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Caulton Tudor

Early reality checks hit UNC, ACC

Posted November 20, 2013

Since almost all college basketball teams constantly evolve as the season goes along, there’s only so much that can be read into the eventful first few days of this ACC season.

Nonetheless, we’ve already seen enough to realize that some of those bold preseason predictions for unprecedented league success aren’t likely to be on target.

Here’s why:

  • Belmont 83, UNC 80
  • Indiana State 83, Notre Dame 70
  • Toledo 95, Boston College 92
  • Oregon State 90, Maryland 83
  • Syracuse 56, St. Francis (NY) 50
  • VCU 59, Virginia 56

Taking into account that Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia all began as top-25 teams with expectations for deep NCAA runs and Boston College (1-3) was seen as a lock to improve last season’s 16-17 record, November thus far has been a stinging reality check.

None of the losses spell doom, but the outcomes do amount to clear indications that the conference’s overall clout hardly is overwhelming.

Even prohibitive league favorite Duke, which lost to powerful Kansas and struggled through Tuesday’s 83-74 win over ECU in Durham, has displayed some early defensive issues.

Paige’s displacement hurting heels

Carolina’s ceiling will rise dramatically with the return of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald.

But since no one is saying when (or even if) that day will arrive, upcoming games against Richmond on Saturday and Alabama-Birmingham (Dec. 1) could be troublesome. Later there are games against Michigan State (Dec. 4), Kentucky (Dec. 14) and Texas (Dec. 18). 

While Hairston’s absence has been the focal point of conversation and conjecture, McDonald’s presence has done almost as much to disrupt the court chemistry. In fact, it’s led to a bona fide calamity.

Without McDonald on the wing, playmaker Marcus Paige has been forced into that role while freshman Nate Britt, who obviously isn’t ready yet, and Luke Davis have assumed Paige’s duties at the point.

Having to use your experienced point-guard at another position is never a good thing and apt to create long-range turmoil.

But without McDonald’s experience and shooting ability, Roy Williams has no choice except to put his best players on the court in patchwork patterns. After all, it’s not as though home-court losses in November are going to be dismissed in February and March.

McDonald’s absence also has resulted in more playing time for sophomore J.P. Tokoto, whose 12 missed free throws against Belmont startled many Tar Heels fans. But again, Williams no doubt understood the risk of having Tokoto on the court in close games. In 35 games last season, he made only 10 of 26 (38.5 percent), but there just are not viable options without McDonald and Hairston.

With Hairston and McDonald, the Heels should be a top-10 team. But without at least one of them in the lineup, any game against an above-average opponent is going to be an adventure.

27 Comments

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  • Chapel Hail Dec 3, 9:13 a.m.

    ... ... ...

    To borrow from an old Caulton Tudor N&O sports headline from back in the day, http://www.wralsportsfan.com/unc/forum_topic/13175695/?d_comments_page=1

  • jabparker4 Nov 21, 10:06 a.m.

    Roy in some ways is lucky that he can use Mcdonald an Hairston as an excuse for this team. Sure if they come back it will help out your backcourt, but lets be honest, neither of the two are that intimidating or dominating. If?when they come back and they still struggle(which they will) the heat will be much hotter on Roy and the average bandwagon holer will see that this team is just not that talented. Lack of talent falls squarely on the shoulders of the coach.

  • tarprint1 Nov 21, 9:25 a.m.

    Wonder when more "LEAKS" will develop over at NC Cheat U ?

  • Gunnstigator Nov 21, 8:22 a.m.

    So when do we figure out if/when the goon squad is return to UNC? I really want to know. Who... View More

    — Posted by Maxxx

    The NCAA isn't allowing them to play while their investigation is on-going for impermissible... View More

    — Posted by Tizu

    I really wonder what's going on with McDonald. Based on the only allegations I've read, he... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    I was wondering the same thing, Ken. McDonald was featured in an ad for a mouthpiece by some local dentist. Did he receive big bucks for doing that ad? I think Hairston is gone, and to be honest, that's probably the right thing.

    I hate that Paige, who has worked so hard to hone his skills at the point, is forced to play out of position. That doesn't bode well for the Heels if this is what Roy is forced to do.

  • dsalter Nov 20, 10:21 p.m.

    Opps. I posted the above on the wrong thread. But....congrats anyway Coach Smith. I'm sure Roy's seat is a bit hotter than yours was.

  • dsalter Nov 20, 10:15 p.m.

    Congratulations Coach Smith. A well deserved honor.

  • shadygradyTHEEL Nov 20, 5:51 p.m.

    Johnson is averaging less than 20 minutes per game for the first 3 games (22 against Belmont) and with his athleticism he would have dominated against Belmont.

  • shadygradyTHEEL Nov 20, 5:36 p.m.

    Like last year, why doesn't Roy start his 5 best players. Johnson is better than Meeks, Tokoto or James. He's quick enough to play small forward, big enough to play power forward in college ball anyway, he blocks shots from anywhere, and has an offensive game and can make a foul shot. He also plays with his emotions on his sleeve so to say, which gets the crowd and the other players excited and motivated. He needs the major minutes that the other bigs are getting (period).

  • DEVILS1 Nov 20, 5:19 p.m.

    LET'S GO DEVILS!

  • BlueDeviIs00 Nov 20, 4:05 p.m.

    The only real upset there is the Notre Dame loss (stunning) and the Heels loss (UNC is a fringe NIT team without PJ and McD).

    I could've told you UNC was overrated a month ago. I didn't need to see them lose to Belmont to figure it out.

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