Brice Johnson Not Making the Most of His Starting Role

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 28th, 2013

Last week’s big news with respect to North Carolina was the announcement that the school would not seek reinstatement for P.J. Hairston this year. Perhaps flying under the radar in terms of other personnel news was that starting center Joel James would be out for 10 to 14 days after an MCL sprain suffered against Texas. This opened the door for Brice Johnson, who was named the interim starter, to firmly grab hold of the center position. His results in the two games since James’ injury show why head coach Roy Williams has been hesitant to give the sophomore heavy minutes, and also why this team may miss an overlooked member of the starting lineup in James.

Brice Johnson has provided the highlights, but... (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

Brice Johnson’ has provided some highlights, but is squandering his chance at grabbing the starting center spot (credit: AP)

Johnson’s first audition in the starting role came against Davidson last Saturday, a game in which the Tar Heels struggled mightily before Marcus Paige rescued them in overtime. Johnson’s stat line was brutal, with only two points on 1-of-3 shooting, a pair of turnovers and an eventual disqualification due to fouls. This Davidson team was scrappy and shot extremely well from outside, but the Wildcats also utilized a shocking ability to get into the paint and either score or dish with little regard for UNC’s big men.

That trend continued on Friday night, when the Tar Heels were outscored in the paint by a Northern Kentucky team whose tallest player is 6’6”. A performance like that boils down to effort and proper defensive positioning, and this is an area with which Johnson continues to struggle. A lean player already, he enjoys most of his success on the defensive end with blocks coming from the weak side. When players actively back him into the basket, he struggles with reaching and committing fouls. While he was able to go 4-of-8 from the field, he was 0-of-2 in the second half and only grabbed four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. James and Kennedy Meeks surely would have contributed better rebounding tallies in similar stints on the floor (in fact, Meeks registered six boards against NKU in only 13 minutes on the floor).

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PJ Hairston Done In Chapel Hill

Posted by mpatton on December 20th, 2013

North Carolina‘s athletic department released a statement today asserting that it will not apply for PJ Hairston‘s reinstatement. Per athletic director Bubba Cunningham: “Unfortunately PJ made a number of mistakes that placed his eligibility at risk and the University’s joint review with the NCAA made it clear that seeking reinstatement for PJ would not be possible.” The news is obviously a blow to this North Carolina team’s ceiling, as Hairston filled a major hole in their rotation. The Tar Heels have three of the best wins in the country without Hairston, but possibly the only bright spot is that closure should allow the team to game plan with certainty going forward.

Without PJ Hairston, there's even more pressure on Marcus Paige the rest of the year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Without PJ Hairston, there’s even more pressure on Marcus Paige the rest of the year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

While Hairston’s case is complex, the decision is simple: North Carolina, with advice from the NCAA, chose not to seek reinstatement because the case wasn’t winnable. Who knows which evidence was the proverbial straw here, but only looking at the limited information available to the public, it was clear Hairston’s case was much more complicated than Leslie McDonald‘s. Little more needs to be said. It’s unclear where Hairston will go from here, but there will be a spot for him in the NBA eventually. This ordeal will probably affect his draft stock, but as Williams pointed out more than once, he’s handled the aftermath incredibly well.

In his press conference following the release (watch the presser), Roy Williams seemed to feel some responsibility in the case. A man who always wears his emotions on his sleeve, a beat-up looking Williams called the effective dismissal “the most difficult and saddest thing I’ve ever gone through as a coach.” He noted that Hairston’s departure would also affect the team saying, “My team is resilient, but they’re going to hurt from this.” All indications point to Hairston as one of the most liked members of the team, both by the team and the fans. There’s no denying his abilities, but there’s also something about his game — utterly without fear of taking any shot at any time — that drew people to him. Hairston and his quick trigger made watching North Carolina games more fun. But that’s an article for another time. Now the question is where the Tar Heels go from here knowing that he isn’t coming back.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode V

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 11th, 2013

Baylor’s win over Kentucky late Friday night in Arlington was encouraging in many ways. The Bears picked up another quality win against what has been a fairly strong schedule (minus the two non-Division I opponents). Baylor scored 1.12 points per possession against a good Kentucky defense by utilizing classic pick-and-roll action all game long, much to the dismay of John Calipari. The Wildcats never got comfortable defending Baylor’s sets and went down in defeat as a result. Kentucky’s rotations and closeouts came very late and it seemed it was bothered by a team of comparable length. Perhaps the most important thing in this game was Baylor’s offensive rebounding. Overall, that was what won the game for Scott Drew’s team. I was particularly impressed with Isaiah Austin. Given the strength of the competition, the sophomore big man played his best game of the season. Austin put up an efficient 13 points, six rebounds and five blocks against the strong Wildcats’ frontcourt. Kentucky made some nice adjustments on him in the second half but overall it was great to see some aggressiveness from a player who can be really good if he remains assertive.

Isaiah Austin took a step forward in his development against Kentucky on Friday.

Isaiah Austin took a step forward in his development against Kentucky on Friday.

One team that is flying way under the radar has to be Missouri. This past week served as a reminder that the Tigers, holders of the nation’s longest home court winning streak (24 straight wins at Mizzou Arena), are still a team to be reckoned with. Mizzou dispatched West Virginia and UCLA in Columbia and looked impressive in doing so. In addition to the overall home court winning streak, Frank Haith’s team has now won 79 consecutive non-conference games at home. While I’d like to see this team go on the road and beat a quality opponent before I fully buy in, there are some encouraging signs that Mizzou may not be a fluke. The Tigers shoot the ball well overall and excel inside the arc where they’re shooting nearly 57 percent. Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson has taken his game to the next level but his play is bolstered by the balanced scoring of Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross. This three-headed monster accounts for two-thirds of Missouri’s scoring and they’re incredibly hard to match up with given their height. All three players are listed at 6’5” so most teams can’t guard the trio effectively at the same time. So far, Haith has done a nice job incorporating the newcomers with some returning players. We’ll see if it holds together but make sure you keep an eye on the Tigers. Two interesting tests await with the annual Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois and a road trip to NC State.

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UNC Answers Critics With Statement Win Versus Louisville Sunday

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 25th, 2013

Coming into the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic over the weekend, North Carolina had generated plenty of concern from a fervent fan base after a less-than-stellar start to the season. Uneven performances against Oakland and Holy Cross were worrisome enough, but then the Tar Heels dropped a home game to Belmont that caused a plummet in the rankings and had pundits predicting a very long year for the storied program. While many blamed the ongoing suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald for a startling lack of offensive continuity and inability to put lesser competition away, there were other major questions for the team as it headed into the tournament. Could the team continue to rely so heavily on Marcus Paige, a point guard by nature, as its primary scoring threat playing off the ball? Would the freshmen and sophomores begin to show the promise and consistency expected of them? Had Roy Williams suddenly been exposed as a mediocre in-game coach, unwilling to make adjustments when his system doesn’t run smoothly?

Brice Johnson's emergence has provided more offensive punch for UNC (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

Brice Johnson’s emergence has provided more offensive punch for UNC (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

All three questions were answered over the course of the weekend, none more dramatically than when the Tar Heels shocked the world by upsetting defending national champion Louisville in the tournament title game on Sunday. Paige continued his torrid scoring stretch over the weekend, netting a career-high 26 points against Richmond on Saturday in the semifinals and then topping that mark with 32 against the Cardinals. While the converted shooting guard remains the team’s lone outside threat, his noticeable improvement from long range has proven to be a godsend during the absence of the team’s primary perimeter shooters. While holdover James Michael McAdoo has proven inconsistent in this young season, Paige has been Carolina’s go-to guy in all the critical moments and right now he’s producing with that burden on his shoulders.

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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 7th, 2013

Fans of the storied North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program always anxiously await the arrival of the coming season. This year, however, after a string of off-the-court incidents, fans and the team itself probably have more reason to cheer the first minute of game action than in recent seasons. Guard P.J. Hairston’s legal woes stemming from an infamous traffic stop in Durham and speeding tickets thereafter, coupled with wing guard Leslie McDonald’s strange licensed mouthpiece storyline and forward J.P. Tokoto’s unauthorized summer league participation, left UNC fans reading about their beloved college basketball season all summer and into the fall for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, the season is right around the corner, and not a moment too soon.

North Carolina Preview 2013

Last year’s Tar Heels found themselves in a position head coach Roy Williams rarely finds himself having to acclimate to: an unsettling lineup situation. The team played uneven basketball over the first half of the year, struggling most glaringly with ineffective post play. James Michael McAdoo had returned for a sophomore season hoping to become a star and catapult into the NBA Draft’s upper tier; instead, massive expectations and having to guide a young group of frontcourt players overwhelmed him and left him playing out of position. The team’s switch to a four-guard lineup in February helped accentuate the strength of the team on the perimeter, and helped spark the Heels to wins in their final six ACC games and a run to the championship game of the ACC Tournament. But upon entering the NCAA Tournament, the team ran into a team with too much size in Kansas in the second round and realized their small lineup’s limitations in defeat.

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ACC M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: I’m no expert, but it certainly sounds like Jamie Dixon spends some time on KenPom.com. That may also explain his ability to crack the offensive efficiency code. The one constant among Dixon’s teams at Pittsburgh the last 10 seasons is that of good offensive rebounding. The Panthers always crash the glass hard, which makes up for less-than-stellar three-point shooting and an occasionally porous defense. Interestingly, Dixon’s teams have generally scored over 70 points per game. Three of the last four haven’t, but there are plenty of examples of high scoring Panther teams in the last decade of basketball.
  2. The State: Clemson isn’t an easy job to begin with — just ask Rick Barnes — and ACC expansion didn’t make it any easier. Clemson has a storied football program, and basketball has always taken a backseat to the gridiron. Luckily for Brad Brownell, the Clemson athletic department appears to be moving forward with its plans to renovate Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately, that infrastructure commitment doesn’t add experience or talent to his young roster. Brownell is a very good Xs-and-Os coach, and I think he’s gotten the most out of his teams during his tenure, but if he doesn’t start attracting more talent, his seat on a renovated sideline bench will start getting warm.
  3. Washington Post: I’m betting James Johnson knows Brownell’s pain. Thanks to a late personnel decision by the Virginia Tech athletic department, Johnson started well behind his ACC coaching brethren. Johnson lifts weights, runs and plays (concussion-inducing) games of racquetball to keep himself focused. Virginia Tech is going to be bad again this season, and to make matters worse, Johnson will have to watch budding star and former commitment Montrezl Harrell at Louisville and former player Dorian Finney-Smith at Florida. When all is said and done, both of those guys will play in the NCAA Tournament while Virginia Tech and Johnson will not. But rebuilding takes time.
  4. Fox Sports: North Carolina’s NCAA issues forced the Tar Heels to play some bizarre lineups in its exhibition against UNC-Pembroke last week. However, my guess is that Roy Williams isn’t too upset, as it’s still very clear that he’s trying to figure out who to put at the five spot. With frosh Kennedy Meeks joining sophomores Joel James and Brice Johnson, it’s not a matter of a lack of height or manpower. Those three all have a long way to go. They aren’t the polished Sean Mays, Tyler Hansbroughs or even Tyler Zellers of old North Carolina teams. Williams needs at least one of the group to step up to avoid having to play “small ball” again this season with James Michael McAdoo playing away from his natural position.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Here is one player per team who probably isn’t a household name but hold’s the key to his team’s success. The two I’ll plug the hardest here are Devon Bookert – the sophomore point guard from Florida State — and Mike Tobey – Virginia’s skilled sophomore big man. Bookert had a sneaky good freshman campaign last year that got lost in his team’s mediocre finish and Michael Snaer’s heroics. Tobey also flew under the radar thanks to Akil Mitchell’s breakout season and Joe Harris transforming into one of the best players in the league. Here’s the difference: Bookert gives Florida State the chance to be OK; Tobey gives the Cavaliers the chance to be great.
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ACC M5: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 17th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: This article isn’t new, but it’s relevant with Midnight Madnesses kicking off the college basketball season in earnest this week. Donna Ditota took the time to compile the start dates, Midnight Madness dates and exhibition games for all 15 ACC schools. This year eight teams will be participating in the late night festivities (including Pittsburgh, which has a “Morning Madness”). Notably, ESPNU will cover Duke and Syracuse specifically (along with seven other schools) this Friday night.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Duke dominated the media’s preseason ACC poll, receiving 50 of 54 first place votes. This is a bit surprising, as Duke has a significantly more challenging conference schedule than Syracuse – another top-10 team. Roy Williams reminded everyone of the absurdity of the preseason rankings: “‘I can only guarantee one thing,’ Roy says, holding up [the] preseason media ballot. ‘That crap ain’t happening.'”
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Dan Collins writes longingly for the days when the best players stayed in school longer. Up until 1990 the only ACC player of the year to depart for the NBA was Michael Jordan (who left as a junior). That’s an unreal statistic in today’s age, where so few elite players even make it to their junior season. But Collins ignores the incentives that players now have to go pro, as NBA salaries boomed in the 1990s. The average player salary was $330,000 in 1984-85, Jordan’s first year in the league. Now it’s $5,200,000. Even after inflation, that’s a huge difference.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon thinks that his team might be able to use its imminent departure from the ACC as motivation for a great season. I think this sentiment is a little trumped up. Maryland‘s upcoming journey to the Big Ten almost certainly played a role in the Terrapins avoiding Duke or North Carolina at home this season. That said, I’m not sure players will feel the same fire that the fans do. Now does that mean I think Maryland will sit back and take a beating in their last match-up with Duke? Definitely not.
  5. State of the U: Jerry Steinberg is a little generous with his rankings, but does a good job assessing the big men around the ACC. I think the two most interesting teams to watch in the post will be Florida State with its army of seven-footers, and North Carolina. I want to go on record that Boris Bojanovsky will become a very good offensive player by the end of his career. Maybe not this year, but he has a lot of upside for Leonard Hamilton. The Tar Heels have a ton of talent down low, but everyone seemed at least a year away last season. Between James Michael McAdoo, Joel James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, Roy Williams has plenty of frontcourt talent at his disposal.
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ACC M5: 12.28.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 28th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm thinks that UNC, now unranked and at 9-3 with no victories against notable opponents, needs to tighten its rotation with time lacking for further “experimentation.” He advocates solutions that enhance the offense, including giving freshman Brice Johnson the lion’s share of the minutes at center. He also insists that UNC must play PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald more to maximize UNC’s perimeter effectiveness. All of these moves have offense in mind, although the defense, which gave up 85 points to a struggling Texas team and 61 in the second half to East Carolina, has not always been a strong suit. Regardless, UNC needs to get things figured out as conference play is around the corner. One area that UNC could definitely improve in is getting to the free throw line — this season, the Tar Heels rank 335th in FTA/FGA, with Brice Johnson interestingly enough among the worst at getting to the free throw line.
  2. Virginia has been one of the most enigmatic teams in the ACC this season — the Cavaliers soundly defeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but are also 0-3 against the CAA, its only three losses of the season. Its latest loss, to previously 1-10 Old Dominion, has raised many of the lingering questions that Virginia has had all season. Tony Bennett’s normally stout defense was poor against ODU, surrendering 63 points, one shy of its maximum all season, in a game with few possessions. The absence and/or limited effectiveness of Jontel Evans has really plagued the Cavaliers, and their undersized front line came back to haunt them against the Monarchs, as UVA posted one of its worst rebounding efforts of the season. Virginia must avoid losses like these if it wants to be considered a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.
  3. Miami’s Reggie Johnson is an essential cog for the Hurricanes. Without Johnson in the lineup, Miami dropped two games in this week’s Diamond Head Classic. While he has not been particularly efficient this season — shooting only around 43% from the floor, a stark decline from previous seasons — he is the best on the team at getting to the free throw line, and is a good foul shooter for a big man (just over 70%). The effects of Johnson’s absence were most notably seen at the other positions where teams could focus more of their defensive attention as Miami lacked its skilled big man. Kenny Kadji bore the brunt of this attention, as he was just 5-of-16 in the Indiana State game. Miami needs Johnson to get back to action, not only because he is likely to improve to a performance in line with seasons past, but also because his presence opens up opportunities for Miami’s potentially lethal perimeter attack.
  4. With Dez Wells and Alex Len getting a majority of the ink for 10-1 Maryland, an under-appreciated part of the Terrapins’ attack has been junior point guard PeShon Howard. Howard has quite a bipolar season stat line — he is 38th in the country in assist rate , but his turnover rate is nearly as high and is the worst on the team. Howard has also been an anemic shooter this season (just 8-of-31 overall), but adding to his strange profile, he is an incredibly good free thrower, albeit in a low sample size as well (15-of-17). Howard, in order to improve his overall profile, must keep teams a bit more honest when calling his own number, but Mark Turgeon has generally been pleased with his improved shot selection, as he has been known as a bit of a chucker in previous seasons. Regardless of his odd statistical profile, Howard will play a very important role in Maryland’s overall success this season, and he was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, which honors the top point guard in the country..
  5. State of the U: This article presents a detailed if slightly off-color look at some interesting statistics in the ACC this season. Some highlights include: Mason Plumlee is second in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding, averaging over a double-double per game. NC State has three of the top four players in the conference in offensive efficiency. North Carolina, while ranked third in the country in scoring, has largely done it against poor competition — their upcoming game with UNLV will likely be the most accurate litmus test for the Tar Heels this season. Boston College’s woes can be at least partially explained by the fact that their second and third leading scorers are both shooting under 40% from the floor. There’s more than this in the article – make sure to check it out.
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ACC M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 13th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Tomahawk Nation: Michael Rogner kills this article on Florida State’s Okaro White. He delves into the advanced stats (namely true shooting percentage) and draws his conclusions based on watching the games. This is the way all stats should be used. Regardless, White is one of Florida State’s best scorers; he just needs to shoot more. Right now, he’s shooting nearly 50% from three over the last year, he’s effective on the block, and he’s great in the high post. He absolutely needs to take charge of this offense. Assuming his efficiency scales up well, White may be the key to the most efficient offense Leonard Hamilton has had in Tallahassee (an honor currently held by the 2006-07 team starring Al Thornton and Toney Douglas). Read this.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: North Carolina has started three players at the five this season. None average 20 minutes a game, but freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James seem to so far be getting the edge over Desmond Hubert. Johnson is an offensive star, but his slight frame could be a fatal flaw come conference play. James has the body of an elite five, but he has a lot of work to become more than a rebounder and physical presence. Long story short, look for Hubert’s minutes to continue their downward trajectory and for Johnson and James to keep sharing most available minutes for Roy Williams’ squad.
  3. Baltimore Sun: In the news surprising no one category, I present this article: “Maryland sharing the ball better this season.” Seriously though, the Terrapins are averaging eight more assists a game this year, taking them from the worst team in the ACC to one of the best teams in the country in terms of distributing the basketball. The obvious differences between this year and last year are the loss of Terrell Stoglin (a literal black hole) and the improvement of Alex Len. Add a healthy Pe’Shon Howard and new freshman Seth Allen… and there’s your improvement.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia looks good. They’re surprisingly strong on offense and the freshmen have adapted to Tony Bennett’s defensive schemes well. Unfortunately, Jontel Evans re-injured his foot in the game against Tennessee last Wednesday. Unlike last year when the Cavaliers lost two players in December to transfer, Bennett should have a deeper roster when Evans returns for conference play. Evans’ injury may be a blessing in disguise, as the team has had to learn to score without its point guard on the floor.
  5. SBNation: Jabari Parker, the consensus second-best player in the class of 2013, will announce his college decision next Thursday. According to recruitniks and his dad, Duke and Michigan State remain the clear frontrunners. Parker is a 6’8″ and athletic scoring machine. If he does choose Duke, the Blue Devils may be the team to beat next season. Tentatively, they’d start Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Parker and Marshall Plumlee with Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson coming off the bench. That’s a really long, athletic team with four great scoring options.
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Who’s Got Next? Top Centers to ACC, Isaac Hamilton Picks UTEP, Syracuse Adds Tyler Roberson…

Posted by CLykins on November 20th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Kennedy Meeks Chooses UNC Over Georgetown

Two schools consistently stood out above the rest for West Charlotte High (North Carolina) center Kennedy Meeks. Appropriately, both schools have had a long and successful history in landing and producing top big men. With his recruitment winding down, Georgetown and North Carolina were in a neck-and-neck battle that left most national recruiting pundits undecided. On Friday, Meeks made it official as he will remain in his home state and play for the Tar Heels and head coach Roy Williams.

Charlotte native Kennedy Meeks picked UNC over Georgetown

“I talk to Roy Williams almost every other day. He understands the recruiting process and gives me good advice about college and about being a great player,” Meeks said of his decision. “Coach Williams said he liked my tenacity, my desire to play the game, my rebounding and outless passing.” Ranked as the No. 20 overall prospect and No. 2 center in the class of 2013, the 6’9″, 275-lb. big man is expected to contribute right away during his freshman season. Due to his size, Meeks is a true center that impacts the game significantly down low. With an extremely wide frame, he has a soft touch around the rim and is able to rebound at an extremely high rate by carving out space. One of his better traits is his passing. Whether it’s his superior outlet passing skills or if it’s out of the low-post, he exhibits excellent vision for a big man. There is no question regarding his talent and skill, but his conditioning has been a constant issue in the past. With North Carolina’s up-tempo style of play, it is extremely necessary for him to arrive at Chapel Hill in the best playing shape of his young life. Read the rest of this entry »

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North Carolina Still Figuring Out Its Center Position Before Heading West…

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2012

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after the UNC-Florida Atlantic game in Chapel Hill on Sunday.

North Carolina looks deep. In its 80-56 victory Sunday afternoon over the Florida Atlantic Owls, UNC showcased a scary depth and commitment to defense. Nine players played double-digit minutes, Florida Atlantic shot only 27.9% from the field, and the bench shined in what was an almost perfectly balanced effort by the starters and reserves. The bench contributed 39 out of 80 of North Carolina’s total points, with particularly good scoring games by Joel James, who scored 11 points, and Brice Johnson, who racked up 12 points in 12 minutes.

Joel James Appears to be the Strongest Candidate For UNC’s Center Position (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

This of course brings up the still unanswered question of who will be the long term starter at the center position. Desmond Hubert started the first half of this game, but once again James earned the second half start. In 14 minutes of action, Hubert contributed zero points, three rebounds, two blocks, and two turnovers. Compared to the double-figure scoring efforts by James and Johnson (as well as eight rebounds for James and four for Johnson), it would be very strange if Hubert continued to start. James actually played more minutes than Hubert in this effort, and Johnson’s soft touch around the basket looks very impressive. With Roy Williams‘ stated trepidation about the defensive implications of playing Johnson and John Michael McAdoo at the same time, James seems like he may be North Carolina’s newest starter before too long.

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UNC: James Michal McAdoo Is A Star But The Rest Is Uncertain

Posted by KCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from Friday night’s UNC game versus Gardner-Webb.

James Michael McAdoo was expected to take a starring role for his North Carolina team and in the first game of this season, a 76-59 victory over Gardner-Webb, he showed what he could do as a star. With a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds (eight of which were on the offensive glass), McAdoo is clearly on the path to fulfilling his first-team All-ACC expectations. The team as a whole however, is clearly one that is a work in progress.

McAdoo Was a Man Among Boys Tonight (AP/Ted Richardson)

Desmond Hubert earned the fifth Tar Heel starting spot in the post, but he struggled, tallying only four rebounds and failing to score while turning the ball over twice in 13 minutes. He was also memorably bowled over by Mike Byron just a few minutes after tip. Roy Williams made a change by starting Joel James in the second half, and, for his part, James played with a lot of energy but he struggled to stay on the court, accruing four fouls in only 14 minutes of play. The question of the frontcourt rotation is clearly an unsolved riddle for this team, with Williams freely experimenting and looking for a combination that was effective on both ends of the court. Brice Johnson looked polished on offense, but in limited minutes it’s hard to draw too many conclusions about him. Roy Williams said afterward that he isn’t sure who will fill this spot for the next game.

The backcourt rotation also presented a puzzle. Freshman point guard Marcus Paige started and managed to tally four turnovers and zero assists in his 28 minutes, not exactly an auspicious start for the team’s chief playmaker. On the perimeter, one of UNC’s supposed best shooting teams in recent memory managed to shoot 1-of-12 from the field while going 9-of-19 from the free throw line. Granted, a lot of the poor shooting from the stripe was due to McAdoo’s 6-of-11.

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