Another week with one game against a name-brand opponent. Another loss to stew on.
UNC showed a lot of fight to keep double-digit deficits from turning the game into a blowout, but they did not have the poise and execution needed to steal a win from Kentucky in Atlanta. There’s a lot to digest, so let’s dive into the team’s Week 6 stocks.
Cormac Ryan: Ryan had the game he probably wished he had at Madison Square Garden. The Notre Dame transfer finally got going from downtown, knocking down 4/7, after going 0-fer against UConn.
Overall, he scored 20 points on an incredibly efficient 8/12 shooting, and probably would have been TarHeelBlog’s Player of the Game if RJ Davis didn’t go Super Saiyan late in the second half.
Ryan appears to have recovered from his freakish ankle(s) injury against Arkansas, and thank goodness! He’ll be desperately needed as the Tar Heels look to recover from their two-game slide against Oklahoma on Wednesday in Charlotte, and his know-how of the ACC means no acclimatization to the league when conference play picks up in earnest on January 2nd.
This should be what a run-of-the-mill Cormac Ryan game looks like, maybe with a slightly lower shooting percentage, but with more free throw attempts.
Seth Trimble: Elliot Cadeau is a prodigious talent and will be a great player. But right now, he is starting to see what defending in the NCAA is all about.
Trimble can bang where Cadeau cannot, and he’s showing more and more of his offensive game. He hit a lovely three in rhythm, this time from the wing instead of the corner. He continues to attack the hoop, and were it not for some timely Wildcat fouls at the rim, he could’ve really brought the thunder on one or two occasions.
Seth Trimble: Shutting Sheppard down on one end, just buried a HUGE 3... and UNC is within two.— Brendan Marks (@BrendanRMarks) December 16, 2023
Seth Trimble Captain Phillips meme
Seth Trimble’s size is so valuable when combined with his tenacious defending. Reed Sheppard got real quiet when Trimble started covering him. Trimble is really Carolina’s only guard with that shut-down ability. If Carolina keeps getting beat up defensively with RJ Davis and Cadeau on the floor, expect Trimble to start getting some of those backcourt minutes.
Armando Bacot: A second marquee game in a row that the UNC talisman couldn’t dominate when the Heels desperately needed him to.
Two things can be true at the same time. Armando Bacot should be doing better in these games. He’s still making dumb mistakes like leaning into screens or getting a hand around the waist of the defender when posting up. But also, it seems like the refs don’t respect Bacot enough (I’m starting to think that they actively dislike him!) and whistle him for these ticky-tack violations every. Single. Time.
It’s time to adjust.
Undefeated Oklahoma is up next, and just like Kentucky, they don’t have the one guy who would dominate Bacot in a one-on-one matchup, but they can execute “death by a thousand paper cuts.” They feature two posts — John Hugley at 6’10” 275 lbs and Sam Godwin at 6’10” 235 lbs — who average just about 18 mpg, and score at least 8 ppg and pull down at least 5 rpg. Throw in Luke Northweather and Yaya Keita for 10 extra fouls, and Armando could be huffing and puffing in Charlotte.
Elliot Cadeau: Cadeau played his lowest amount of minutes (18) in a game since fouling out against Villanova with just 17. The star freshman guard was again in foul trouble and was being actively sought out by Kentucky on switches and pin-downs. Cadeau has struggled guarding size, which isn’t helped by UNC’s decision to switch everything on defense.
Cadeau was also a little loose with the ball, getting it swiped on a crossover dribble by Reed Sheppard, who then cruelly stroked in a 3-pointer instead of going to the rim:
There will be plenty of time to dissect UNC’s final offensive play of the game, when Cadeau passed to a clearly unprepared Cormac Ryan, who seemed to be initiating a set play to free RJ Davis on a screen. Cadeau entered the game cold for that final play after sitting for nine minutes, so let’s give him some grace. But that play essentially sealed Kentucky’s win.
Another one-game week is in the books to wildly swing our evaluations and judgments, and this week, there’s just the one game against Oklahoma. Who do you think improved or damaged their stock? Let us know in the comments!
See ya later, Big Grits.