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UNC at Florida State: Three Things to Watch

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The Tar Heels look to rebound from a deflating loss.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Tar Heels suffered a crushing defeat to Boston College on Saturday, 71-70. They had looked like a different team offensively in the two games prior, winning both by double digits, so the return of Cole Anthony had fans overly optimistic. However, it took Anthony some time to get reacquainted and the rest of the team lacked the aggression we witnessed against NC State and Miami.

The loss was especially agonizing for Carolina given the tough stretch upcoming. They’ll have to play two of the top three teams in the conference this week, starting with Florida State tonight and then Duke on Saturday. Here are three things to watch versus the Seminoles.

Offensive Cohesion

Saturday’s game against BC seemingly possessed all of the ingredients for a vintage Carolina offensive outburst. Garrison Brooks had been playing like an All-ACC first-teamer, other guys were finally starting to gain some confidence, and the Heels were coming off their two best shooting performances of the season. Throw in the return of a projected lottery pick in Anthony and a raucous Smith Center crowd, and this felt like one the Heels could run away with. ‘Twas not the case.

It’s hard to pinpoint the blame on any particular player or area. Anthony was clearly a little rusty (just 5-14 from the floor) but he ultimately notched 26 points, three assists, and just one turnover while going a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line. You might argue that his return disrupted the team’s rhythm a bit, which may be true, but Anthony finished the game +11 while no other player was better than +5. Andrew Platek and Armando Bacot each admitted that they were guilty of standing around at times and just watching Cole go to work.

Regardless of who’s at fault, this team needs to regroup fast. Going on the road against one of the top teams in the ACC with essentially just one day to prepare is no easy task. There has to be more movement from all five guys on the floor. The guards, including Anthony, need to do a better job of seeking post entries while Brooks and Bacot have to be more aggressive in getting to their spots. With or without Anthony, Carolina is still at its best when it plays inside-out.

Garrison Brooks returning to form

Suffice it to say, the Garrison Brooks we saw against BC was the exception, not the rule. The junior big man shot under 40% from the field for the first time since November 15th versus Gardner-Webb (where he was 1-3). Even worse, Brooks was a dreadful 0-7 from the free throw line, somewhat overshadowing Anthony’s perfect display at the stripe. Through all of the bad, though, he did still manage to record his tenth double-double of the season.

The return of Anthony may have altered Brooks’ mindset offensively after being the clear top scoring option over the last month or so. However, it appeared he was forcing his game a bit at times and he also simply made some poor decisions. His woeful free throw shooting is particularly puzzling for a guy who’s been arguably the most mentally tough player on this team.

Ultimately, I expect Brooks to watch the tape, learn from his mistakes, and then burn that performance from the memory bank. The Tar Heels will need his inside scoring presence tonight against a very deep and athletic Seminoles team.

Getting fully healthy...or as close to that as possible

Saturday’s game, at least to start, marked the first time this season that every scholarship player that hasn’t already been ruled out for the year was available to play. That didn’t last long. Not only was Brandon Robinson called for a questionable foul on a late-game three-point attempt that allowed the Eagles to reclaim the lead, he also injured his ankle on the play. Thankfully, the X-rays came back negative and it was ruled a sprain. At the time of this writing, though, his status for tonight’s game is doubtful.

Obviously, Cole Anthony’s return to the hardwood stole the show in terms of guys recovering from injuries, but Jeremiah Francis also managed to log a few minutes despite a nagging knee issue. Given the low severity of B-Rob’s injury, this team could be (knock on wood) as healthy as they’ve ever been during this final and most grueling stretch of the season.