I have watched the game and I think many of you worry too much.
Maybe it's me and maybe it's me watching it knowing there were some negative reviews so I was perhaps glossed over stuff. However I did not see anything in this game that made me think the season was in jeopardy. I actually thought the Heels executed fairly well, got a lot of good looks on offense but did not hit as many shots as they probably will going forward. I did think they were in love with the three point shot too much. Chalk that up to missing Tyler Hansbrough which hopefully won't be much longer. What I think gave most fans their rampant levels of apprehension was the fact UNC was up 20, allowed Penn to cut it to ten and before the Heels end up wining by 15. I maintain that even with that, the Heels played a good game for a season opener. Here are some observations.
- This is virtually the same Penn team as UNC saw last season. That team ended up with a losing record but returned most of their starters. The reason this is important lies in the fact Penn scored the same number of points in this game as they did last season: 71. More important than that, Penn shot 47% from the floor last season and this season that was down to 40!%. The real difference in this one was the UNC offense was simply not as good as the 57% they shot versus Penn a year ago. Again, I am more than willing to chalk that up to missing Hansbrough.
- Roy had some odd lineups out there at times. At one point Frasor, Lawson and Ellington were on the court with Zeller and Thompson. There was another point the three freshmen were out there together. I imagine some of the discontinuity of offense could be owed to some of the lineup changes though the offense seemed fine except the Heels missed too many shots. Once again getting the full team back will help to settle the lineup shifts a bit. Also remember that the injuries disrupted what Roy was trying to do in practice getting the team ready. If folks were a bit lost it may be because they are still working some kinks out.
- UNC did have a lapse late in the 2nd half which allowed Penn back to within 10. Up until that point I think the Heels were very good on offense and did some nice things defensively as well. There was a four minute span in which they did not score a FG and Penn did nothing but score. Obviously we have seen this movie before and would very much like to stop seeing it in the future.
- Penn's zone defense did not permit Lawson to penetrate as well but he was not as aggressive as he could have been. This has been something Roy has had to push him on and he will again. I expect Lawson still step it up for Kentucky.
- Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis are freaking awesome, at least they were in this game. Zeller has great footwork, runs the court well and sports a nice jumper and nearly indefensible hook shot. In my opinion Zeller looks more polished and finesse than Hansbrough which might make them a nice compliment to each other once the senior returns. Ed Davis is just a beast. If he can come in and control the boards and play smarter(I thought he was given to a few mistakes which led to Penn points) then UNC has a frontline that will make opposing coaches cry.
- Deon Thompson looked like the player we all thought he could be.
- With the addition of Zeller and Davis along with Bobby Frasor's return, I can understand why Roy is focusing on the 8th, 9th, and 10th players in the lineup as affording an advantage over opposing teams. UNC can run a non-stop combination of lineups on the floor without sacrificing much in the way of offensive production. Once the whole team is back, it will be a nightmare for anyone playing the Heels to keep pace if they rest their starters and if they opt to play their starters long minutes, the Heels will wear them down.
Overall, I think there is no reason to panic or even look at the glass half empty. Hansbrough is out and that does effect the team. I mean, he is a NPOY for crying out loud, his presence or absence affects the team. As for the team's focus, a nationally televised game versus Kentucky will tell us whether these guys can step up when necessary and play quality basketball. Based on the play of Zeller and Davis, the Heels should be able to do just that and help all of the worried folks in Tar Heel nation to relax.