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UNC vs. UC Riverside: Three Things to Watch

Let’s figure out what fine-tuning can be accomplished before next week.

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

The Tar Heels have arrived at their final tune-up game of the non-conference schedule before they have to deal with the likes of Northern Iowa, Tennessee, UConn, Kentucky, and more (if you know UNC’s history with Iowa teams, you know why they’re included). Friday’s game against UC Riverside will hopefully be less of a competitive game and more of a chance to fix a few things before the road gets a bit bumpier.

The big things to know about the Highlanders are that they present a little more size to deal with Armando Bacot than UNC’s previous opponents, but they are also 1-2 so far. Right now they are shooting at a 32.5% clip from the field, and have only managed to knock down 29.6% of their shots from deep. This game has all of the makings of a blowout, but obviously the Heels will have to do their part to make that happen.

With that said, rather than taking a look at three keys for the game, let’s mix things up and discuss three things that I would like to see tightened up during this game before the Heels enter the tougher part of their schedule.

Elliot Cadeau improving his shot selection

In the first two games of his college career, Elliot Cadeau has been more or less as advertised. Sure, if you focus just on his assist numbers, things don’t look as sexy as what he did in high school, but he’s been making a lot of really good plays for his teammates. My favorite play during the game against Lehigh was RJ Davis driving to the rim only to get met by their defense, so he kicked the ball out to Cadeau on the perimeter, and Cadeau immediately connected with Bacot who posted up for the basket. While that seems like a pretty mild play, these are actually the kinds of plays that kept UNC from reaching their full potential last season.

While Cadeau’s point guard abilities have been solid, his shot selection against Lehigh was sub-optimal at times. On a few possessions, Cadeau shot some quick mid-range/perimeter jumpers with a decent amount of shot clock left instead of continuing to move the ball. There were a couple of occasions where he maybe could’ve driven the ball to the rim, but there were also a couple of times where driving wasn’t an option. It’s also worth pointing out that those weren’t necessarily “bad” shots for him, but in hindsight, those are probably possessions that he would handle differently if he could.

Going back to some of his high school film, Cadeau was the most dangerous offensively when he was driving to the basket. He has never been afraid of contact, and I would say welcomes it more than we typically see from freshmen guards. The other thing that driving to the rim does is that it will make defenses collapse on him, opening things up for him to make plays for his teammates. It’s very early in the season, but if Hubert Davis wanted an opportunity to work on this with Cadeau, tomorrow is a good time to do so.

Getting more out of Paxson Wojcik

While it feels like there’s a story here aside from the stitches hiding under his headband, Paxson Wojcik has still had an interesting start to his Carolina career. Named a starter by Hubert Davis, Wojcik has only played 32 total minutes, and has only scored seven points total. To make things even more interesting, he’s only taken five shots against Radford and Lehigh. A bit of a strange development for a guy who only took less than nine shots last season in two games.

Obviously context is important, because Wojcik is now on a team with a lot of talented offensive weapons. The need to shoot a bunch of shots isn’t as prevalent as it was during his time at Brown. Still, Coach Davis brought the senior transfer onto campus as a threat on the perimeter, and yet he has only attempted two three-pointers so far. Obviously he shouldn’t force the issue, but my hope is that Davis finds a way to get the ball in Wojcik’s hands a little more against UC Riverside so that he can get into a rhythm going into the rest of the season. If he can’t find a way to get something going, one has to wonder if starting lineup changes are on the menu at some point.

RJ Davis continuing to advance his three-pointer

We’ve all known for quite some time that RJ Davis is a really good three-point shooter. Last year he was off to a hot start before suffering a hand injury that ultimately messed up his shot for the rest of the season. With no reliable shooters to help make up for his struggles, the Heels ultimately ended up being a team that more or less lived and died by feeding Armando Bacot in the paint. This year, however, Davis is healthy, and we started to see his shot fall more against Lehigh.

Davis finished his night against the Mountain Hawks with 22 points, and he made three of his six three-point attempts. This was a solid improvement over his 1-5 game against Radford, and also matched his three-point percentage from the exhibition game against St. Augustine’s. It finally feels like the Heels have a safe option on the perimeter, but it also feels like Davis could probably do even more damage than he has so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a monster game against UC Riverside, and hopefully that success will continue to bleed into the rest of the season.