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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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  • I am not who you think I am Nov 20, 12:35 p.m.

    not sure how VCU beating VA is a reality check they've been ranked above them all year.

  • Maxxx Nov 20, 1:09 p.m.

    So when do we figure out if/when the goon squad is return to UNC? I really want to know. Who can answer me? The NCAA? Roy? Are they still investigating? Did I miss something? All the cards are on the table... Someone needs to make up their mind.

  • ghhelms78 Nov 20, 1:09 p.m.

    This is nothing that most observers don't already realize. Teams always struggle the most with playing defense as a unit. It takes a great deal of time for players to adjust to the expectations of having to play defense. Anyone can throw the ball at the basket, but getting down, moving your feet, and gaining experience to anticipate the opponent's next move is something most did not have to do in High School. VCU is always ready to play. That was no surprise. UNC and DUKE have weaknesses which will be addressed by the coaches. Sometimes, a good beating helps to understand that defense is a must. Let them play and talk about it in February.

  • Tizu Nov 20, 1:20 p.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 benefits. If Roy had his way, they'd both be starting right now.

  • Honesty first Nov 20, 1:28 p.m.

    The NCAA approved Cam to play for Auburn within hours of his suspension. I guess the SEC does have pull in the NCAA since that is where Emmert came from.

    How about giving other schools the same attention and time to decision. Think Miami and the months/years they waited.

  • Ken D. Nov 20, 1:37 p.m.

    The NCAA approved Cam to play for Auburn within hours of his suspension. I guess the SEC does... View More

    — Posted by Honesty first

    Mark Emmert came to the NCAA from the University of Washington, which was also his alma mater. He had previous employment at LSU and UConn, among other schools.

    Why are we so quick to assume that everybody will be biased in favor of one school when they take on a new job that involves many schools? Is it because we, ourselves, would behave that way?

  • Maxxx Nov 20, 1:41 p.m.

    The NCAA approved Cam to play for Auburn within hours of his suspension. I guess the SEC does... View More

    — Posted by Honesty first

    Exactly. If they were going to be able to play this year, they would either be playing now, or we would know there is a 5-8 game suspension, etc...

    The fact that they have said nothing about when the suspension is up leads me to believe that they will sit the entire season. But we are talking about Carolina (the college team with the most bandwagon fans in the the nation) so I won't hold my breath.

  • Chapel Hail Nov 20, 1:42 p.m.

    ... ... ...

    uh, nice try Carlton, trying to equate the Heels' embarrassing loss to Belmont to some other minor ACC setbacks, get real, truly you cannot be serious.

  • Jewelry-EricLeak Nov 20, 1:47 p.m.

    The NCAA approved Cam to play for Auburn within hours of his suspension. I guess the SEC does... View More

    — Posted by Honesty first

    Exactly. If they were going to be able to play this year, they would either be playing now, or... View More

    — Posted by Maxxx

    The "bandwagon award" goes to Duke, by a mile. Speaking of Duke, when is Coach K gonna come clean about Myron Piggy, the police record of JJ Reddick and the jewelry bills of his players?

  • Ken D. Nov 20, 1:53 p.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 should be back on the court already. His alleged transgression, to the extent there was one, is pretty minor stuff. There has to be something else there.

    I think Hairston's probably toast, but McDonald's return would make a huge difference if it means getting Paige back at the point where he belongs.

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