Carolina continues to stack wins and remains undefeated in conference play. Further elevating the mood from this past week, both Duke and NC State lost at home to inferior teams, leaving UNC alone atop of the ACC standings.
The two wins against Louisville at home and Boston College away didn’t feel like the same sort of triumphs as NC State and Syracuse last week, but both wins added another ring to Carolina’s chain-mail armor. Protecting yourself from bad losses is paramount to winning a high seed, and while the NET/KenPom rankings may drop, the march continues apace.
Let’s see how the stocks performed last week as we prepare to dive straight back into action against a frisky Wake Forest team.
Cormac Ryan: The knock on Ryan was his 3P%. Against Louisville, he quickly showed what Carolina could look like in its Super Saiyan form. Ryan hit his first four 3-pointers of the game (all in the first half), helping the Heels build a 17-point lead.
Against Boston College, Ryan’s 3-point stroke went cold, but he was still UNC’s second leading scorer behind RJ Davis with 14 points and went 6-6 from the free throw line. In a tight game with BC going 25-29 from the line, those freebies were HUGE.
Ryan also played 33 minutes at Boston College despite accumulating four fouls, most of them of the highly dubious variety. He’s also perfecting what the Brits call “sh*thousery” riling up opponents and their fans. Infuriating when he was at Notre Dame, but sheer delight now that he’s in Carolina blue:
Cormac Ryan paying off refs at this point. He knows he’d be playing JUCO ball without them. pic.twitter.com/AG2G7rDiqy— Barstool BC (@BarstoolBC) January 20, 2024
Jae’Lyn Withers: Jae’Lyn has found his “thing.”
The Louisville transfer had his best game as a Tar Heel against his former school, notching his first UNC double-double (15 points, 10 boards) and being an absolute menace on the baseline.
He continued his work against Boston College, adding a corner three for good measure. He likely would have scored in double-digits had he not fallen prey to generous whistles like Ryan, Bacot, Washington, Cadeau..... you know the deal.
Moving forward, Jae’Lyn showed last week that he can be devastating cutting to the basket. He has good hands when going up to the rim, especially with contact. If he can hit his free throws at a good clip, there’s every reason to believe he can be a 9-13 ppg scorer, and an able defender and rebounder. Carolina has a weapon here.
Elliot Cadeau: Cadeau was never a wallflower, but he’s really starting to feel himself.
Let’s ignore stats. Cadeau is never going to pop on the scoresheet. He’s like the ultimate controlling midfielder in soccer. Sometimes he makes the pass that unlocks the defense and leads to an assist without getting the assist.
But sometimes he gets the assist outright. And they’re magnificent:
WHAT. A. PASS— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) January 20, 2024
CW Network pic.twitter.com/zqf00h6cij
He’s also showing a sneaky bit of athleticism and an ability to get to the rim. Witness his throw down against Louisville:
Cadeau’s defense is improving. His passing is deadly. As soon as he gets his FT% around 80% and can comfortably shoot around 30% from three, he’ll be a college point-guard juggernaut.
Jalen Washington: After seeing his stock climb last week, Washington now sees it plummet after two straight games with single-digit minutes (Louisville: 4, Boston College: 7). Against the Eagles he had three fouls and two turnovers. No shots taken.
Washington is too skilled a player to have these kind of cameos. It doesn’t help that Jae’Lyn Withers is getting more usage and Hubert Davis turned to James Okonkwo for 8 minutes of action, in both halves. Both of these players can steal minutes from Washington. He needs a turnaround against Wake Forest.
Carolina continues to win in different ways. They showed they can handle a lesser-than team like Louisville without getting into fourth gear. They showed they can win a grimy slugfest at Boston College. This team is tough. But a tough test awaits this week.
Wake Forest on a tight turnaround will not be easy, especially if the Deacs shoot like they did in a blowout win over Louisville (18-35 3-point shooting!). An upcoming Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee for the Tar Heels may not seem like a tremendous challenge after the Seminoles choked away a double-digit second-half lead in Chapel Hill, but Florida State has surged in ACC play, going undefeated until losing to Clemson.
Whose stock do you think will rise against these opponents? Let us know in the comments!