Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. He filed this report from Tuesday’s game in Atlanta between Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
While we are not looking at our daddy’s Miami Hurricanes this season, it was only 10 days ago that a 26-point UNC loss in Coral Gables seemed to indicate that we also weren’t seeing a very familiar UNC team this year. It was not the first time that these Heels found themselves on the wrong side of a lopsided scoreboard (far from it, really), and with a visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium lurking next, head coach Roy Williams decided that something needed to change. Williams inserted wing PJ Hairston into the starting lineup at the four, giving the starting five a smaller, more explosive look. Immediate results were good, as Hairston went for 23 points in a close loss in Durham before erupting for a career-high 29 in a weekend victory over Virginia. Tuesday night’s match-up with Georgia Tech featured little in the way of Hairston fireworks, but another UNC victory serves as more proof that Roy may be on to something with his new, smaller approach.
Hairston may be the player most dramatically affected by the revamped lineup – and his post defense did little to dismiss this notion – but James Michael McAdoo has also been forced to play slightly out of position at the five. There will be nights down the road where McAdoo will be more tested in his own paint, but on this evening he was a terror everywhere else on the defensive end, jumping into passing lanes and fueling a relentless UNC transition attack. The Tar Heels collected 14 steals (McAdoo leading the way with four) and forced a young Tech team into 19 turnovers, a total that ended up far too high for Brian Gregory’s team to have any chance of keeping close to Carolina.