Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 77, #16 Vermont 58

Posted by mpoindexter on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways

  1. The Tar Heels Need Henson. While James Michael McAdoo has shown flashes of inspired play, North Carolina is a significantly better team with John Henson on the floor. McAdoo and fellow freshman Desmond Hubert are much less physically imposing when defending opposing big men. What’s more, UNC’s usually stunning rebounding takes a hit without Henson. They can get by a 16-seed without him, but Roy Williams needs John Henson on Sunday.
  2. Slow Start for UNC. Harrison Barnes wasn’t shooting well. McAdoo was missing point-blank layups. Kendall Marshall made a couple of sloppy passes. It looked like UNC came out trying to get by the Vermont Catamounts with minimal effort, and the score for the first ten minutes–small 2 to 3 point leads–reflected that effort. Tepid starts have been somewhat of a problem for this UNC team, but it’s an especially dangerous way to play in March. If an opponent comes out firing, UNC could find themselves playing catch-up in a sudden death tournament.
  3. No Shame for the Catamounts. Despite the score, Vermont actually looked better than an outsized #16 should look against North Carolina. They played smart, sound basketball, and only unraveled due to North Carolina’s superior size and talent. The game wasn’t close, but it was a promising sign for a young team that should have expectations of dancing again in 2013.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. When his teammates started sluggishly, Tyler Zeller put the Tar Heels on his back, leading all players with 13 points and nine rebounds in the first half. In the second half, when Vermont trying to cut the deficit to single digits, Zeller made two outstanding blocks near the rim, bringing new energy to a quiet North Carolina crowd.

Sights and Sounds. James Michael McAdoo shot 1-for-6 in the first half, looking lost at times. That’s why the standing ovation sounded so sweet for his second half performance: 5-of-8 from the floor, getting him to a new career high of 17 points. As he came back to the UNC bench with a little more than three minutes left in the game, each UNC teammate wore broad smiles, congratulating him on a game well played.

What’s Next? The Heels meet Creighton on Sunday, which means a matchup between former high school teammates Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes. The big question is: does John Henson play? Today was the first time in the past week Henson wasn’t wearing a wrist brace on the bench. If Roy Williams has him in the rotation against the Jays, the Heels should be safe. If not, anything could happen given Creighton’s talented front line.

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