Saturday’s match up with NC State figures to be another opportunity for the Tar Heels to avoid destroying their own NCAA Tournament bid, if they play to their minimum capabilities. Kevin Keatts may have been a winner as an assistant at Louisville and as the head coach at UNC Wilmington, but the good times have not rolled in Raleigh. Now in his fifth season, Kevin Keatts has a winning overall record at 90-63 (58.8%, technically winning, but an “F” on any test) but his ACC record (42-46, sad panda face) hardly resembles a winner.
UNC completely annihilated NC State during their first meeting of the season in Chapel Hill. Carolina had balanced scoring from its starters, including one not known for pumping in points. Leaky Black, never a scoring dynamo, has quietly been improving his overall scoring as we reach the end of ACC play. Black, who demonstrated a nasty habit of not shooting (period, dot) in open positions, has been showing a smooth, confident shot mixed with opportunistic attacks to the basket, especially on the fast break.
Since we’ve gotten used to seeing trend lines with Covid data, I put together a graph of Leaky Black’s scoring since ACC play began in earnest (at Boston College). Leaky had four games with zero points, which hurt his ppg average, but his recent form, which includes four games in double-digits, shows a clear upward trend.
What does that mean for NC State? Nothing good. Leaky does not hunt his shot and does not require volume the way that Caleb Love and Armando Bacot do. Now that he’s willing to pull the trigger, especially from the corner three, it provides penetrators with another outlet if they don’t like what’s in front of them at the rim. Leaky will surely be on the floor for a majority of the game, since he is versatile enough to cover both Dereon Seabron and Jericole Hellems. While he’s on the floor, he’s become a more willing threat, and his 41.9 3PT% is best on the team, narrowly edging RJ Davis at 40.8%. As long as Leaky is catching and shooting in rhythm, and not off the bounce, his 3-point attempts are high quality shots.
In January, the other four Carolina starters all scored in double-digits. Don’t be surprised if Leaky Black makes it all five on Saturday. It will be difficult for the Heels to match their ridiculous shooting line (55 FG, 56 3PT, 71FT%) away from the friendly confines of the Dean Dome, so some extra timely scoring from a burgeoning source could make the difference in a close game.