I'm trying to remember a first-round NCAA tournament game when UNC was truly dominant. 2009 was the closest, when UNC without Ty Lawson still handily ran over Radford. But the other times? As I documented in that link, Carolina has never truly enjoyed beating up on tournament teams. And this team in particular, playing without John Henson and saddled with their own tendency to play down to the level of their opponent, wasn't going to end this game by the second TV timeout.
So with all those caveats, how did Carolina actually do? Decently. Vermont came out in a zone defense, and judging by its early success, I'd expect to see a lot of it going forward. James Michael McAdoo, in his third start, missed his first four shots, some of them easy layups. The team as a whole made only six of their first 22 shots, as they had trouble finding Tyler Zeller, trouble finding a rhythm, and just... trouble. But eventually the Heels settled down, finishing the half on an 18-8 run. And if the second half was equally slow – Carolina managed only four points in the first 5:30 of the second half – eventually the pieces fell together.
Tyler Zeller had his usual excellent game. He missed a few more shots, but still got 17 points and 15 rebounds. McAdoo also blossomed in the second half, finishing with a career-high 17 points and six boards. Kendall Marshall dropped another ten assists, to go with 11 points, as his scoring has really come alive in the last month. And P.J. Hairston got some good tournament experience, although was a depressing 1 of 6 from three on his way to 7 points.
Harrison Barnes was curiously absent for large stretches of the game. I find he does that when paired off against his opponent's best player on defense. Today that was Brian Voelkel, who Barnes held scoreless and limited to six rebounds. Barnes himself eventually got 14 points, but it was a long slog, and he hit only 5 of 12 shots. I'm still looking for a complete dominating game from him. The Catamounts leading scorer, Four McGlynn, matched his name in points from the field; add in two free throws and Reggie Bullock held him to six points.
Overal, this ended up being a decent, if not spectacular performance from the Heels. They miss Henson, and hopefully he'll be back for the Creighton game. But McAdoo eventually settled down and had a good game, and Marshall and Zeller dialed it in. Plus, there was the chance to try some new lineups, like the four-freshmen-and-Bullock combo I hope to not see too often the rest of March. Creighton will be a tougher challenge, but this team can grow into its tournament role.
After all, it's not like they lost to Lehigh or something.