Ok, I’m done with all the alliteration, maybe...
Bear with me as I attempt to talk my two sons, and probably a few of you dear readers off the ledge after a disappointing loss to the defending champion UConn Huskies last week.
With the winter finals break, there’s some time to reflect on one of UNC’s most impactful new additions: Elliot Cadeau. He’s not a dynamic scorer but there’s a lot to like about the reclassified freshman.
First off, he’s an amazing facilitator of the offense and distributor of the basketball, and with his current 4:1 assist/TO ratio, he just doesn’t make freshman mistakes like you might expect. Sure he loses his handle at times but those errors are few and far between, with a prime example being his 10 assist, zero turnover outing versus an outstanding Tennessee defense.
One of the major questions coming into the season was if freshman Cadeau could gel with senior RJ Davis in the backcourt. Can two point guards co-exist? It’s a fairly small sample size but so far so good with this new iteration.
Cadeau taking over the point guard role has helped RJ‘s game immensely, allowing him to play off-ball and find his shot by getting open off of screens instead of having to create off the dribble. In the four games that Cadeau has started, RJ’s PPG has blossomed to a staggering 27.5(!) average.
I know we’ve moved beyond last year, and this is pure speculation, but it seemed Caleb Love felt like he was a point guard and that’s the position he wanted to play. He may have been hesitant to relinquish that role while RJ’s personality feels like he could have been reluctant to take over his backcourt mate’s responsibilities. Either way, the Cadeau/RJ dynamic just feels different. This backcourt plays much more similar to the way it worked with Joel Berry and Marcus Paige.
Yes, Cadeau needs to work on his free throw shooting which right now registers at 54.8%. A point guard should ideally be one of your most reliable from the charity stripe when crucial foul shots are required at the end of games. Good news is the Tar Heels have RJ shooting at a nonsensical 95.3% clip, but it would make the endgame offense that much more invincible if he was paired with another ice-in-the-veins shooter at the line.
With his competent decision-making, improved pacing, and creative court vision, Elliot Cadeau appears to have a bright future as advertised and ultimately does what a point guard should: makes his teammates better. Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan (even with his shooting struggles of late) look like great puzzle piece fits for coach Hubert Davis. Hopefully the recent paring down of the rotation doesn’t cut too far into minutes for Seth Trimble, Jae’Lyn Withers, and Jalen Washington.
Overall, even if the Heels only take one of two between Kentucky and Oklahoma, UNC looks good heading into conference play at most likely a would-be 9-3 record, three Quad 1 wins according to the NET rankings (which I despise with its ever-moving goalposts), and captivating captain Cadeau is only going to get better.