Week 14 saw Carolina embroiled in two tight games after last week’s triumph over Duke. The first, a loss at home to Clemson. The second, a hang-on-for-dear-life affair at Miami. ACC teams have decided they’re tired of losing because of RJ Davis, so he is getting more focused attention, opening the door for other players to step up.
Armando Bacot has answered that call with two more double-doubles, pulling down some of the rebounds he had been ceding to Harrison Ingram. What other players are moving their stock up? Let’s dive into Week 14.
Armando Bacot: Ever since his single-single at Georgia Tech, Bacot has been on an absolute tear. He has tallied three straight double-doubles starting with the Duke game when he got full custody of Kyle Filipowski as his son (Dereck Lively relinquished his claim when he went to the NBA), and has not slowed down since.
There was concern about where scoring would come from if RJ Davis had an off night, but Armando Bacot has calmed those fears. He’s still capable of putting up big numbers (34 combined points and 28 combined rebounds against Clemson and Miami), especially with his improved free throw shooting (he went 10-11 from the line against the Tigers). Now that Carolina isn’t winning by double-digits in all of their games, these marginal gains may well be the difference between winning and losing tight contests.
RJ Davis: With teams throwing the kitchen sink to scuttle Davis (and by extension, UNC), it’s amazing that the senior point guard has continued to produce at such a high level.
RJ Davis has solidified has bonafides as ACC player of the year with an amazing week scoring the basketball. He poured in 22 points against Clemson and 25 at Miami, hitting five three-pointers in both games.
When Carolina was struggling to score against Miami in the second half, he made four consecutive free throws to calm the Tar Heels down and put the game away. Not only that, but he ran himself ragged chasing Nigel Pack down to prevent him from burning the nets to a crisp. Pack was 4-6 from three in the first half. When RJ started checking him, he shot 0-2.
Seth Trimble and Paxson Wojcik: These two stock ups go hand in hand. Trimble’s goes up because it is abundantly clear how much his defense is missed (UNC got torched by Joe Girard and Nigel Pack last week, both players that Trimble would have had a hand in corralling), and how much the rotation goes cattywampus without him.
Wojcik has made the most of his available minutes in Trimble’s absence. He has played the most minutes of the season (a season-high 22’ against Clemson, and 18’ against Miami) and while not always productive, he has brought an element of chaos. The good kind, associated with effort. Wojcik scored his season-high seven points against Clemson, but went scoreless against Miami, missing two three-pointers in one possession.
The team would benefit from Trimble’s return, but if he’s out, expect to continue seeing Wojcik play double-digit minutes.
Elliot Cadeau: What a week!
Elliot Cadeau struggled greatly with Clemson’s zone, which effectively cut off the freshman point guard from what he loves to do: run and make plays in transition. Without the ability to get into the open court and find seams or attack the rim, Cadeau was effectively neutered. That resulted in him only getting 20 minutes of playing time, despite not being in foul trouble.
But against a Miami team that isn’t exactly the 1985 Chicago Bears, he was able to va va voom! Cadeau swept into Coral Gables like a hurricane, playing 35 minutes, scoring a career-high 19 points (including two 3-pointers!), swiping four steals, and dishing out eight assists.
If Cadeau continues to get as much space to shoot and hits >30%, he could find himself supplanting Harrison Ingram as Carolina’s third scorer. That’s a good problem to have! It’s also worth noting that his free throw shooting is on a noticeable upswing. That will allow him to stay in games late when teams start fouling to stop the clock. Cadeau’s ball handling is too important to have him on the bench in crunch time.
Jae’Lyn Withers: The joys of the Syracuse/Louisville/Boston College period feel like they happened years ago.
Withers has strangely suffered with the absence of Trimble, even though they play different positions. He has only logged five minutes in each game last week, scoring zero points in either, grabbing only one rebound against Clemson, and contributing just one assist (albeit an absolute dime to Bacot for an uncontested dunk) against Miami.
He continues to look lost in Carolina’s offense, and if he’s not prowling the baseline to get easy dunks, he’s not really contributing much. We’re getting into the end game of the season, and Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram are just playing more minutes now, so there’s no real impetus to get Withers more playing time if he doesn’t offer more. He’s getting into Last Chance Saloon territory this season.
Carolina has important and winnable games this week at Syracuse and home against Virginia Tech. RJ Davis and Armando Bacot are rounding into shape and are who we thought they were. Which players will help pick up the slack and pull the Tar Heels into a strong position for the NCAA Tournament? Let us know what you think in the comments!