UNC is coming off a disappointing loss at Indiana. After starting the season so strong, the wheels fell off and the Tar Heels looked nothing like what we have seen all year. It is time to regroup, refocus, and move on to Radford. Here are three things to watch for in UNC’s next game Sunday against the Highlanders.
A bounce back after a loss
After rolling through their first 7 games this year, UNC experienced their first hiccup in a loss to IU in Bloomington. Nothing seemed to go right for the Heels as they produced a season low in most statistical categories.
We are all expecting UNC to bounce back from this and dismantle Radford. What we really need to watch for his how UNC looks in the next few games. Luckily they have a few tune ups to right the ship before the December 17th showdown with Kentucky.
I’m not a fan of moral victories. Those are for low-tier programs who don’t know what winning a title feels like. You can try and take positives away from any game but a loss is still a loss. However, I do think that something good will come from this loss. When IU lost to IPFW earlier this year I thought it was a wake up call for them. They defeated Kansas, leapfrogged a handful of teams and even ascended to #1 in ESPN’s power rankings. Everyone was telling them how good they were and patting them on the back. Then, they lost to a team that most people didn’t even know existed.
UNC was steamrolling through their competition and everyone was telling them how good they were. Even a dukie like Jay Bilas was calling them the best team in the country.
I’m not arguing that UNC needed this loss, because that’s never the case. A wake up call, getting focused, whatever you want to call it, this team needed that. You can’t just coast through the season, experience adversity for the first time in March and know how to handle it. You would rather have that come in November than later in the season. UNC will respond like they always do, and that will start first with Radford on Sunday.
A go-to guy?
There was one bright spot despite UNC’s loss, Justin Jackson. Jackson seemed like the only player who was ready for the big stage and didn’t look to be rattled at all by the Hoosier faithful. He actually played a very good game putting up 21 points and 8 rebounds on 7-13 shooting.
Although Carolina was down for the majority of the game, Jackson hit big shots to not allow the lead to grow larger. Whenever Indiana would hit a big shot and it seemed as though the lead was going to stretch in the second half, Jackson would knock down a shot to prevent such a run.
It is kind of hard to say he hit clutch shots considering they occurred when UNC was down by 8-10 points, but he answered the bell every time it rang. Jackson looks like he could become UNC’s go-to guy, and the player they can count on when they need it most.
The UNC frontcourt should dominate this matchup with Radford. Kennedy Meeks has already been a double-double machine this year, and would have been the MVP of the Maui Invitational had Joel Berry II not played like the best point guard in the country this year. As a team, North Carolina is the best offensive rebounding percentage team in the country. Meeks is ranked in the top five in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage along with freshman teammate, Tony Bradley. UNC is also holding their opponents to shoot just 42% from inside the arc this year. This stat isn’t only credited to the bigs but they definitely contribute to it.
Aside from the fact that UNC may boast the best frontcourt in the country, they are going up against a much smaller team in Radford. The two tallest players on Radford are listed at 6-8, 240 pounds. Between Meeks (6-10, 260 pounds), Bradley (6-11, 240 pounds) and Hicks (6-9, 242 pounds) we should see them dominate yet another helpless group of big men.