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Late Night With Roy: What we learned from the scrimmage

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One of the most exciting nights of the basketball season gave us an early look at what we will see from the Tar Heels this year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Washington vs North Carolina Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know about you, but as a Tar Heel fan, Late Night with Roy always sparks the first feelings of fall in my mind every year. Sure, Late Night has traditionally been in mid-to-late October, which often meant cool, crisp nights while walking back to your car after leaving the Dean Dome. Those walks are always the best. No opposing fans, but instead all optimistic Tar Heel fans thinking of what could be, while we break down what we just saw in the scrimmage and decide who will be this season’s x-factor.

That walk last night was hot. It’s unseasonably warm in North Carolina right now, but that walk was still as fun as ever. And with the Tar Heels getting ready to enter one of the more mysterious seasons in recent memory, there was plenty of reason to be excited last night. Keep in mind that last night was only a scrimmage and there have been many examples of players struggling and then turning out to be good. Or guys have dominated the scrimmage and turned out to be a false hope.

But this is the internet, and we are here to overreact, but mostly in a positive manner. Because that’s all that anybody wants, right? Here are some of the observations made during last night’s season opening scrimmage.

  • Cole Anthony is good great. That’s it, that’s the point.
  • Okay, so let’s go a little deeper on Cole Anthony. He only had eight points during the game, but was 2-of-4 from three. He made a great pass to Armando Bacot on a pick and roll, which I’m sure we will see tons of this season. But most impressively, he competed like it was an NCAA Tournament game. He is an absolute star and will be one of the most fun players to watch in the country.
  • One last thing on Anthony, while it was only a scrimmage, and most of it can be chalked up to neither Jeremiah Francis or Anthony Harris playing, the freshman point guard played all twenty minutes of the game. It’s obvious he is going to play 30+ minutes a game this year, but at some point the Tar Heels will need to manage his minutes. Nobody is expecting Anthony Harris to be a star right away, but if he can get healthy and can help spell Anthony at point guard, along with Leaky Black, the Tar Heels will be in a good spot.Over
  • But Anthony was still not the most impressive player on his own team, in my opinion. Christian Keeling, the graduate transfer from Charleston Southern, and Cole Anthony’s presumptive backcourt mate looked every bit the part of a high-division one player last night. He was the game’s leading scorer, putting up thirteen points on 5-of-8 shooting. However, it was how he got those points that was the most impressive part. Keeling was effective in the mid-range and getting to the rim. He didn’t knock down a three, but that is unlikely to be a problem for him.
  • One of the main questions coming into this season will be if the Tar Heels have enough wing scoring to make a deep run this season. The Tar Heels have elite guard play with Cole Anthony, and have a good tandem of big men with Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot, but who will be the primary scorer from the wings for the Tar Heels? Brandon Robinson threw his name in the running last night with a very efficient twelve points. Robinson was 5-of-8 from the field, including 2-of-3 from three, but more importantly, he looked under control. It feels weird that Robinson is finally a senior, but he really looked like one last night, playing smooth and never letting the game get ahead of him. He will be the number one option for the Tar Heels at the small forward position.
  • In speaking of those big men, Coach Roy Williams must be ecstatic that he can get back to playing two true big men at the same time. Garrison Brooks, a natural power forward, will be able to move back to his natural position with the addition of Armando Bacot. Bacot had seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, but most importantly, Bacot brings something the Tar Heels haven’t had in a few years: elite shot blocking. Bacot swatted three shots last night, a game high. An intimidating lane presence will be huge on the defensive end this year. Garrison Brooks and Luke Maye weren’t exactly the Twin Towers of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson in the paint last year. As a whole, having Bacot at the five helps move Brooks back to power forward, which is where his game is best suited.
  • Overall, the Tar Heels are well-suited for a deep run in March yet again. They have the number one recipe item, that being strong guard play. But on top of that, they have some really good pieces in the post, which historically means Roy Williams will have a team capable of winning it all. The one downside to this team though is the question marks surrounding their depth. They aren’t lacking bodies, but some of those bodies will need to make a big leap if the Tar Heels will contend for a title. Leaky Black and Sterling Manley especially come to mind. Manley did not play last night, but he will still be a big part of the Tar Heels’ front court rotation. Black did play, but struggled shooting, going 1-of-8 from the field. If those guys can step up and provide solid production behind the starters, this team will definitely be in the picture for a Final Four run.

As for what’s next for the Tar Heels, they will host Winston Salem State in a scrimmage on Friday, November 1st. That will be the first time we get to see this team as a unit. After that, it will be on to ACC play for some crazy reason, on November 6th, against Notre Dame. We will find out quickly how good this team can be, but just like all Roy Williams coached teams, you have to give them time to mesh.

One thing is for certain, though, it’s finally basketball season.