After an embarrassing loss to Michigan State on Sunday in the PK80 Championship game, North Carolina finally returned home from a long west coast trip. On Wednesday night, it seemed that the Tar Heels let all of their frustrations out on Michigan in the ACC-B1G Challenge, winning 86-71. Now, the Heels must leave again. This trip, however, is a little shorter as they head to Charlotte for a tilt against Davidson.
Bob McKillop’s Wildcats are 3-2 on the season. They opened the season with dominating wins over Charleston Southern and UNCW (eclipsing the 100-point mark in both games). They would drop the next two games against Nevada and Appalachian State before righting the ship against Charlotte.
Looking at Davidson’s roster, you will see a bevy of young athleticism with ten freshmen and sophomores. However, that youth is balanced with six seniors who offer a presence of veteran leadership. Furthermore, in each group are players that have become major producers on the court.
Senior forward Peyton Aldridge is the veteran captain of the squad. This season he is averaging 22 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 35 minutes per game. He is shooting over 50% from the field and just over 36% from three.
Sophomore guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson seems to be able to hit from anywhere. In 32 minutes per game, Gudmundsson is averaging nearly 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists. He is hitting nearly 54% of his field goals and almost 45% of his three point attempts.
Freshman phenom guard Kellan Grady came to Davidson with high expectations. The four-star, top-100 recruit out of Massachusetts committed to Davidson over offers from Northwestern, Xavier, Saint Joseph’s, and many more. His first season has been everything Coach McKillop could have hoped for. In 27 minutes per game, he is averaging close to 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Hitting close to 50% of his field goals, and almost 40% of his three-pointers, Grady seems to have picked up where former Davidson star Jack Gibbs left off.
No matter where they are on the court, this team can drain a shot. This is a highly efficient team. According to sports-reference.com, they are ranked 11th in offensive efficiency at 121.3 points per 100 possessions. On the season, Davidson has taken 324 field goals, 184 of which (or close to 57% of their field goal attempts) have been three-pointers. They are also hitting close to 40% of their three-point shots, which puts them inside the top-100. Moving closer to the basket, the Wildcats are scoring on 62% of their two-point attempts, which is good enough for seventh in the nation.
The Tar Heels roll into Charlotte with a 6-1 record, their lone loss being the shellacking they underwent against Michigan State. Otherwise, North Carolina has been fairly impressive in wins over Stanford, Arkansas, and most recently, Michigan.
Luke Maye has been the star thus far, but good performances from Kenny Williams and Joel Berry II have kept the Tar Heels rolling. A big question mark, though, is who else will produce? Theo Pinson has done some good things, but his three-point percentage is horrible. (Recently, I said he should “step-up” and hit more three’s in Cam’s absence. I publicly recant that statement. Theo, my man, just do you. Leave the long-ball to someone else...) Seventh Woods, Jalek Felton, and Brandon Robinson have been serviceable off of the bench, but are still finding their niche on the team. Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Huffman are still coming into their own. Although they were fairly impressive through the first five games, they got a big dose of reality on Sunday night and still have a long way to go before they will be dominant big men in the ACC.
As a team, the Tar Heels are hitting 46% of their shots. When you look a little deeper, you will see a slight disparity. When they are able to get the ball inside, they are somewhat efficient, scoring on 51% of their two-point attempts. However, when they are forced to take a three, they are converting only 36% of their shots (with only 49 made three-pointers on the season).
Defensively, North Carolina continues to allow teams to consistently shoot open three-pointers. Teams are taking close to 30 three-point attempts per game against the Tar Heels. On average, teams are hitting close to 40% of those shots. Davidson is a different beast altogether. The Wildcats are averaging nearly 40 three-point attempts per game. As mentioned above, they are hitting close to 40% of them. That’s close to 50 points per game from outside of the arc.
In his Three Things to Watch article, Brandon listed the Tar Heels’ defensive struggles as an area to keep an eye on. This will definitely be a major factor in the game. Davidson WILL shoot their three’s. North Carolina will need to play great defense to make the necessary adjustments to get a hand up in the face of the shooter and alter their shots.
It seems like everyone that North Carolina faces has that one person who goes off for a career night. I believe this will be the case for the Wildcats in Charlotte. Peyton Aldridge, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, or Kellan Grady will seem to be unstoppable and finish with 25+ points. However, the Tar Heels will be too much to handle from the inside cleaning up the boards and creating easy fast break scoring opportunities. This game won’t be a blowout, by any means, but the Tar Heels will get it done.
North Carolina - 94
Davidson - 82