Work in progress indeed.
It is important to remember a few things about this game. First, it is an exhibition so Roy Williams did a lot of personnel shakeups he will not be doing a month from now. Secondly, it was also the first time under the bright lights of the Dean Dome for the freshmen and it showed to some extent. Thirdly, this is a new team with many guys who have either not played together much before or not played together in the roles they are in now. That also showed in terms of the way the offense worked.
Upfront I can tell you the offense is a bit of a mess right now. When people talked about a lack of three point shooting they were not kidding. It isn't there and I am not sure it is going to be there. Also, Larry Drew was a bit shaky in the first half but got better in the 2nd as did the rest of the offense. UNC committed 11 turnovers in the first stanza and nine after intermission for 20 total. It is probably not the last time we will see something like that not to mention the fact some scoring opportunities broke down due to poor passing that did not necessarily result in a turnover. Drew looked more comfortable as the game wore on but still has room to improve. Dexter Strickland appeared overwhelmed at times backing up Drew so that will merit a closer look. Still Strickland did end up with eight points and four assists. Marcus Ginyard actually had some good runs at PG which leads me to believe that should things not work out with Drew, UNC could get by with Ginyard at PG though it would be similar to Duke getting by with Jon Scheyer there.
While the offense had issues arising from basic on court chemistry which will come in time, Deon Thompson had no trouble playing his game to the tune of 25 points on 11-12 shooting. Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller likewise took advantage of their tremendous size over the Crusaders to score almost at will. Zeller came off the bench and made quite a few solid plays scoring on the break for 17 points. Davis had a quiet 13 points rounding out the double figures scorers for the evening. Ginyard chipped in nine points and had six assists. Davis rang up five assists and Zeller had four illustrating some passing skills among the big men. Drew led the team with eight dimes against three turnovers.
One thing we kept hearing coming into this season was talk about how "long" UNC would be this season and how much "length" the players had. Yes, the terms have become overused buzz words in college basketball but in this case it is correctly applied. This is team if freakishly long. In fact, when you see UNC play for the first time next week, it is really odd how this team looks on the floor because there are so many taller players. John Henson is 6-10 and out their handling the ball on the perimeter. David and Travis Wear likewise are 6-9 and playing from 20 feet out on in, handling the ball, dribbling behind the back, etc. This team is big and watching them takes a little getting used to. All that being said, they are really good defensively. UNC record 13 blocked shots and altered no telling how many more. Some of the blocks came out of nowhere surprising the shooter at times. That is what length gets you. If Henson was slightly out of position he can still get there in time to contest a shot and get a finger on it. That happened a lot tonight. It will not be as prolific going forward with teams who have more size but it will still constitute an advantage for the Heels.
As for the freshman, Henson looked less than impressive. He may have had the jitters or maybe he was pressing it but he airballed two FTs going 1-6 from the line and 2-6 from the floor. He did record four blocks but overall it was a rather muted outing for the player who came in with the most upside. Strickland was shaky at times but managed to do a few good things. Leslie McDonald missed all four shots he took and was a non-factor for the most part. The Wear Twins on the other hand were darn impressive. They combined for 16 points and seven boards. The word "fundamentals" has been applied to these two and it is apt. They handle the ball extremely well. They make great decisions with the ball, solid passes and understand where they should be on the court at any given time. The Wears also run the court like deer which was also true of Zeller. Overall these two were the most impressive of the freshman class showing a versatility to play anywhere on the court and be effective both as scorers and passers withing the offense.
Again let me say, it was only an exhibition but it does give an accurate snapshot where this team is at right now. They are raw in many ways and kinks are there. The more they play together, the better they will get because in my mind the biggest detractor right now is the lack of on court chemistry stemming from an unstable rotation of players. Once that settles down and players find their roles, the offense will click more efficiently. Right now, Drew cannot be entirely sure where any one player will be in a given situation as opposed to Ty Lawson having played with Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough for three years. That will come but it will take time. Undoubtedly it will get bumpy along the way but this is not Roy's first ride at the rodeo so in short the Heels will be fine.