You want to know how scarred I am over what happened last year? I really want to believe this team is hitting its stride and will be very good in ACC play but part of me is waiting for it all to fall apart. Then again when 2010 started UNC lost to Charleston right before ACC play began. If 2011 follows the tone set by this first game of the new year then bring it on.
I found only one real thing to complain about and that was the free throw shooting. The Heels only his 63% at the charity stripe which need to improve. It cam very close to costing the good people in attendance the biscuits they so desperately wanted. Other than that, hard to find any fault with eight players in double figures, nearly 60% shooting from the floor and 47%(8-17) from three point range. The Heels were solid on both ends making this UNC's most complete effort so far this season. The standard disclaimer applies seeing it was one of the worst teams in all Division I. However, UNC met expectations and as C.Michael pointed out, there was no cruise control in the 2nd half, the Heels came out and outscored the Red Flash by 30 after intermission. That speaks to UNC's talent gap over St. Francis but also to intensity and focus.
Overall this was another balanced effort across multiple players. John Henson and Dexter Strickland led the scoring with 13. Six others topped 10 points with everyone contributing at different points. Perhaps the most important was Leslie McDonald whose three point shooting is exactly what UNC needs. I still want to see McDonald show up with 3-4 threes against a quality opponent. That being said, McDonald has now hit four or more threes in three of the last five games. He was 2-5 from three versus William & Mary while going 0-2 in only 10 minutes played vs Texas. In the games versus Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Kentucky and Texas McDonald is a combined 1-12. In the other nine games he is 18-32 or 56%. Obviously what UNC faces going forward will be more like those other five games. The positive is McDonald has confidence and may also be finding himself in that Danny Green spark off the bench role. If that is the case it will be easier for him to find a rhythm in his shooting.
Kendall Marshall played more than Larry Drew in this one by about five minutes. Roy Williams explained this as being the result of Drew being tired from playing defense so intensely he flashed the tired signal twice. I think that is part of it but I also think Roy took the opportunity to give Marshall some run in a game that was well in hand. Both PGs played well with Drew doing more in the points department vs zero turnovers and Marshall dropping eight dimes vs three turnovers. So what does it mean? It means UNC really needs both players to bring their strengths to the table and it is up to Roy to make sure he is riding the correct horse in the right situations. For some reason the pro-KM crowd views this as an all or nothing proposition. Apparently UNC is supposed to play Marshall for 38 minutes and Drew for two. Some of it is utter disdain for Drew because of his attitude. Some of it is perceptions about the way the offense looks when Marshall is on the court vs when it is Drew. The first one is understandable given his history and the second one is a bit subjective.
The numbers point to both Marshall and Drew doing some nice things to help the team and that is exactly what must happen for this team to be successful. Given Roy's tendencies about player rotations, even if he started Marshall, the minutes played would only rise slightly. Roy is still going to ride two PGs and because Roy still feels Drew is the better defender I imagine the playing time will be even or favor Drew. The concerns about Drew on offense are not illegitimate and I think Roy understands that. I also think he is doing his best to figure out how to get the most from both or allow Marshall to reach a point where he plays a more complete game on both ends. Again, the Heels are better if both play to their potential. Any other debate is really academic.
UNC has until Saturday then it is a road trip to Virginia who will be a tough match-up in a hostile environment. As John Henson would say it is time to be on your scrilla.