Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our opportunity to review the games of the last week, second-guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.
Life is full of intrigue. Some mornings, one just wakes up with lots of questions about what happened the previous evening. Here at The Hangover, I appreciate that feeling. That’s the way I feel today. It is always good to get a win, but was it a good game? Is this team improving? Was that second bourbon a good idea? My head is swimming.
Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .
Coach Williams has really pushed lineup changes this year. That is not unusual. For such a great recruiter and developer of talent, there are generally a lot of options on the bench. This year, however, has been a little different. The changes are in the starting lineup.
Garrison Brooks was in, then out, then in. So was Caleb Love. So was Leaky Black. R.J. Davis is out of it seemingly for the rest of this year, but that seems more about needing him at the point off the bench than about his play. He has been quite good as a 6th man.
So, what does the return of Anthony Harris mean? Yet another question that we don’t have an answer to yet. If the Florida State and Wake Forest games are any indication, it means that there will be even more energy off the bench and a higher level of defense. It also means that Puff Johnson will not get his typical late second half minutes. Andrew Platek is taking a step back in both minutes and production.
This team is better with Harris in the mix. The question is how the minutes and chemistry will play out. Coach Williams’ habit is to slowly shrink the rotation over the course of the season, and that usually starts in late January. This year, both thanks to injury returns and the year that this is, the bench is actually getting longer. Not many teams get deep into the postseason with rotations of over 10 players. Against Wake Forest, the Heels were essentially down to nine (Walker Kessler played 3 minutes and Johnson played 1). That feels about right.
Key stat for the week.
The shooting is getting better. Maybe it is the flow of the offense or maybe the improved play from Love and Davis is really helping, but it is definitely getting better. Versus the Seminoles, Carolina went 43.5% from the field and nearly 42% from three. Last night, despite a horrid start, they shot nearly 47% from the field and over 33% from three-point range. On the year, those numbers are 41.8 and 30.6 respectively. It has been a better week.
I think a big part of the tick upward has been Kerwin Walton’s insertion into the starting lineup and increase in minutes. He is a consistent shooter and generally protects the ball. In other words, he is the kind of great shooting glue player that this program has not had for a while. I am really looking forward to Walton and Harris melding together as the season moves on.
Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.
Saturday feels quite a bit like a must win game. NC State is just good enough to qualify as a good win. Carolina gets a chance to avenge the early season loss, maintain their position in the conference, and secure a higher ranking in the eyes of the selection committee.
The Heels sit right in the middle of a not very good ACC. They must move up the standings to demonstrate that they belong in the NCAA Tournament. February is just around the corner and it is now go time.
Stay safe and Go Heels!