Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE
Three games down, three wins in the bag. While there have certainly been stretches of uneven play, overall it is hard to be displeased with where this team stands, and excited about where they could be going (this season and beyond).
What follows in are the Player Impact Ratings for each of the first three games. Formerly a component of the "Beyond the Box" feature (reappearing soon), this will now be a stand alone column highlighting the individual exploits of what is still a very unfamiliar team.
UNC 76 - Gardner Webb 59
College basketball, meet Mr. McAdoo. The player breakdown for this game is pretty simple: there was a lot of talk this off-season (and even some of last season) of how James Michael McAdoo had the "look" of the type of player who explodes onto the scene once given a chance, and the performance of McAdoo against Gardner Webb certainly did nothing to dispel that idea. Much will be made of the double-double, but McAdoo truly demonstrated brilliant all-around performance, as his P.I.R. of 56.3 is a score that was only topped only 6 times all of last season. Steals, blocks, assists, McAdoo did it all, and his teammates (and/or coach) obviously noticed this, as his usage (Pos%: 39.5) was off-the-charts.
It is still so early, but McAdoo really looks to be on the verge of the type of season that will put his name into the rafters. He has that very rare combination of silky smooth, yet explosive, athleticism that UNC hasn't really seen in a post player since Antawn Jamison. And while this may be his last season in Carolina Blue, it certainly has the potential to be memorable.
UNC 80 - FAU 56
UNC 78 - LBSU 63
Games 2 and 3 will be discussed together because they share a unique feature that may be even more exciting than McAdoo's performance was in game 1: balance. Against Florida Atlantic, UNC had 9 players produce a P.I.R. in double figures, a plateau reached only twice last season, and against Long Beach State, the team had 7 players with a 20+ P.I.R., which never happened last season. If last season taught us anything, it is that you can never predict injuries, and the more capable players you have at each position, the better off you will be when an injury occurs. The Heels still have no replacement for McAdoo, but they do appear to have multiple, capable players at every position. Perhaps the most (pleasantly) surprising demonstration of this potential depth has been the play of Brice Johnson. In three games, Johnson has posted ORtgs of 139.0, 131.7, and 171.6. While his minutes and touches have been limited, this type of efficiency is, in a word, "Zeller-esque." Johnson appears to have an offensive repertoire that is far more refined than than recruiting reports would have led one to assume, which when combined with his undeniable athleticism, creates a very intriguing prospect.
Looking at the boxscore for the three games, one other thing that stands out is the AST% column, as this team has shown early signs of being very unselfish. Carolina will never be able to replace the individual playmaking ability of Kendall Marshall, but if they can continue to have shots created from multiple players, then the loss can certainly be softened.
For a definition of statistics, see the glossary at StatSheet.com.