Coming off a dominating 105-60 win over Charleston Southern, Carolina has officially completed its non-conference schedule. It was one of the toughest such in the country as the Heels picked up quality wins over Arkansas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma while coming up short against Villanova, UConn, and Kentucky. They’ve proven they can compete and win games away from home, but can they do it in somebody else’s arena? That leads us to our first thing to watch as the Heels get set to take on Pittsburgh.
First True Road Test
Despite the aforementioned gauntlet, the Tar Heels have still not played a true road game. That’s going to change very quickly, as they have three straight games in opposing cribs, starting with Pitt.
Carolina’s wealth of experience will certainly be beneficial, but it’s still a challenge this particular group hasn’t yet faced together. Throughout the season, they’ve generally done a good job of weathering and responding to runs from opposing teams, but those runs can be back-breaking on the road. Upperclassmen such as RJ Davis, Armando Bacot, Cormac Ryan, and Harrison Ingram have a heightened responsibility to ensure the group stays locked in and blocks out the noise. Constant communication on defense is especially paramount.
On the other hand, guys like Elliot Cadeau, Seth Trimble, and Jalen Washington have little to no experience in these environments. One missed shot can feel like ten in games like these, but Carolina needs those three to be aggressive. Their ability to handle the atmosphere could be the difference.
Against Charleston Southern, the Heels’ bench recorded a season-high production, accounting for 43 of the team’s 105 points. The aforementioned Washington and Trimble combined for 29 as Washington notched a career-high 17 points on 7-9 shooting (2-3 from three) to go along with seven boards and two blocks.
Jae’Lyn Withers is another guy who looks more comfortable as the Carolina reserves have continued to make strides throughout the season. Despite struggling with turnovers at times, he’s playing more fluid and within the offense as of late. Coach Davis tends to lean on experience in big games, so Withers should see some opportunities.
Overall, if the Carolina bench can take care of the ball and not force anything offensively, everything else will fall in line. This game is an excellent chance to prove the Heels are one of, if not the deepest team in the country.
In a lineup loaded with veterans, Cadeau is the only starter who’s yet to even play in a true road game. Despite his supreme talent, playing in an entire arena of fans who are against you for the first time can be jarring for any player.
It will be interesting to see how aggressive Cadeau is offensively in this one. He comfortably knocked down a three against Charleston Southern but is still at his best when attacking. Like most teams, Pittsburgh will likely dare him to shoot, especially with the crowd on their side. With the weapons surrounding him, simply playing under control is the biggest key for Cadeau. His shots will be there, and hopefully he can get some to drop early to ease the jitters.