Let's face it; these early opponents, Florida International and N.C. Central are not good teams. They both had 20 losses or more last year. The only way these games will be particularly noteworthy is if Carolina stumbles and flails. With a comfortable sixteen-point margin, that obviously didn't happen. So what can we learn from this year's debut?
First of all, UNC is tall. FIU played two players 6'5" or taller outside of garbage time. Carolina played only three people smaller than that. And yet the Heels were driving the tempo, as anyone would expect after watching a Roy Williams team, nabbing 10 steals and generating 20 turnovers, all in the course of 86 possessions. The basic philosophy hasn't changed.
Deon Thompson has though, putting together his best overall game with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 steals, while putting in a level of effort I don't remember seeing from him last year. For this team to succeed, he's going to have to take on more of leadership role on the court, and tonight was a good start. Larry Drew and Marcus Ginyard also had good games in the backcourt, and Ed Davis had an impressive four blocks.
And the bench? The five freshmen, along with Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts, who got the most playing time combined for 12 made shots, 9 rebounds, and 11 turnovers. It was sloppy, nervous play you'd expect from a bunch of young players put on the court to run at the speeds UNC prefers to play at. Their games will get better, in the meantime they get to leave the Smith Center with their first win.
And since the comparisons will be inevitable, let's briefly flashback to the opening game of the 2005-06 season. David Noel, Reyshawn Terry, and some goofy-looking kid named Tyler eked out an 83-80 win against basketball powerhouse Gardner-Webb. The style of play was similar, heavy on steals and their own turnovers. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...