After nearly two weeks of no basketball, the Tar Heels return to action a short two days after walloping Boston College on Sunday. Carolina will be completing their back-to-back Catholic contests by facing off against Notre Dame in a late matchup. So what can we look for as the Tar Heels actually play two games in one week for the first time since before Christmas?
Dawson Garcia’s Health
Garcia has been a mainstay in the starting lineup, but he suffered an apparent concussion on Sunday when he banged his head on the Boston College court early in the contest. Some folks would say his head was sat on, but either way, it was in the course of play and he was slow to get up after it happened. The Tar Heels, clearly, played just fine without him as the game was a laugher by halftime.
Garcia’s absence was oddly beneficial for Carolina as that combined with the blowout forced/allowed Hubert Davis to expand his bench for the first time this season. No one played more than 30 minutes, and the offense didn’t seem to miss a beat. This, of course, isn’t an indictment of Garcia as Boston College was clearly overmatched and the Tar Heels probably would have won if half the starters were out. It does appear, though, that Davis may be able to allow Garcia to take his time to come back as others were eager to step up with the increased minutes.
Davis’ tight rotation early on made sense: there was so much new and so little time, he wanted to make sure the guys who’d play the most were used to playing with each other as much as possible. It also has created a situation where those not part of the regular rotation will have to earn their minutes, and a still-injured opportunity could be just the chance players like Kerwin Walton, Anthony Harris, Dontrez Styles, and D’Marco Dunn can use to get playing time when Garcia comes back.
Rest vs. Rust
Notre Dame hasn’t played since December 28th, a one point win over Pitt, because of the Covid pause that Duke had last weekend. Prior to that, their last game was December 22nd, a 10 point win over Texas A&M...Corpus Christie. In short, they’ve played the same number of games over a two week span, but Carolina’s game is much more recent so they are at least back into a routine.
All over the country, and in person, we’ve seen what teams look like when their schedule has been disrupted, and there’s a chance that Notre Dame will start with the same rust the Tar Heels showed on Sunday. That means Carolina has a chance to get out to a quick start since they are not only coming off a game that knocked the rust off, it didn’t require a massive effort that would have worn out the starters. Remember, while Notre Dame has won four of their last five, including a win over Kentucky, they also have a loss to this Boston College team by 16 the game before. Combine this with the fact that Carolina has stopped playing down to the level of competition, and the recipe is there for a quick start if the Tar Heels can see it.
As Goodwin Goes?
Dane Goodwin that is, the 6-6 senior (that’s a junior thanks to the Covid year) is the Irish’s leading scorer, and their workhorse. He’s averaging nearly 34 minutes a game, getting 15 a game, shooting nearly 50% from three, grabbing almost six boards, makes 92% of his free throws and is absolutely the focus of their offense. Blake Wesley and Paul Anderson, Jr are the only others that are averaging double digits in points per game, but Anderson has only put up way fewer shots, and Wesley is noticeably worse behind the arc.
Expect Leaky Black to spend the majority of the time on Goodwin, with so few options for consistent offense Hubert Davis should be able to allow Black to focus on Goodwin, Bacot to focus on Anderson, and the rest of the squad to rotate to handle the rest of the threats. ND coach Mike Brey does have Nate Laszewski to put out on the floor as well to try and counteract the problems that Bacot and Brady Manek can cause, especially since Laszewski can put up a long distance shot. In the end, though, it’s tough to see the Irish doing well unless Goodwin has a great night. Expect Hubert Davis to set the defense on that premise.