Basketball Preview: #24 UNC vs Richmond

Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament
#24 North Carolina vs Richmond, 12:00 PM, ESPN3.com

Roy Williams said in his press conference on Thursday that what interested him most about this game was seeing how his team responds to adversity. The way a team rebounds from a loss, especially one that included botched end game execution and 26 missed free throws, could be very telling. The free throws in particular will be a focal point since UNC shot so poorly at the line on Sunday versus Belmont. That raises some concern about how much the poor free throw shooting will be on the minds of certain players, especially J.P. Tokoto who airballed his first free throw on Sunday then proceeded to go 4-15 from the line the rest of the game. On the flip side, a few made free throws out of the gate could bury that game like the fluke everyone hopes it was.

As has been the case in the season to this point, UNC will be without the services of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald due to ongoing eligibility issues. That leaves the Tar Heels working with much the same lineup combinations which includes heavy doses of Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo at the three, Marcus Paige still at the the two and Nate Britt running the point with some help from Luke Davis. The center position is still very much in the air though Brice Johnson has been the most effective big man outside of McAdoo so far this season. Based on Roy Williams' history, a change to the starting lineup would be surprising.

At this stage, UNC's biggest issue is the lack of three point shooting. You could argue that Paige, McAdoo and Johnson are solid enough scoring threats to push the offense. Against Belmont McAdoo scored 27, Paige had 17 and Johnson chipped in 14 for 58 of the Tar Heels' 80 points. If those three can perform consistently, it would largely give the Tar Heels a solid offensive foundation. However, the lack of perimeter scoring beyond Paige, especially from three, is a huge concern. That lack of balance makes UNC easier to defend and makes it more difficult to mitigate opposing three point shooting with three pointers of your own. Unfortunately there is no ready solution save Hairston and/or McDonald being cleared to play.

All the current roster can do is play to their strengths which is interior scoring and rebounding. Since the offense is limited, some dedication to playing quality defense might be the best hope to balance the scales to some degree. In some respects UNC is simply trying to make do with what it has. That opens the door to all sorts of game chemistry and consistency issues which, given time, can be overcome. Whatever the case, winning can cure a lot of things even if means playing Louisville in what is sure to be a very difficult game.

UNC 71 Richmond 65

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