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Tar Heel Hangover: No time for rest

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Two wins and a quick turnaround is life in the ACC.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s games, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.

Last week was not particularly beautiful basketball, but it was a week in conference play with a home win and a road win. It looks like the team is finding its legs a bit and starting to really learn how to win as a team. Two games that were very close late turned into a pair of big victories.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

Last week, I presented a series of questions that seemed to be key issues moving forward. Two games is not enough to draw definitive conclusions, but there have definitely been developments over the last seven days that merit consideration (last week’s quotes in italics).

  1. When is the real Nassir Little going to show up? 5 of 17 from the field in three conference games for a combined 14 points. He has also only pulled down a combined 12 rebounds in those three games. Little needs a break out game soon. Little had the best week of his young college career. Against the Irish, Little scored 11 points on 5-8 shooting and pulled down 6 rebounds. Hampered by foul trouble and only playing 13 minutes against the Hurricanes, Little still put up 12 points on 6-8 shooting with 2 rebounds and 2 steals. A big second half in both games keyed victories. A couple of other promising stats for the week; Little had only one combined turnover (a sloppy dribble one of the few times he attempted to isolate) and he did not shoot any threes, instead choosing to get his points inside.
  2. When is the real Kenny Williams going to show up? Last year Williams was over 40% from three. This year, he is under 26%. Williams turned it on last week going a combined 4-7 from deep. Equally as important was Cameron Johnson finding his stroke from deep against Miami. After going two games without a three, a 5-7 performance, primarily in the second half, fueled the victory.
  3. Does Carolina have a point guard that can lead the team? Coby White has been very good this year and is scoring at a high clip, but his outside shooting numbers are falling off the page. 5 for 18 in conference play. 1 for 8 in the last two games. He leads the team with 44 turnovers including 14 in three conference games. White held the offense together against Notre Dame with a 4-7 performance from deep. On Saturday, he was only 1-5 from outside the arc but had 8 assists to three turnovers. White’s play continues to be a barometer for the team’s success.
  4. Can Luke Maye regain his scoring touch from deep? Yet another player in a slump from deep, Maye’s three-point shooting percentage is down 10 percentage points from last year (33% this year, 43% last year, 40% in 2016-17). Maye’s outside shooting remains a cause of concern. 1-7 for the week. Once again, his rebounding (19 for the week) and scoring (14 points in each game) are consistent but he needs to start hitting open shots.
  5. Can this team defend with enough intensity on a consistent basis to win difficult games? Notre Dame shot 41% from the field. Miami shot 49%. There were times in both games when the pertinent question was, can this team get a couple of stops?

Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.

A quick turnaround following the trip to Miami has Carolina return home tonight to host Virginia Tech. The Tar Heel defense will be tested against the Hokies who are shooting over 50% from the field for the season. Shutting down Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be a key to the game as he averages over 18 points per contest and is shooting 43.5% from deep.

The home crowd should be very loud for Monday’s 7:00 matchup against the top 15 Hokies. Thanks to my friend Bill, I will be in attendance, even if I wasn’t the first choice. Just look for the guy in Carolina Blue screaming his head off.

Final Thoughts

Ugly conference wins are still wins and the course needed to be corrected following the Louisville loss. Last week was a step in the right direction and tonight will be another test.