For the first time in 23 years, Carolina is 9-0 in ACC play on the back of an absolute mollywhopping of Wake Forest and a steely comeback win over a feisty (yet ultimately frail) Florida State.
The Tar Heels haven’t hit their offensive fourth gear quite like they did against Syracuse, but their defense remains stout. UNC continued their impressive streak of holding ACC opponents under 70 points, despite Florida State’s impressive first-half 3-point shooting.
As the first Duke game of the season looms, let’s see how our stocks are doing as we pass the first half of conference play.
Elliot Cadeau: Remember last week when I said Cadeau was starting to feel himself? He just hit his conference season-high scoring mark in a game. Two games in a row.
Cadeau had quite a week scoring the ball against Wake Forest (14 points) and Florida State (16). And one of his bugaboos all season — free throw shooting, which after the Wake Forest game stood at 57.4% — was one of his strengths. In a tight game against the Seminoles, Cadeau drove to the rim with abandon and got to the line, hitting 8 of 9 free throws.
Against FSU’s length and pressure, Cadeau was essential to getting Carolina out of their half and into their sets. He did have more turnovers than usual, but you could tell that his passes were good ideas against teams that don’t have a combined 890 feet of arm length clogging the lanes. Cadeau did manage six assists despite the difficulties.
The freshman point guard will have to thread the needle between security and derring-do, as Duke has a slightly higher ranked defense according to KenPom. Georgia Tech on the other hand presents an opportunity for Cadeau to really cut loose.
RJ Davis: UNC fans know the deal and have loved RJ Davis appropriately for years. National media is starting to catch up. And after scoring a career-high 36 points against Wake Forest, Carolina is starting to hype RJ up as a national player of the year candidate.
This praise and promotion is well deserved. Everyone talks about how connected this Carolina team is and how different players are willing to subordinate themselves for the greater good. Well, all of that sacrifice is for nothing if RJ Davis isn’t out there every night scoring in bunches for fun.
At his current trajectory, RJ should at least be a lock for ACC player of the year (miss me with that Filipowski nonsense), and he could put the #4 jersey in danger of not being worn again by any future Tar Heels.
Jae’Lyn Withers: After a magnificent week 11, Jae’Lyn Withers has come back down to earth a bit and against Florida State, he hit earth with a thud.
Like the point guards, Withers was bothered by FSU’s length, and they disrupted him as he made his trademark cuts to the rim. He was unable to score against the Seminoles, and after playing 38 combined minutes in week 11, Withers only played 27 minutes in week 12.
Against Wake Forest, RJ and Cadeau were giving the Deacs buckets, so Withers just played in the flow of the game, scoring five points, all from the free throw line. He also helped suffocate Wake’s offense, grabbing seven defensive rebounds and initiating UNC’s primary break.
This week is the big one. A “White Out” awaits Carolina at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night and then Duke (and College Gameday!) come to the Dean Dome on Saturday. RJ Davis alone gives the Tar Heels a huge advantage, and the team has shown that they are up for the fight.
Cadeau appears to have crossed into “experienced freshman” territory, so his stock will continue to rise along with the team’s. If UNC wins both games this week,