As that old saying, and the many commercials now playing, goes… “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. On the other hand when #24 North Carolina (2-1) takes on Richmond (3-1) at the Mohegan Sun the saying will be “what happens there will be scrutinized by everyone”, as the Heels come into this game after having been upset by Belmont a week ago.
For those that do not much about Richmond here are a small tidbits that might not make anyone that is a Tar Heel fan too happy… the program has won eight of its last 14 match ups against ranked teams and is on a three game run against ACC teams. The Heels are 14-2 against the Spiders and have won six straight in the series, with the last one being in 1997. However the most important stat about Richmond is that… they gave Belmont the only loss of the season this campaign.
“It should get our guys’ attention that the team that beat us lost to the guys we’re getting ready to play next. Chris [Richmond coach] does a really nice job with his team, he always has. They play more of a half-court game,” Coach Williams says.
For the last six days if you have gone to UNC web boards you must have read how many threads want coach Williams fired. How many have reported he can not recruit shooting guards, guess NBA rookie Reggie Bullock and sidelined P.J. Hairston somehow have been forgotten in the equation since they are not donning the carolina blue. And I could continue with the negativity, but we all get the picture on how boards can be after a loss.
The reality is that North Carolina needs to shoot better from the free throw line, where UNC went 22 of 48 in their last game, and need a third scorer as it waits for Hairston and Leslie McDonald to come back on the hardwoods. James McAdoo (team-leading 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game) and Marcus Paige (18.0 points and 4.3 assists) are carrying the team, but they can not do it alone. As the competition stiffens up, or if either falters in any game, this need will be fortified more and more. Case in point, UNC could be facing Louisville tomorrow if both teams were to win today’s games.
While no one is truly sure who could be the player to help out, it sounds like coach Williams knows who is going to be getting more or a chance to shine…
“The only thing at the end of the game I was really mad about it — I should have given (Hicks) more opportunities,” Williams said. “So we’re going to give him more opportunities.”
Once again the Heels will be the bigger team, and will have to take full advantage of that during the game, as Richmond is -3.7 in rebounding, compared to UNC’s +11.7. For the fourth time in as many games it is once again time to say that with all the bodies that Carolina has they should dominate in the paint. Meaning… look for McAdoo first and foremost, as well as the rest of the bigs, to score plenty in this one. With the size the team also needs to win on both sides of the boards. Like many of the seasons that coach Williams has been in Chapel Hill this squad needs to conform to an inside-out offense, where McAdoo gets a touch on each and every trip down the court.
While the big men should be a positive for coach Williams, the other side of the spectrum might well be the back court. Besides Paige, who has to be as aggressive as he can be each game, none have stepped up early on in the season. Nate Britt will become a good college point guard, that I am pretty sure of. Problem being that he is not there yet, that I am definitely sure of. His presence is needed not just until the two missing perimeter players come back, but for the whole season. J.P. Tokoto can play defense, can rebound and have SportsCenter Top 10 dunks at any time in a game. However until he can hit shots and free throws, he is going to be a liability for this squad on the offensive side. He too is needed this season, and that means he has to find a way to hit the shots he is given. Last game’s performance can not be repeated by the sophomore.
The good thing is that Richmond is not shooting the ball too well from beyond the arc. But before we take that and start penciling in the win, neither was Belmont a week ago. As of right now the Spiders are shooting over twenty three’s per game, averaging 18.7% made. However it will take a good defensive job by the the UNC squad to make sure that the opponents do not warm up in this one.
The Las Vegas insiders put Carolina has a 7.5 points favorite. After the stunning loss to Belmont some people might not even be sure if UNC can win this one. I believe they can, not sure if they can beat the spread however, as they take it by the final of 77 to 72 in a hard fought game where the bigs control the game in the end. Hang on to your hats fans, this weekend’s right is about to begin and win or lose UNC will have a pair of games to play in about a day’s time.