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UNC vs Davidson: Three things to watch

What to expect when UNC heads to Charlotte to take on the Wildcats.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC will travel to Charlotte Friday to face off against Davidson in what will be their fourth game in seven days. UNC returned home last night to face off against Michigan, returning to form against the Wolverines in an 86-71 victory.

Last year Davidson kept things nice and interesting against the Heels and looked like they were going to potentially upset them at home before eventually losing 83-74. Roy Williams is aware that they are not a team to be taken lightly, despite what their 3-2 record might indicate. Right now there are very few constants with UNC, and one has to wonder what to expect at the Spectrum Center. With that said, here are three things to watch for during Friday’s game.

Defensive struggles

Despite what was otherwise a historically awful game for UNC, the one thing that they did right against Michigan State is that they played stellar defense. Aside from Joshua Langford giving the Heels more than they could handle in his 23-point effort, the rest of the team didn’t fare so well. Miles Bridges especially was quiet, shooting 4-9 and ended the game with 11 points. Overall Michigan State shot 40.0% from the field and 38.5% from three-point range, and only had 63 points for the entire game.

It would make sense for this performance to leak into the game against Michigan, but alas, UNC allowed Michigan to shoot 100% from the field for the opening minutes of the game. The Wolverines finished the half with a 51.7 FG% and shot 46.7% from three. While UNC’s defense eventually got a little better in the second half, they still left way too many shooters open. The saving grace was that Michigan’s shooters just ended up going cold, and even on multiple wide-open shots they struggled mightily in putting the ball into the basket.

UNC needs to find a way to bring back some of the defensive intensity that they had against Michigan State. For some players, they need to find some sense of defensive intensity altogether. There are only so many non-conference games left before ACC play starts later this month, and if they want a chance to win the conference they need to find some consistency in creating havoc against opposing offenses. More specifically, they need to find a way to guard three-point shooters. Funny enough this hasn’t been their undoing to date, but the likes of Grayson Allen and Bonzie Colson are waiting.

Seventh Woods

Seventh Woods played perhaps his best game of the season against Michigan. It was a very under-the-radar performance —especially in relation to the performances of Luke Maye and Kenny Williams — but this is the most comfortable that he’s looked at the point guard position since he first arrived in Chapel Hill.

Seventh Woods finished the game shooting 2-2 with 4 points, 4 assists and 1 rebound in 8 minutes of play. While the numbers are small, the production within that limited amount of time is a good sign that he is on the uptick in his development. Aside from stats, Woods looked like he had full control of the offense when he was on the court. He made very few poor decisions, and got everyone involved on the court. In fact, UNC scored 15 points during the first half with Woods on the floor.

If Roy Williams is going to continue wanting to move Joel Berry II to the shooting guard spot, we may see Seventh Woods get more minutes against Davidson than he did Wednesday night. Berry played a huge portion of the game against Michigan at the point guard spot, and it’s likely that Williams will want to give Berry a little bit of res depending on how things go against Davidson. If so, don’t be surprised to see Woods on the court more than Jalek Felton.

Which freshman big will contribute?

The freshmen bigs finally got punched in the mouth against Michigan State. The Spartans were more physical in the post, they dominated the boards, and basically had no shame in welcoming the 2017 freshman class to the NCAA. Things do not get easier from here, nor do the post players get much smaller. The bigs got a lesson in toughness during the PK80, and now they need to find a way to apply that lesson going forward.

Last night Garrison Brooks looked like the first big to step up in aggression. Coming into the game against Michigan, Brooks spent much of the season attacking the basket in a way that was reminiscent of how Kennedy Meeks “attacked” the basket his freshman and sophomore seasons. Against the Wolverines he finally realized that he is fully capable of finishing at the rim, and had a couple dunks to show for it. Hopefully he will continue to attack in this manner and open things up for his teammates on the perimeter.

Sterling Manley also did some good things against Michigan. He managed to pull down 6 rebounds and finished with 4 points and one assist. The problem with the bigs right now, and UNC in general, is that this is the second game in a row where they were either beat or close to being beaten on the boards. UNC pulled down 37 rebounds to Michigan’s 31, which isn’t terrible but it is definitely closer than Roy would like out of his players. The bigs are going to have to find a way to step their game up, and Friday night would be a great time to do it.