can moan and complain about the missing players, the team itself can not, and it’s up to all of them to adjust to their new roles and get it done with whomever is on the court that game. Paige, who might be the only one right now that create its own shot, needs to be as aggressive as possible, without going over board. The bigs have to assert themselves, starting with McAdoo and going to each and every one that plays the four or five. Both Paige and McAdoo have to be on the court as much as they can, as they have to be the catalysts of this squad.
All the rest, from freshman point guard Nate Britt to sophomore guard/forward J.P. Tokoto, but not just including them, have to realize that their spot on the squad right now is not just as a role player, but has to be a producing member of the team. Look for another sophomore, forward Brice Johnson, to keep working harder and harder and become a vital member on both side of ball as the season progresses.
In the end, this game is not just a match up against an experienced team, but also another forty minutes for the members of this squad to evolve into their new roles. Like it or not, that is never an easy voyage, but one that in this game UNC should be able to come out on the right side of the score. The Vegas insiders have the Heels as a 14 points favorite. I think that North Carolina will win, 81 to 69, taking the W but not beating the spread.