If this was a usual season at Chapel Hill the game today, tipping off at 5:00 p.m. EST at the Dean Dome, between #14 North Carolina (7-3) and Davidson (4-7) would not move the meter much. But this campaign and normality have had little to do with each other. From three wins against the pre-season Top 3 teams, to three losses against inferior squads, to the reinstatement of senior guard Leslie McDonald, to losing sophomore center Joel James for a couple of weeks, to the end of the Hairston’s career at Carolina.
No, this has been anything but a normal season for head coach Roy Williams’ team. Not even the practices have been normal, since after the loss to the Longhorns coach Williams had the team back on the court at 5:00 a.m. the next day due to their lack of effort in the game. For anyone that saw the post game presser of the head man… he was not happy is an understatement!
“I am not happy guys. I am not in the daggum Christmas spirit. If you want to really know how ticked off I am, I told them we would practice at midnight tonight,” said Williams. “And then I told them I better check the NCAA rules so we cannot practice at midnight tonight. We cannot practice until 5 a.m. And everybody’s (butt) will be in here at 5 a.m. this morning.”
Another thing that is way out of whack for the Tar Heels has been their free shooting shooting. In all the squad is hitting less than 60% for the season, which will could cost this squad many close games. Something that has to worry the coaching staff, especially once the post season arrives. In all, North Carolina is missing 12.8 free throws per game, the most of any Division I squad this season. And if not for the 8 for 8 performance by sophomore Marcus Paige, against Texas last Wednesday UNC would have shot 41% from the charity stripe.
With the loss of the starting center either sophomore Brice Johnson or freshman Kennedy Meeks will get the nod in the middle. Still talking about the line-up it will be interesting to see when McDonald enters, how long he plays, and of course, how well he does. While it will also be something to watch who loses minutes that McDonald gets. Knowing that Hairston isn’t going to be back on the squad, the senior must step it up and become a perimeter threat each and every game. Sophomore J.P. Tokoto also needs to help out in the facet.
The other player that still needs to step it up some is junior forward James McAdoo, who has been playing better in the last few games, but has to be a force from here on out in order for North Carolina to achieve its goals for the campaign. With the opposition’s starting paint players being 6’7″ and 6’8″ the Tar Heels should not have any problems going inside in this match up. But after a bad game against Texas inside, as well as not a great job versus Kentucky the game before that, anyone playing the 4 or the 5 today better do it with the utmost of intensity, or he might just be looking at another very early morning practice.
If this game goes as it should, meaning it’s a normal one, Carolina should be in charge of it by the end of the first half. So, while I like to see more of McDonald from the outside and more of McAdoo inside, the one player I like to see less of would be Paige. The young man has been carrying the team for plenty of games, but there is no way that the shooting guard can keep going as he is playing an average of 35 minutes per game. In these games to end the month it would be nice if the Heels can keep him from playing over 30 minutes.
UNC leads the series 61-11, which includes 34 of the last 38. Vegas has North Carolina a 19.5 points favorite. I think that the Tar Heels will not just cover that, but go well over it, defeating the Wildcats by the final 93 to 67. That means no biscuits for the fans attending, but with the way the season has been going I think that just a bit of normality would be all that anyone wants.