Wrap-up: Texas Flood


unc texas mens basketball james michael mcadoo

UNC 67, Texas 85

Box Score

Benn: UNC is on its way to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Have we used this children’s book reference before? Yes. But we can’t think of another way to describe the last several days from a North Carolina basketball, and even the entire athletic department, standpoint.

The Texas  game is obviously the most fresh item on our mind. This was a huge game for both teams, but obviously we take more stock in what happens to the Tar Heels. It was a debacle to say the least. On top of that, while we’re already on NIT Watch 2013, that story about The Former Point Guard Who Shall Not Be Named ripped open yet-to-be-healed wounds that make us only dread potential second tier postseason tournaments even more.

Add on top of that that just miles down the road from Chapel Hill in Durham, Duke is off to another one of their Coach K-like seasons. They’ve regained the no. 1 ranking in the nation, are cruising (beating Cornell by 40, I know it’s Cornell, on a night UNC is run out of a gym by a backup freshman point guard) and may land the second best high school player in the nation in Jabari Parker when he announces today (we are writing this at 10:30 am, December 20, 2012). [Edit 4:22 pm – F.]

Oh yeah, and the Martin Report on Academic Anomalies just came out.

Oh yeah, and Gio Bernard declared for the NFL draft – we obviously saw this coming, know it’s the best decision career-wise for him and truly wish him the best.

It’s always a great day to be a Tar Heel, but the Mayans may just be right after all.

Sam: We delved into the Turnover Jesus saga earlier this week (seriously though, never heard that nickname until that story came out) and undoubtedly will moreso on the next podcast, so let’s focus on the Texas game, which was lining up to be a benchmark game for this season even before the debacle last night.

The similarities of 2009-’10 were already undeniable. The Heels began the season over-ranked, returned a sophomore stud (Ed Davis then, McAdoo now) and brought an influx of freshmen who, while talented, play like true freshmen. The Longhorn match-up was a really important game for Carolina, which doesn’t have a somewhat even semi-legit-ish win yet on the season. The Heels best victory at this point is probably Long Beach State. They knew it, too. From my perspective, there was certainly more urgency in the team than there has been all season, as evidenced by the 20 offensive boards the Heels corralled against a big Texas squad.

Problem was, the urgency didn’t quite transfer to the defensive end for a full 40 minutes. It mostly seemed to fluctuate between 110 percent effort and 0 percent, with nothing in between.

Benn: I’m usually a very patient person, but watching that defensive showing last night it’s fair to say I’ve lost all my patience with this squad. I understand they’re young and learning offensive and defensive assignments, but Texas was getting to the rack it seemed like on every single possession. Every one of the Tar Heels has played enough high level basketball to know that you shouldn’t let the other team do that. Even Joel James should know better.

In this blogger’s opinion, I was more upset with the 85 allowed to Texas than I was the 61 second half points allowed to East Carolina. We’ve seen that type of thing happen before where a team gets hot during one half, it happens, and I expected that to be the case last night as well.

Instead the Heels allowed a Texas team who has barely averaged over 60 on the season to score 46 in the first half and follow up with 39 in the second. On the other end, a UNC team which has been scoring more than 80 a game yet can also struggle to score consistently had one of their poor offensive games. And it wasn’t even because of great D by the Longhorns. Yes, their defense is solid, but I have never seen so many errant balls or ill advised passes in a long time.

I honestly think the 18 turnovers UNC was credited with is generously low.

Sam: I said intensity was up but, as you mentioned, efficiency wasn’t. How many times did they look like they were just hurling the ball at the rim? How many point-blank put backs did they miss? If there was anything positive at all about this game, it was how many times they got to the free-throw line, which kept them in the first half and then didn’t provide any advantage at all in the second.

We saw the small lineup again, and actually saw it quite a bit. Joel James, who started, Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert all saw single digit minutes while J.P. Tokoto almost doubled his season average with 19 minutes. The Heels were actually able to put together some spurts with four guards, including the slight momentum shift right before half, when Hairston, Bullock, Strickland, Tokoto and McAdoo were in the game. To start the second half, we saw Paige, Bullock, Tokoto, Strickland and McAdoo bring the Heels to a six-point deficit.  Is this the game that marks Roy shifting to playing more small ball?

Benn: This was the first game where I truly believed UNC may be better off with the small lineup. We talked about it on the pod that both of us like it when Strickland, Bullock and Hairston are on the floor together and after watching the uninspired play  – that’s harsh, un-impressive is a better word, they were trying – of Johnson, James and Hubert it feels like Roy is just forcing it having a second big across from McAdoo. Those three only even got a combined four shots up. And it’s not like they were altering shots of anything.

Cliche alert: I guess what I am trying to figure out is what do we take away from this?

Is it the small lineup? Is it we figured out who on this team plays well with each other? Maybe it’s a wakeup call?

I for one thought UNC had to do a lot to lose this game, and they did. Texas played probably their best basketball of the year, but knowing what we do about the UNC D I guess it doesn’t take much to do this.

More cliches: Where do we go from here?

Sam: Unfortunately we, as fans, don’t go anywhere. We’re along for the ride. Losses can sometimes be good things, such as the Georgia Tech drubbing the ‘10-’11 team took that instigated Kendall Marshall’s ascendance into the starting lineup. I’m just not convinced any of our losses so far have been good things. After getting thumped by IU, we let UAB hang around longer than they should have, and ECU score 87 IN Chapel Hill. I find it hard to believe this team has learned anything about how to win yet. Texas is not a good team. We can’t write this one off.

The usual notion in this situation would be to search for blame. Because we’re in a cliche mode this holiday season, take your pick:

  1. They aren’t’ buying in to Roy’s philosophy
  2. Roy’s lost them (Roy-supporter version of blaming Roy)
  3. Roy’s not a good coach and never has been. (Roy-hater version of blaming Roy)
  4. The “no locker room chemistry” rumor
  5. They’re young and shouldn’t have been ranked that high to begin with
  6. They’re the “s” word

Benn: Going from your list, I’m choosing no.5 and hoping no. 4 is not the case. There doesn’t seem to be any discernible lack of chemistry more than they are young and haven’t played together much. This is most evident in Paige. Where Kendall Marshall seemed to step right in and play great, he also didn’t have starter’s duties until halfway through a season making it much easier to transition.

I’ll agree that we can’t write the Texas loss off. That team is in more turmoil with the whole Myck Kabongo situation and is being run by a freshman point guard with less talent around him. The ECU win margin, while worrisome, didn’t bother me because if you remember UNC had a similar game last year in Chapel Hill against Appalachian State.

For once though I was glad to see Reggie Bullock really stand up and take charge. No he wasn’t inspiring or vocal from what I could tell from the TV screen, but even after the game Roy pretty much said Bullock was the only person who didn’t quit.

Sam: Reggie has been trending upward, which can only be good. I’ll side with you and hope with all my might that blame doesn’t belong with No. 4 above, otherwise we’re looking at the NIT again. I’m of the mind that any questions about Roy’s coaching ability are also ridiculous, but addressing that deserves its own post, maybe a pod discussion?

If we agree they need time to develop, unfortunately that means we’re in waiting mode. Even the ‘09-’10 team eventually began clicking, although it wasn’t until the “NIT run” to the finals of that tournament.  As weird as it is to say, in a down year, the ACC season can’t get here quickly enough.

Takeaways

  • Reggie Bullock continues to play better. This year it seems like the Heels trade off who decides to show up for each game. The past two games it’s been Bullock. If he can sustain his effort and McAdoo can round back into form, Carolina might actually get some, dare we say it, swagger?
  • Like we said above, there was a sizeable shift in PT for J.P. Tokoto and longer stretches of small ball in the Texas game. Is this the beginning of a new era?
  • Shooting woes killed us again. UNC shot 31 percent from the field and just 15 percent from three. Hairston devolved into his old form, going 1-7 from beyond the arc. The guards were more aggressive in getting to the hoop and did earn more trips to the line, but woeful FT shooting in the second half contributed to putting this winnable game out of reach (8-16 in 2nd half).
  • The Heels again prove they do have some fight in them after getting down early. After falling behind by as much as 19 in the first and trailing by 13 at the half, UNC was able to pull it to within 4 before losing control. Shades of the Butler game indeed.

Superlatives

Player of the Game: Reggie Bullock (18 pts, 13 rebs, 2 ast, 1 blk, 1 stl) – Bullock was excellent all over the court, turning the ball over zero times and grabbing six offensive boards. Only dig was that he took 17 shots, including many missed put-backs. Could have had a monster game.

Play of the Game: The Mac Attack was back. JMM used his uncanny ability to anticipate a kickout and took it full-court for the slam.