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  • admin 10:02 am on May 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Gifs, , , , , , , , , , , P.J. Hairston, , , ,   

    2013 UNC Basketball End-of-Season Review 

    UNC Team

    Sam: Time to recount an interesting, if uneventful, season in Carolina hoops. The theme of this year, for me anyway, was “meeting expectations.” The Heels seemingly did that time and time again. They never really performed below what we were expecting from them at the beginning of the year, but they also never really outperformed our expectations to pull off some resume wins.  If this season were made into a movie, it would be a really boring ass movie.

    Benn: Would it? Sure, now that we’re stepping back and looking at it the season didn’t quite have the highs and lows of past years, but think about it as it progressed.

    We went into the year with high expectations and a lofty preseason ranking. Got exposed by a Butler team in Maui causing early season trepidation. Regained confidence in the nonconference before being blown out by a Texas team without its best player, starting the NIT train. The Heels built up some trust going into the ACC docket with a solid win vs. a UNLV team we expected would finish the season better, then immediately found themselves in an 0-2 conference hole with losses to teams who proved to be viable competitors, but at the time we didn’t realize it.

    This is where Carolina fans became delusional in one of two ways. It was either the Tar Heels were not even going to make the CBI because Ol’ Roy had lost it and UNC couldn’t get the talent it was once used to, or North Carolina was going to begin in improbable run to a NCAA championship because we all remember the last time UNC was 0-2 in ACC play they won it all in 2009.

    Roy and the Tar Heels would level off at this point (although you can make the argument they never peaked or dipped at all through the year) meaning you were stuck in one of your two ridiculous opinions for a couple weeks. That is until that fateful night in Cameron Indoor when small ball became a thing. Yes, Duke won, but P.J. Hairston was now starting! And Roy did something different! Now ushered in the weeks of undeserved arrogance. We all felt great and the new-look Heels seemed unstoppable — until the second Duke game.

    At that point I would agree that most Carolina fans finally decided that the season was mediocre by UNC standards and that it wasn’t all that bad but it definitely could have been better. But think of all the lows and highs we did feel, as false as they ultimately were. You say this would be a boring ass movie, I say it would be one of those shallow thrillers that get re-run on TNT for eternity. You’ll always turn it on but you don’t mind walking away.

    Sam: You’re right. In the moment, the season was a volatile stock market of ups and downs. After some tough losses, notably Texas, everyone was selling on UNC. UNLV happened and everyone wanted in on the action. Twice they even pulled the roller coaster act on us in the span of one game, the first Duke game and the Kansas game. In fact, those two games could almost serve as microcosms of the whole season. Unlocked potential and amazing ability paired to give us hope for something we didn’t think was possible, but ultimately the Heels fell a bit short of greatness.

    Those up-and-down emotions all related to the game results, but while we’re in reflective mode, I’d also like to comment on the likeability of this team. Despite some frustrating play, I really enjoyed watching them. We were able to watch Marcus Paige get incrementally better every game. We saw P.J. go from a bench player who couldn’t hit the broad side of barn as a freshman to a dominant force and leading scorer. We saw glimpses of the future in Brice Johnson’s touch around the basket. 

    I have to feel a little bad for James Michael McAdoo, who was expected to be “the guy” this year. We found out that he wasn’t quite ready to be the focal point, but as P.J. emerged, even JMM improved in finding a better role and becoming much more efficient. Instead of those 9 for 21 nights, he was converting more like 7 of 10 by the end.

    Benn: Funny how media and press (I’ll include us in this generalization) put these unreal expectations on a player like JMM in the preseason based off a couple games where he could play with no abandon on a stacked team and then get disappointed and feel sympathetic toward him when he doesn’t produce. We of course realized this around early in the season but by then it was too late. Luckily it seems like it hasn’t affected him much.

    But I kind of wish it had.

    This is a likable team, I agree with you there. But it’s likable because some of these youngin’s have been showing actual emotion on the court. Save #JMMFace it was a rare occasion when JMM looked like more than a lamb. That’s why P.J. is so fun to watch. He’s got that Rashad McCants factor about him. Marcus is vocal as well. That was my only gripe with Reggie. He’d get into the action, throw some hand signs up, but was pretty reserved. I’m still going to miss Reggie, but reservations were similar to what kept me from becoming more enamored with Harrison Barnes. The lack of emoting doesn’t mean they don’t care or aren’t passionate, but it takes more convincing at times. 

    Sam: Since the departure of Tyler Hansbrough, we’ve definitely seen a lack of emotion on the court for the Heels. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. In the case of Hansbrough, who was the de facto leader of the team for several years, it was a great asset in how he could inspire his teammates. When Barnes was in Chapel Hill, a definite void existed when the arguably best player was more reserved. Plenty of articles were written about the very topic of “Who will emerge as a leader” for that 2012 team. Luckily for that them, Kendall Marshall’s adept facilitating ability covered up for a lack of leadership. It didn’t matter if someone was playing with emotion or not because he was going to get them the ball in the right spot.

    This year, the catalyst was, without question, P.J. When he came off the bench early in the year, he provided an instant spark. Then after the much-ballyhooed move into the starting lineup he emerged as UNC’s best offensive threat. It’s exciting that he’s coming back next year. It could be a special season for him. 

    If Vegas took wagers on such a thing, I’d bet that P.J. will be the leader of next year’s team, regardless of whether the Heels snag Andrew Wiggins, who would likely be the best all-around player. Knowing that we have a leader already in the clubhouse is a nice feeling. We haven’t had that since the days of Psycho T. In 2010 it was supposed to be who? Marcus Ginyard? In 2011 the general consensus might have been freshman Harrison Barnes, junior Tyler Zeller or, gasp, junior Larry Drew? In both 2012 and 2013 the very question of who the leader would be was a hot topic for comment sections and bloggers alike. I want to get out in front and declare that this year, finally, we have one, and it’s P.J. Hairston.

    Benn: Log that under things I would not have said in 2012. I like how that should set up the rest of the team as well.

    We already mentioned that taking some of that leadership role off Marcus Paige was a good thing this year, and having P.J. still around to handle the heavy lifting scoring wise in the backcourt means Marcus can focus on facilitating for others and letting the game come to him. There’s going to be a glut of PG talent the next couple years with sophomore Marcus, frosh Nate Britt, possible 3x Mr. Basketball for the state of Florida Joel Berry in the 2014 class and the possible return of Stilman White in 2014 with three years of eligibility left, not to mention Luke Davis still chilling on the sideline. What happens this year between Britt and Marcus will be interesting. It’s crazy that I feel so confident with ball handlers even after losing the nation’s leading assist:TO guy (yeah, Dexter Strickland finished tops in the country in that category). 

    The 2 is PJ and Leslie McDonald. We know what PJ can do and will be leaning hard on him. Leslie was good for a couple double-digit outings last season, and we’ll need him to do that again as a spark off the bench. I mean, I guess these guys are both the “2,” right? Who’s the 3 left on the team now with Reggie gone? J.P. Tokoto seems to be the only “fit” at the role unless Roy moves PJ to the “3.” But then who does that leave as the starting 2?

    I’m not ruling JP’s development out as a player yet but I’m also not comfortable handing the starting role over to him either. You could maybe argue that what Jackson Simmons did last year at times could get him into the token 3 spot as the hustle defender Roy likes to start. This is where we could do a whole schtick about how Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is the perfect fit for this UNC team for this exact reason. We’ll save that for later but seriously, everything on this team is built for an athletic wing who can score. You have an inside presence and solid backcourt. A player with a high skill set could do serious work/damage here, that player just doesn’t seem to be on the roster right now. We don’t fault Reggie for leaving, but man he could have had fun in 2013-2014.

    Down in the front court the Heels are all the sudden stacked again, at least on the number of bodies, not that we’re complaining. JMM is back, so is Desmond Hubert, Joel James, Brice Johnson and Simmons. Add two McDonald’s All-Americans to that with Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy “Sean May 2.0” Meeks, who are both expected to contribute immediately, and that’s a lot of big frames. Hicks could be the answer at the 3 with his Brandan Wright/John Henson/Brice Johnson frame but if scouting reports are to be believed he needs to improve his jump shot first, although his defense is apparently already there. I’d expect a possible JMM/Meeks starting line-up which sounds just wonderful right now. Who knows who elevates himself in practice though to get that 5 spot opposite McMug.

    All I know is bench squad is going to be deep this year. #BENCHSQUAD

    But seriously, who’s the fifth starter after a presumed Paige/Hairston/McAdoo/Meeks line-up? Or am I just off the mark here?

    Sam: Well, ideally it’s Wiggins, but he’s the longshot, so let’s work with what we know. Given Roy’s (sometimes frustrating) loyalty to upperclassmen, I think P.J. moves to the three, and Leslie McDonald starts at the two. Leslie’s game is kind of one-dimensional, but as a spot-up shooter he’s pretty good. He even had some great defensive spurts at times last year.

    And say P.J. does play small forward, do we really think he would play like a small forward? P.J. was third in made 3-pointers in the ACC last year PLAYING POWER FORWARD. Dude will get his shots.

    I think you’re on to something saying Meeks will get the nod. All the scouting reports say he’s a traditional back-to-the-basket center, and we know Roy loves him some traditional back-to-the-basket centers. But I’m going to throw another hat in the ring – Joel James. James is something of a project, but really, he’s one “go-to” move away from being a nice player. He’s really athletic for his size, which is considerable, and if he were a threat on offense it would open up things wonderfully for the Heels. Plus, all that stuff about Roy loving his veterans.

    Given that Desmond Hubert got every chance he could have hoped for to earn a starting spot last year, I think he’s missed his opportunity and Roy will be looking for something new. My final starters go like this: 1) Paige 2) McDonald 3) Hairston 4) McMug 5) James.

    First guy off the bench? Brice Johnson.

    Benn: I could see Leslie getting the start, as well as Joel. At this point it is totally plausible. Brice coming off the bench with his Antawn Jamison-like quick shot would be the offensive spark that Leslie used to occupy and provides a quick sub for Joel in that scenario. It also keeps the freshman trio of Meeks, Hicks and Britt together as a second unit. For them to be practicing together as a squad and coming off the bench together could be huge for chemistry and would limit the fall-off production-wise from first to second team.

    As for Desmond, I think he’s just destined to be Byron Saunders 2.0. He’s a talented big body that works hard in practice – which is obviously great for players like Meeks and James – and gets between 0-6 minutes a game as a purely defensive stopper. Of course, Byron has a ring to show for it. One can dream…

    My biggest hope is that this team figures itself out earlier than 2012-2013. The constant shuffling was nerve-wracking and at times entertaining, but it did make me pine for those seasons where Roy just essentially plugged and played with the same starters and subs.

    Is it too early to be talking about preseason predictions?

    I’m a bit worried about those completely unnecessary preseason polls that come out the day after the NCAA Final. I will say though that this year’s preseason spots are more earned than last. ESPN’s Jason King has UNC at 11, Dickie V at 10, SI’s Luke Winn has the Heels at 9 in his power rankings and Seth Davis said they were 15 (pre McAdoo draft decision). Because you hate going into the season with too high of expectations I personally like Davis’ spot, close to where they were heading into 2012-2013 but with games to back it up.

    I will say, however, that I EXPECT them to make it out of the first weekend of the 2014 tournament whereas this year I was on record saying I would have been ecstatic had they made it.

    Sweet 16?

    Sam: That would mean winning only one more tourney game than this season, so I think reaching the Sweet 16 is definitely a reasonable expectation. With potential big jumps coming from Paige and Hairston, and a more natural role for McAdoo, I think we can think even bigger — like Elite Eight?

    To make the Elite Eight, the Heels would likely have to beat a No. 1 or No. 2 seed (or actually be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed themselves).  Given that scenario, I’m not ready to declare Elite Eight yet, but depending on how the sophomores progress — namely Paige, James and Johnson — we could get our hopes up this November.

    And if Wiggins signs, then it’s Jerry World or bust.

    BEST PERFORMANCE

    P.J. hanging 29 pts on UVA in 29 minutes with 7 boards at a critical time in the Heels’ schedule.

    Keeping it real on the bench – Joel James:

    Fandom – Inspired prank by UNC fan putting fight song in every hymnal in Duke Chapel:

    unc fight song in duke hymnal

    BEST GAME

    The best game can be a loss.

    BEST CLIPS

    BEST .GIFs

    Joel James and J.P. Tokoto doing what they do best.

    joel james bench jp tokoto gif

     

    P.J. is a bad man.

    pj hairston dunk

    The mis-labeled “UNC Crying/Sad Fan” is really just giving the stank face. Either way, gold.

    unc stank face crying fan

    NC State came through and their fans gave us some NC State Sheeet for the ages.

    unhelpful nc state fan gif

     

    Miami helps out with our last one.

    miami floor slaps duke

    BEST USE OF VINE

    #StomachProblems

    BEST FLOW CHART

    DukeGameFlowChart (1)

     

    You know we love Twitter. Look for the best tweets later this week.

     
  • admin 4:48 pm on March 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock. James Michael McAdoo, Seth Curry, ,   

    Game Wrap-Up: Heels look shaky in ACC regular season finale 

    unc duke basketball

    UNC 53, Duke 69

    Box Score

    Benn: I wish I could go back and feel how I felt at around 9:06 pm EST Saturday night. Such machismo. No way North Carolina was going to roll over for the newly-returned Ryan Kelly and the Blue Devils. I was confident the Tar Heels would pull out a win. There’s the ever-present threat of a loss (or upset) but UNC was a 2-point favorite. TWO! POINTS! They were at home. What happened!?

    Sam: Several ways you could describe it. From the Duke standpoint, Seth Curry happened. From the UNC standpoint, NOTHING happened. Nothing went in. Nothing went right. Even Roy “I do not call timeouts” Williams called a timeout. It was inexplicable in those first couple of minutes.

    Benn: The game was effectually over when Curry hit that shot while falling down in the lane. What can you do when someone is making that kind of garbage? I can’t pick out one thing UNC was doing so wrong because the offense was so poor. In those first couple of minutes I don’t think the Heels were able to penetrate past the FT line. To make it worse I don’t think they tried. If they had the game may have started much differently. For once they were actually shooting well from the charity stripe (77 Percent) but only had 13 attempts. Get a couple more early and slow Duke’s pace, interrupt their/Curry’s flow, and, oh yeah, do better than falling down 14-0. Of course the first point on the board for UNC were FTs, so there’s that.

    Sam: The Heels toyed with our emotions after going down early. When McAdoo hit a jumper and then got a dunk off a Duke turnover to make it 14-5, I sighed with relief. “OK, we’re going to be fine. It was just early game jitters.” Curry then proceeded to hit another jumper, and another. Like you said, when falling-down-backward-garbage you just throw up is going in, there isn’t much that can be done. But UNC’s response was to try and shoot its way back into it, without working hard for good shots. All the progress the Heels have made in the past three weeks seemed to get thrown out the window. The underclassmen looked like underclassmen again.

    Benn: It was more embarrassing to see what our “veterans” were doing. Dexter Strickland had one of the worst senior nights ever for a four-year starter (4 pts, 0 rebs, 2 asts, 2 TOs). P.J. took over #YOLO duties, although he and Dex have been close all season. Frank Tanner looked liked he’d never started a game before (we kid, Frank). Even Mr. Consistent, Reggie Bullock, looked out of the game. If it hadn’t been for shear FG attempts by JMM and P.J. there wouldn’t have been a double-digit scorer. That analysis doesn’t make sense but you get where I’m headed. I mean 1-14 from deep. That’s like, statistically impossible. I guess we knew that hot shooting had to break at some point though. Why did it have to be this game?

    Sam: It wasn’t just that the hot shooting died, shooting altogether was nonexistent. For those of you keeping score, one of 14 is shooting 7 percent from three. Shooting that low of a percentage is more than bad, it’s unlucky. If you play that game 10 more times, that probably doesn’t happen again, not once. It definitely doesn’t happen in the same game in which an opposing player hits his first 7 shots. Even with UNC’s best defender on him, Curry couldn’t miss, and that was the game. The Heels clamped down in the second half (Duke scored 27 after the break) and actually outscored Duke, but it was too late. Duke coasted into the W while UNC continued to hit anything but a bucket.

    Benn: Want to know what was really maddening? Mason Plumlee looked like the second coming of whichever lord and savior you subscribe to. I’m afraid to look up the number of dunks he had but it feels like at least half of his 10 made  FGs were two-handed flushes. He looked like the All-American type player that I swore he was not. Did this game change my mind about Plumlee’s play? No. JMM was outworked and Duke guards were able to find Plumlee up top or alone way to easily and too often. We even threw Joel James and Demsmond Hubert in there to switch things up and nothing made him uncomfortable. I refuse to believe MP2 is a legitimate player but he sure looked like one against UNC. What DEFCON are we left at heading into the ACC tournament in Greensboro?

    Sam: How does DEFCON work? Is 1 or 5 worse? (googles DEFCON) Ok, I’d say we’re right at 3. (Guess I didn’t need to research it now that I think about it.) I think the sample size of games prior to Duke was large enough to have reasonable confidence in the small lineup heading into the conference tourney. However, while I think the Duke result was an outlier, I do worry about the team’s confidence. If they play up to their level, we see things like the UVA game, so it’s not the talent or the scheme, I think it’s the mentality. So I’ll say DEFCON 3 because I think we’ll be fine and potentially playing Duke on Saturday, but there is that chance the wheels fall off.

    Benn: I’m just confused as to how they could be so rattled against a rival they played so well against on the road? Like you said it kind of balanced out during the second half, but this was as bad as that stretch of games before the first Duke game where UNC couldn’t score before the first media timeout. Let’s hope they got that out of their system.

    Did I take away anything positive? North Carolina did show it can play decent defense with the small lineup. Ryan Kelly essentially did nothing, not that we were that worried about him specifically, but stifling him was still good to see. Really just take away that horrendous start and the game was dead even.

    Sam: I’m an entitled fan, so I expect them to do more than just play even, they need to make a run. You can play even and lose, but if you make a run, you can cut into a deficit or build a lead. I would liked to have seen at least one nice run, but more than anything, I just started hoping for a re-match.

     

     
  • shwineka 1:57 pm on March 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Len, , , , P.J. Hairston, ,   

    Wrap up: Tar Heels TCB at UMD 

    PaigeUMD

    UNC 79, Maryland 68

    Box Score

    ‘Twas the Wednesday before senior night, with Duke on the schedge;
    Maryland on the bubble, fans ready to jump from the ledge;
    With a young Heels team, probably looking to week’s end;
    The makings of a trap game, sure to upend.

    Ok that’s all I’ve got for you. Before the game last night, I was extremely concerned about the Heels heading to College Park prior to the end of season showdown with Duke in Chapel Hill. Maryland desperately needed to beat Carolina to have a shot at making the Big Dance, while UNC is comfortably in and could use a big win against Duke to improve its seed.

    Fears were absolved by a 15-2 run over the end of the first half and beginning of the second. Both P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock continued to pour in points, while it was Marcus Paige who killed a late rally by the Terps by burying a 3-pointer to make a six-point deficit into a nine-point one. Simply put, this team WOULD NOT have been able to handle the environment in the Comcast Center earlier in the season — possibly even a month ago — but it stopped several runs by the Terps and came away with a nice win.

    Takeaways

    • Even though he made the arena-silencing trey that sparked the team to put away the Terps for good, Paige didn’t have his best game. He has a season-high eight turnovers to only three assists. Things had gotten really ugly just before that big three, with Paige turning the ball over twice when Maryland full-court pressed, leading to Maryland buckets. While not the cream of the ACC, Maryland isn’t exactly a slouch at home, having already beaten Duke and N.C. State there, so in the end it was comforting to know that Paige could have a bad game against a good team and Carolina could still pull out the win. 
    • Reggie Bullock, the Sheriff, might need to be re-nicknamed the Silent Assassin. Seemingly always outshone by Hairston or McAdoo, depending on the game, Bullock continues to roll up his sleeves and do work. Last night he finished with his third double-double in the last four games and just filled up the box score(19 pts, 12 reb, 2 ast, 3 stls). When you look at his stats in  ACC play, he’s practically second on the team in everything, which might explain how he somehow flys under the radar. He plays the most minutes per game (33.4), is a very close second to McAdoo in rebounding (6.9 pg to 7.4), and has the highest field goal percentage from the floor and from three on the team. He does everything, and he does everything well. 
    • P.J. showing some hustle! How exciting was it to see Hairston flying over the scorer’s table? Some switch has been flipped in the sophomore since he was inserted in the starting lineup. Hairston has been giving much more consistent effort in the past seven games, although he still let Jake Layman take him to the hoop for a jam. C’mon, P.J.! Jake LAYMAN!?
    • Once again the Heels kept 7’1″ Alex Len in check as he finished with eight points and seven rebounds after notching 10 points in the meeting in Chapel Hill. While Maryland’s size did give Carolina some fits on the defensive boards at times, the fact that the Heels kept pace (33 rebounds to Maryland’s 34) with the much larger Terps is encouraging.

    Superlatives

    Player of the Game: P.J. Hairston (22 pts, 8 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl) While P.J. didn’t light it up from three like he can (2-7), he was schoolin’ Terps off the dribble makin’ ‘em look like tortoises. Copyright that.

    Stat Stuffer: Reggie Bullock  (19 pts, 12 reb, 2 ast, 3 stls) Reggie went 4-6 from downtown. Every time he lets it fly you think it’s going in. It feels really good to be able to name a stat stuffer these past few games.

     
  • shwineka 3:17 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andrew Carter, , , P.J. Hairston, ,   

    Game Preview: NC State 

    nc state logo shirt

     

     

    Much like that shirt above, things are just different this year. N.C. State is still somehow miraculously in better shape to make the tourney than the Tar Heels. And for the first time in ages, the second matchup of the season for these schools will have serious March implications.

    For the Wolfpack, it’s the last quality game on their regular-season schedule. After the match-up in Chapel Hill on Saturday, State has tilts against BC, @Georgia Tech, Wake and @FSU remaining. While we all know that Wake Forest is no cakewalk for the Pack, it’s a pretty fluffy run  to finish the season.  But that fluffiness also robs them of chances for resume wins, and taking a loss in that stretch would certainly hurt their profile.

    For the Heels, tomorrow is one of a few chances left to grab a key victory they desperately need – and probably one their best chances. The Wolfpack has struggled on the road, and with the best games remaining for UNC being @Maryland and when Duke comes to town March 9, tomorrow is nearing must-win territory. We’re big bracketology haters early in the season, but about this time of year is when that stuff matters, and most experts seem to think what’s hurting UNC’s profile is a lack of good wins.

    • N.C. State has lost four of its past five games away from Raleigh, including the aforementioned trip to Winston-Salem. That one win came at Clemson, when Scott Wood hit a buzzer-beating three to seal the deal. Not exactly a great track record. Getting a W at Maryland is certainly doable, and you can never discount the Heels against Duke at home, but this is a great chance for the Heels to take better control of their own destiny — not to mention start a new winning streak.
    • Photo: dumb loooking unhelpful nc state fan moving
    • With the small lineup, P.J. Hairston will draw C.J. Leslie in an epic battle of abbreviated given names. P.J. seems to think he can handle this, however, according to the N and O’s Andrew Carter, who was at the presser Friday: Screen shot 2013-02-22 at 2.53.48 PM
    • Fun Fact: Hairston played the 4 his senior year of high school. Twitter knows all!
    • Which version of the Heels shows up? This year has been a Jekyll and Hyde type season. Even the Hyde Heels, however, have been able to beat the Georgia Techs and Wake Forests of the world. It’s when you cross that line to the N.C. States and Virginias and above that we really need the Jekyll Heels to come to play. If UNC hits its first three, 3-pointers, that’s a good sign.

    Predictions: 

    What to do, what to do. Reverse jinx? Seems like a win-win. If State wins then my prediction is correct, but if UNC wins, well, obviously my reverse jinx did its magic. Nah, that’s taking the coward’s way out. I know how much this game means to Roy, and I know how bad the Pack plays on the road. I’m going Heels, baby.

    UNC 84, N.C. State 76

     

     
  • shwineka 2:02 pm on December 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , P.J. Hairston, ,   

    Wrap-up: East Carolina 

    eoT2T.St.156

    UNC 93, ECU 87

    Box Score

    I’m gonna be honest, sports fans. I was kind of in-and-out on this ECU game. Maybe I’d been lulled to sleep by the lack of important games since Indiana, maybe the lack of games period. Who knows? For whatever reason, my typically super-critical eye was more focused on menial chores to do around the house while I had the game on in the background. After an emphatic “Easy B with the start!” tweet in reference to Brice Johnson getting to start, I was half watching.

    I figured it’d be OK. I mean, it was just ECU, right? Man, nothing makes you feel more “less-than-confident” than a six-point victory over ECU, particularly when you’ve lead by double figures for most of the game.  UNC has assumed this mentality that it can outscore anyone a la 2009. This is not the case, and there needs to be a major improvement defensively for us to have any hopes of doing some damage in the spring. I did fully tune in for the final four minutes or so, and it wasn’t pretty.

    Takeaways

    • Brice Johnson finally got the start, but didn’t do much in his 15 minutes of burn, tallying five points and four boards. After that performance, we wouldn’t predict another start in the Texas game, which is probably backed up by the fact that he only got those 15 minutes against ECU — not quite starter’s PT.
    • Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston both played well. We’d like to see more game action with both of them on the floor at the same time. P.J. has that Rashad-McCants-like unconsciousness where he doesn’t let what’s happened in the game affect how he plays. When he’s playing well, it’s great to have a guy like that on the floor.
    • No frontcourt player recorded an offensive rebound. Only Bullock, Hairston and Tokoto managed to grab any. Certainly not indicative of that aggressive frontcourt we asked for, for Christmas.
    • Dexter Strickland led the team in assists for the second straight game. He tied with Paige in the previous game and hit double digit assists this time around. He was definitely seeing more stretches at point with Paige on the bench. After the last two games, we’re honestly not sure if UNC’s best lineup has Strick or Paige at the point. Paige is certainly the better point guard, but with Strickland running the show, it allows the Heels to keep his lock-down defense on the floor and have both Hairston and Bullock on the wing at the same time. If he keeps dishing assists like he has, it might actually be the best way to go.

    Superlatives

    Player of the Game: Reggie Bullock (14 pts, 7 rebs, 4 asts) The Heels need to get games like this from Bullock consistently.

    Stat Stuffer: J.P. Tokoto (10 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, 1 blk) The first stat stuffer of the year goes to Tokoto for his crazy efficient game. He went 5-5 from the floor and two of his boards were offensive in only 10 minutes of play.

    Play of the Game: I think we all said “FINALLY” when McAdoo took that alley-oop over two ECU defenders and thundered it home. Please, please, please more of that.

     

     
  • shwineka 2:40 pm on November 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , P.J. Hairston, ,   

    Maui Invitational – We couldn’t have been more wrong Part 2 

    We detailed the magnitude of our ineptness at predicting the Maui Invitational after UNC shot the lights out from three and destroyed Mississippi State. Then Thanksgiving happened and a tryptophan-induced coma caused us to miss wrapping the whole tourney — which undoubtedly turned out different than we predicted.

    UNC, we thought, would put up a sloppy W over the Butler Bulldogs and face Illinois in the final. What happened was Butler unleashed a shooting clinic and led the Heels by 29 before a too-little, too-late comeback effort sparked by P.J. Hairston. Yes, P.J. HAIRSTON.

    Let’s get right to the formula and give you some takeaways from the tourney, as well as the return of SUPERLATIVES!

    Takeaways

    • Roy is still fiddling with the lineup. We saw him start Desmond Hubert in the first two games, then start Joel James in the second half, then start Brice Johnson at the 4 against Chaminade. It seems that Paige, Strickland, Bullock and McAdoo are locked in, while that final starting spot is up for grabs. We like Brice Johnson the best of the three options we’ve seen. He brings a ton of energy and can score even with that wiry frame.
    • P.J. Hairston is stepping up. Hairston’s struggles last year have been well documented. He shot poorly and made dumb mistakes on the floor. This year he looks like a completely different player. He’s been averaging more than 10 ppg, and as we mentioned above, he put the team on his shoulders for a stretch in the Butler game. At one point in the second half, he put this sequence together, being the only contributor for the Heels in this span: Hairston 3-pointer; Hairston 3-pointer; Hairston drawn foul, two free throws; Hairston drawn charge. The 40-year-old Man Child has finally been awakened, we hope.
    • Teams are double-teaming James Michael McAdoo, like, all the time. It really frustrated him against Butler, and when he’s being taken out of the game, UNC struggles. The Heels have been shooting outside shots at a blistering clip, but the offense doesn’t get open looks without running through the post first.
    • About those 3-pointers. UNC is averaging more three-point attempts per game than Duke. Yes, you read that right. Through six games UNC has taken 134 attempts, and Duke has taken 118. This is obviously part of the game plan as the main culprits (Paige, Bullock, Hairston, McDonald) are all doghouse-free. For the first time in what seems like forever, it appears UNC will get a lot of its scoring from outside.
    • The freshmen are playing like freshmen. There have been some really nice moments for all of them. Paige has knocked down some shots, Johnson has been all around the rim, James has had some thunderous dunks and Tokoto leaped over a Mississippi State player so high for a rebound that he wasn’t called for over-the-back. Still, there has been a lack of focus and some dumb, freshmen-like turnovers to mix with the good. On the whole it seems like a really good class that just needs experience.
    Superlatives
    Player of the Tournament: P.J. Hairston – P.J. took up the slack when McAdoo was struggling and has improved his shooting touch and aggressiveness. While we wouldn’t have thought this before the season, his absence against Indiana will really hurt the Heels.
    Stat of Note: UNC has taken 134 3-point attempts, averaging 22.3 per game. Roy’s teams usually average around 15 per game.
    Lack of Mac Attack: JMM only recorded one Mac Attack during the tourney (backcourt steal into dunk). He needs to bring back his signature move in a big way tonight.

     

     
  • shwineka 11:10 am on November 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , DeAndre Haskins, , , , , , Myck Kabongo, P.J. Hairston, Rotnei Clark, ,   

    Maui Invitational – We Couldn’t Have Been More Wrong Part I 

    In an astonishing turn of events, your humble bloggers got some predictions wrong in our Maui Invitation preview. Actually, we got them ALL wrong. Let’s take a look at those miscalculations after the tourney’s first day.

    We suspected that this Mississippi State team would be down after losing Arnett Moultrie and Rodney Hood — not necessarily after losing Renardo Sidney.


    GIFSoup

    What we didn’t realize is just how TERRIBLE they would be. Without the injured Jalen Steele and suspended Colin Borchert, the Bulldogs didn’t put up much of a fight. They finally broke into double digit points with about eight minutes left in the first half against UNC, who shot lights out.

    Which brings us to another misguided thought, which was that we predicted UNC would feed McAdoo in the post and dominate the game that way. Nope. Instead the Heels, who were shooting 32 percent as a team from beyond the arc before the game, went 15-32 from three, and piled up 95 points. Leslie McDonald….ahem….LESLIE MCDONALD scored 21 to lead the team while McAdoo added 10 and 4. We mentioned on Episode 3 of the podcast that there seems to be a deliberate shift toward shooting more 3-pointers this season, and this game certainly continued the trend.

    Desmond Hubert also showed us why he’s been getting the nod in the starting five. While he didn’t show up big in the box score, he was extremely active around the rim altering shots and getting a few blocks. He also had a really nice put-back dunk in the early going that was huge for UNC’s momentum. UNC didn’t shoot well from the charity stripe yet again, but only went to the line 9 times.

    And leading the team with blocks? P.J. Hairston. We’ll say we called that one.

    Our Marquette pick was off by one playground heave at the buzzer as Rotnei Clark hit a last-second three to knock off the Golden Eagles. WHERE WAS ROTNEI IN 2010?

    UNC will now play Butler tonight for its second Bulldog fight of the Invitational. Butler takes care of the ball (7 TOs) and Khyle Marshall looks legit after going 11-15 against Marquette. This team won’t make near as many mistakes as MSU did so it will be a much different ballgame. Heels fans shouldn’t expect another 95-point demolishing.

    In one final insult to our well-meaning predictions, Texas was blown out by Division II Chaminade. Yes, a 13-point loss to host Chaminade, who apparently doesn’t even have a logo.

     

     

    Not having Myck Kabongo certainly played a role, but did anyone really see this coming? DeAndre Haskins scored 32 for the Silverswords and seems just like the kind of player that would hang 40 on the Heels. We’re picking against them again tonight just to prevent that.

    We didn’t even bother picking the Illinois-USC game, but it appears Brandon Paul can still ball a bit. He scored 26 last night, and the Illini look to have the fast track to the finals on Wednesday.

    Picks for tonight

    UNC 72, Butler 66

    Illinois 80, Chaminade 54

    Let’s hope our track record improves.

     

     
  • shwineka 11:50 am on January 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , P.J. Hairston, , , torn ACL   

    Injury Update: Strickland out for year, McDonald unlikely to return 

    We got the news late Friday night that starting shooting guard Dexter Strickland tore his ACL against Virginia Tech and won’t be able to return this season — very bad news considering that Strickland was having a great year. Strickland was one of the most efficient players on the floor. His 7.5 ppg were achieved on around five shots or so per game. He also had backed up Kendall Marshall at the point in the brief stints that Marshall was not on the floor. Not only was Strickland probably UNC’s best on-ball defender, he was probably its best perimeter defender, something the Heels have struggled with all season.

    By now the blueprint is out there. If you want to beat UNC, hit a shit-ton of 3-pointers. UNLV hit 13 in it’s win earlier this year, while FSU’s Deividas Dulkys managed 8 all by himself and his team hit 12 on the game. Perimeter defense will be a sticking point if Carolina wants to make it to New Orleans — aka one Rafters editor’s bachelor party weekend, but also a reference to something called the Final Four. The immediate question is, of course, who will replace Strickland in the starting line-up.

    Possible replacements:

    • Reggie Bullock: Reggie’s minutes have been creeping up recently and his status as a great defender likely puts him in the conversation as the most likely replacement. Bullock has more length than Dex, and as we mentioned before, he’s the Nnamdi Asomugha to Dex’s Darrelle Revis. Bullock is a better shooter as well, which could insert some more firepower into the starting five, giving it an extra body that can drain the trey besides Barnes. I’m not counting Marshall as a threat from three just yet. Reggie’s ball-handling is not on Strickland’s level, however, and it’s likely he wouldn’t be asked to fill the back-up PG role.
    • P.J. Hairston: P.J. has been scoring at a slightly higher clip than Bullock, so his name must also be in the pictures for Strick’s minutes. Although both Bullock and Hairston have been cold as of late, Hairston’s points-per-minute still rate higher than Reggie’s. His defense is nowhere close, however. Hairston is a freshman and hasn’t picked up the tenacity to play defense in the ACC. He’s getting there, but while his shooting is cold, Bullock is going to be the better choice as a starter. Also, Hairston hasn’t shown anything to lead us to believe that he’s a decidedly better ball-handler than Bullock.
    • Stilman White: White has seen about four minutes per game so far in his freshman season, but that number is about to get a spike. White is one of the more capable ball-handlers left on the roster after Strickland’s injury. He is actually listed as a PG, and has played the position when he comes in. At times he reminds you of Adam Morrison — the Doherty era, UNC PG that would erratically sprint down the court and have a turnover — then at times he’s more confident. Most of White’s minutes come with his 2nd-team practice mates, so it’s true we haven’t seen much of what he can do with the starters. Look for White to spell Marshall particularly in blowout games.
    • Justin Watts: Watts will see more time because of this injury as well. Watts usually comes in at the 4 or the 3, but with all the variations Roy has toyed with in games like BC, we could see him anywhere. Be on the look out.

    The verdict: We think Bullock will get the nod as a starter. Roy is typically pretty loyal to upperclassmen and Reggie is more experienced than Hairston, who we think will get the second largest chunk of PT. Bullock’s defensive ability is what separates him from the pack of suitors. Needless to say, Bullock and Hairston will both be getting some quality tick in the ACC. White will spell Marshall a bit earlier in the game than usual, but Marshall’s minutes might creep up a bit, too. As Mike DeCourcy points out, Raymond Felton played 35 minutes in the 2005 title game, and Marshall will play close to that in any tight game in the conference. Watts will see an uptick based on the fact that Roy subs so many players already, and now he has one less on his roster.

    In other injury news….

    Leslie McDonald, who had considered coming back this season after tearing his ACL over the summer, will likely not come back, according to the News and Observer’s Andrew Carter. With all the question marks surrounding his ability to integrate into this year’s squad and the value that his skill set would add, this is a good decision. McDonald plays the same position and has a similar game to both Hairston and Bullock. Considering he doesn’t bring any additional ball-handling ability, this is a no-brainer. No need to rush him back only to muddle up the shooting guard spot. Now if he were a natural PG, we’d reconsider.

     

     
  • shwineka 12:12 pm on December 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , P.J. Hairston, ,   

    Wrap-up: UNC stomps on Evansville 

    UNC 97, Evansville 48

    Box Score

    The Heels needed a game like this. After a nail-biting win at home against Wisconsin and the emotionally draining one-point loss to Kentucky over the weekend, what this team really needed was to just destroy someone. For the Evansville Purple Aces, that was an unfortunate fact.

    It took a minute or two to warm up, but once the Heels got going it turned into a romp rather quickly. The offense, led by Harrison Barnes’ 14 first-half points, was clicking and the defense was stifling. At one point, Dexter Strickland stole the ball from his mark and took it the distance for a layup — two plays in a row. Barnes, who usually gets his points, got them in the manner we have all been wanting him to, by taking it to rack. Tyler Zeller, matched up against a 6’8″ forward, even looked like he had snapped out of his funk in a stat-sheet filling performance (see: foreshadowing.)

    After amassing a 30-point lead and holding the Aces to 22 in the first half, it was more of the same in the second. The starters left the game with eight minutes remaining and it was scrub time from then on. Game, set, match.

    Takeaways

    • As was mentioned above, Barnes was able to get to the rim with ease. There was an awesome inbounds play in which he threw it in the Zeller in the post, then curled around Zeller, receiving a touch pass from Z, and elevated for the slam. That’s the epitome of what his game can be, and we should hope to see this kind of play more often for the rest of the season.
    • Desmond Hubert got some nice minutes. The New Jersey freshman tallied eight rebounds, 2 points and 2 blocks in 13 minutes. He’s kind of like John-Henson-lite. He’s long and has great instincts. The offense will come along as he gets more P.T., and hopefully during this nine-game homestand he’ll be able to get a lot of that.
    • James Michael McAdoo, the awakened. McAdoo has looked a little lost at times this season. While he has all the physical tools to be a star, he’s adjusted slowly to the college game — not unlike Barnes. Perhaps it’s because the Heels have played a tough schedule to start the year, because against the Purple Aces — an admittedly lesser foe — he looked confident and aggressive. He showed his explosiveness on some dunks. When he was in with the reserves he looked like the best player on the floor, far and away. Maybe he and Zeller can get their swagger back in this homestand of games before the Heels head into ACC play. That would be ideal, don’t you think?e
    • Reggie Bullock continued his shooting spree. After a great outing against Kentucky, in which he cold-bloodedly hit a three to bring the Heels within one in the final seconds, Bullock went 4-7 from beyond the arc and grabbed a couple of boards and a steal in 17 minutes. The importance of his development cannot be understated, so I will not. REGGIE IS AWESOME! Don’t worry though, he’ll make me take that back by going 0-8 against Long Beach State.
    • P.J. Hairston rolled his ankle in the second half. It was a not a pretty picture in the slow-mo replay. He did return to the bench after a brief visit to the locker room, so hopefully it is nothing serious. P.J. has been a great asset this year, and the Heels will need him in conference.

    Superlatives

    Player of the Game: Hard to name one in such a lopsided game, but we’ll go with Reggie Bullock (15 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, 1 stl, 0 TOs). If Reggie can keep consistently nailing treys, it’s going to have a monumental impact on how teams can guard the Heels, opening up the floor for the bigs and Barnes.

    Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the John Henson Award and former Danny Green Award): Tyler Zeller (12 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk) Could have easily gone to Henson as well, but Zeller gets the nod for notching a stat in each of the primary categories.

    Double Take Award: Dexter Strickland. I was watching the game on my DVR as I wasn’t able to watch it live, and when I saw Strickland take in his second consecutive steal for a layup, I had to rewind to make sure it wasn’t just deja vu. Nope, he straight played that kid twice in a row.

     

     

     
  • shwineka 4:00 pm on December 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , P.J. Hairston, , , , ,   

    Wrap-Up: UNC makes free throws, beats Wisconsin 

    UNC 60, Wisconsin 57

    Box Score

    For most of the game against Wisconsin last night, Carolina seemed to be lacking any sort of direction. The Heels were hustling O.K., and they were actually rebounding alright, but especially on offense, they seemed out of sorts. They made a nice second half run to go up nine points, but then allowed a Badger run to bring the game back close. Wisconsin was luckily shooting dismally from beyond the arc, and so UNC went into the half up one point.

    The second half was more like two vastly different quarters. The Heels came out a little flat and a 12-6 Wisconsin run put the Badgers up five, which doesn’t sound like a ton of points, until you factor in UW’s dreadfully slow pace and typically efficient offense and defense. At the time, the lead seemed more like 10. Things changed, however, about halfway through the half. Dexter Strickland started playing the most lockdown D we’ve seen all season from any Tar Heel, and he was playing it on Jordan Taylor, the preseason All-American point guard for Wisconsin. Taylor couldn’t even get his hands on the ball some possessions. At the same time, while John Henson continued to pull down boards, we had our first Black Falcon sighting of the year. Harrison Barnes’ body language shifted dramatically from a frustrated, hobbled star to a dominant force. He scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half to help put UNC over the top and able to withstand a late Badgers run. Oh, and how did UNC finally take the lead for good? Free throws, the seeming Achilles Heel of the preseason No. 1 team, weren’t a problem as Carolina hit 16-18 after the break. It was certainly a close game, but a last-second, desperation 3-pointer is what made the final score a 3-point win instead of six.

    Takeaways

    • Most importantly, the fight seemed to be back after the loss to UNLV. There were stretches of very, very ugly basketball, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get the W, especially in March. Carolina’s non-conference schedule is something of a bear this year, so it’s nice to see the Heels fight through it. The experience will serve them well in ACC play and the postseason.
    • Dexter Strickland is both awe-inspiring and maddening at the same time. Watching him just BLANKET Jordan Taylor was a thing of beauty. Taylor was running all over the floor trying to get open, but after Strickland began guarding him in the second half (Marshall did for most of the first) he couldn’t get Wisconsin’s offense operating at it’s usually efficient pace. He stuck a few jumpers and created a steal leading to his signature one-man fast break. He also inexplicably touch fouled on his way to  four personals and attempted to drive for a layup against four, yes four, Wisconsin defenders — all of which had a size advantage on him. Love what Dex brings to the team, but really wish his decision making was a little more consistent.
    • Barnesbot left the building and Black Falcon entered. As was stated above, Barnes took over offensively in the second half. The mid-range game was working, and he shot 2-3 from beyond the arc. He was also crashing the boards and driving to get fouled, hitting 6-7 free throws. We all know Harrison’s penchant for slow starts, but maybe he got over that with this game. It couldn’t come at a better time with Kentucky looming Saturday. One lapse though, was that Barnes was apparently supposed to be guarding Taylor at the end of regulation, when Taylor got a wide open look for a 3-pointer. Roy understandably ripped Harrison on the other end of the floor. With Wisconsin’s last second heave going in, had Taylor’s shot fallen there would have been overtime.
    • Kendall Marshall definitely did not like the slow pace. He threw some of his patented full-court heaves into the hands of red jerseys on several occasions. The Badgers were getting back faster and in greater number than probably any opponent he’s seen in his college career. Over the course of the game though, he seemed to adjust to that and didn’t commit turnovers late.
    • John Henson had a mandate on the boards. Something tells me that Ol’ Roy had a little chat with the froncourt after UNC had been outrebounded three times this year, and in particular against UNLV. Henson took it to heart in grabbing a season-high 17 rebounds. He ended up a bucket shy of a double-double, but if he loses a little scoring to grab that many boards then the Heels are better for it.
    • Tyler Zeller has disappeared. After dominating — and there really is no other word for it — opponents in prior games, against UNLV and Wisconsin Zeller sometimes seemed out of it. He only took five field goals in the Wisconsin game and six in the UNLV game, and that needs to change. Some of it against Wisconsin was his teammates having a hard time feeding him due to the Badgers D, but for a smooth 7-footer with a nice hook shot to only take 5 shots is criminal. Marshall mentioned that in the second half Barnes “gots that look on his face” and began demanding the ball. Zeller needs to demand the ball more as well. He’s a great scorer, and he should show it.
    • P.J. Hairston injured his wrist and won’t be able to play against Kentucky. This is a blow. Hairston was starting to come on and his shooting will be missed on Saturday.
    • Roy took his jacket off. We haven’t seen this in a while. Between his BB gun comment earlier this week and now the jacket shedding, it’s clear Roy is fired up this season.

    Superlatives

    Player of the Game: Dexter Strickland (9 pts, 2 rebs) He didn’t put up much of a stat line, but his defensive effort on Taylor made all the difference in the dogfight. Without Strickland, UNC loses last night.

    Stat Stuffer: John Henson (8 pts, 17 rebs, 5 blks, 2 asts, 1 stl) The Big Smile regains his thrown. He also notched his first steal of the season, nice.

    Sweet Dime: Marshall’s lob to Zeller. Yeah, he threw a couple of these away, but he connected on a 90-foot, one-armed quarterback bomb in the first half. I taped the game so hopefully I’ll get a video of this up sometime.

     
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