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UNC vs. UConn: Three Things Learned

You might want to think about rebounding the ball.

NCAA Basketball: Jimmy V Classic-North Carolina at Connecticut Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a while since we as Carolina fans have been treated to watching high-level basketball being played on both sides. Tuesday night saw us treated to a couple of teams playing good basketball going at each other. Unfortunately the Tar Heels came up on the short end, but there’s still plenty to be happy about. It’s also going to provide an important learning opportunity as the season moves along.

Here are three things we learned in Carolina’s loss to the Huskies in the Jimmy V Classic:

Lose the rebounding battle, lose the shooting battle, lose the game

Credit UConn, they are built well both inside and out, are well coached, and they have a personality that will fight for every loose ball. It’s not often that Carolina is used to being on the losing end of the rebounding battle, but when you have a team as skilled as the Huskies beating you to missed shots on both ends of the floor, it’s really tough to win a game.

A look at the stats make you think the battle was actually pretty even, as the total difference was only in ten terms of total rebounds. The problem is the entire difference was on the defensive end. With Carolina shooting 44% and UConn shooting 52%, those extra ten chances that UConn got would seem to have made a pretty big difference in an eleven point win.

It’s possible that the Tar Heels weren’t quite ready for dealing with a squad that will go at them on the boards like this, and it’s a good less that not every squad is going to be intimidated with the likes of Bacot and Ingram down low. It should serve as a good wake up call as the season progresses since more teams are going to come at them.

Elliot Cadeau is still learning

It’s a high compliment to the reclassified first year that the game against UConn seemed to be a step back from his previous games. His stat line didn’t look that much different: seven points, five assists, only two turnovers, all with 27 minutes played. That said, there were some moments where playing against an experienced group like UConn had thrown him for more trouble than we had seen since the Bahamas.

This is going to happen with a first year point guard, and it’s how he’s going to get better. He still had some amazing passes and helped with pressure, but Seth Trimble also provided a good spark on defense and had sixteen minutes himself.

Overall, the break should provide an opportunity for the coaches to be able to teach Cadeau both the good and bad of what he has done through this first stretch, and that’ll help as more teams will adjust to his style while the season progresses.

It’s time to stop saying “Last year’s team”

When Carolina responded to the push by UConn late in the first half with a Bacot dunk that resulted in a (soft) technical and the Ingram late three to cut it back to five, I and others found myself thinking, “At this point last year’s squad would have been blown out.”

We are now nine games into this season, and with all of the types of games this squad has played we have enough now to where last year needs to live in the place where it is. We should focus on this squad for who they are. They have shown they can play a high level of basketball, capable of competing with the top teams in the sport, as well as not let the previous game affect them. The Villanova loss didn’t turn into two losses, and they didn’t rest on their laurels of a great Tennessee win by letting FSU take over in the Smith Center. They also repeatedly fought back Tuesday night as UConn kept punching, only wilting in the last part of the second half.

This squad has shown they will stand on their own two feet, they have an identity, and that they will adjust as needed depending on the game. Almost the entire roster is different, and it’s plain as day now that while this squad is no where near perfect, they should no longer have to bear the burden of atoning for the sins of last season.

The sooner we all accept that the more fun this season is going to be.