The unfamiliar curiosity of an opening night with a new head coach was an experience not felt by Carolina fans since November 2003.
The offseason press conferences and glimpses of practices and scrimmages provided only some insight into how this team would perform when the games count.
With just a small sample size, the results were favorable.
The Hubert Davis era started with the 100th season-opening win for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
What can be expected Friday night when UNC hosts Brown in the Smith Center?
New Starting Lineup
Defense is receiving a renewed focus under Davis. Heading into the opening game, Davis said that starting lineups would be based on defensive grades from the previous game. Additionally, the Defensive Player of the Game would be rewarded with a starting spot.
In this experiment, there is the opportunity to create healthy competition between players. This situation is especially helpful when there is depth at a position, or a player has some versatility in the lineup.
But what about at point guard? Or if all the bigs lay an egg the game before, does Davis go small?
This personnel tactic will be of interest this season, most notably during conference play.
As of writing, the defensive grades and DPOG were not posted.
Who gets the nod Friday night?
Continue the Rotation
Against Loyola, eight Tar Heels played double digit minutes. In fact, two players off the bench, Kerwin Walton and Dawson Garcia, had more minutes than three starters.
The depth of this squad is looking good after the first game, and that will be a critical advantage for Carolina throughout the season.
If we are in the locker room, we are being told to focus on the next opponent and not to take them lightly. Just look at what happened to Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Pitt Tuesday night.
But the Tar Heels should put as many rotations and looks on the court in the first three games of the season.
A new coaching staff with several new faces on the court necessitates trying out new combinations especially during live action.
Depending the influence of the defensive stars for the starting lineup, how will the minutes shake out Friday night?
Second Half Lull
UNC’s largest lead in the first half was 17 points, and went into the locker room with a 14-point advantage.
After the TV timeout five minutes into the second half, Loyola cut the lead to single digits.
Once the lead was down to nine, Carolina went on its best run of the entire game, scoring 10 straight.
With under five minutes left in the game, the Tar Heels had their largest lead of the game at 27 points, and eventually cruised to the 16-point win.
Let’s face it: there will be runs and lulls in each game. The key is cutting those lapses to as short as possible and finding a way to answer.
This team had a lull to start the second half, but they responded in a big way.
Even with such a great first half, the best scoring run and largest lead came in the second stanza.
Keep an eye on if this becomes a common theme for this team.