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!
- 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.