Our long national nightmare is over and college…
Our long, national nightmare is over, and college basketball has returned. This past weekend brought us the first two glimpses of the new-look Heels, and NOW WE CAN TALK ABOUT THEM!
UNC 76, NC Central 60
UNC 103, Robert Morris 59
After months of speculation, and the enduring academic saga, it’s nice to finally have some games to digest. We heard all summer how the Heels were going to be back to playing a traditional Roy Williams scheme: the offense running at a fast pace with two, true bigs as the first scoring option. Would this alleviate last year’s scoring woes? Is someone ready to step up as another perimeter threat to unburden Marcus Paige? Is Paige going to be the national player of the year?
- Kennedy Meeks is not playing more minutes. A big storyline this offseason was how Meeks’ dramatic weight loss would allow him to play more minutes and contribute heavily. Well, after averaging 16 mpg last season, Meeks has played 17 minutes in each game so far this year. Granted these were overmatched opponents, and he wasn’t needed for significant time(even Marcus Paige only played 23 minutes against Robert Morris), but is this a sign that he’s still out of shape or just a product of the games?
- Scoring is more balanced, but still dismal from deep. The scoring load so far has been taken off of Paige’s shoulders, but it’s largely due to more emphasis on the low post and not because of another perimeter threat. Paige is the only starter to have hit a three so far (Justin Jackson is 0-3 and neither Tokoto nor Pinson has hit one yet) and, as a team, Carolina shot 18 percent from deep against Central and 25 percent against Robert Morris. That being said, both Brice Johnson and Meeks put up more than 20 against Robert Morris, and Meeks added 12 boards to Johnson’s 8. Meeks and Johnson (as well as Tokoto) led the team in scoring against Central as well. This is all great until the Heels run into a team with more difficult (read: bigger) defenders on the block. Someone needs to emerge as an outside threat for this offense to really hum.
- The freshmen are good. Justin Jackson has started both games and chipped in 9 and 13 pts in those efforts. Pinson started the first game and has been chipping in rebounds, assists (9 so far!) and steals. Berry has been playing about the same amount of minutes as Nate Britt, and both are contributing similarly, with Berry leading the two in assists 4-1.
- Kentucky, kenshmucky. Much as been made of Kentucky’s platoon system this offseason. UNC is right up there with them as far as depth. Ten players are averaging more than 12 mpg. This harkens back to those mid-2000s teams that would run until the other team was ready to puke and pull away in the second half. As long as they’re productive minutes, this is a great sign.
- Marcus Paige hasn’t been asked to do much. Will this hurt his national POY campaign? Regardless, it’s helping the team. Paige’s numbers might dip a bit from last year, but as long as the team is doing well, he’s still its best player. He’s done nothing wrong this year, it’s just his surrounding pieces are all much improved. Just wait until the Heels are in a close game for the sparks to fly.
- Joel James is easily the crowd favorite. This needs no explanation and cannot be denied.