On Sunday afternoon, UNC hosted the four-team Disaster Relief Jamboree, an event that featured the Heels as well as UNCG, UNCW, and Eastern Carolina. The event was held to raise money for the state to help with the various disasters that have taken place around North Carolina, the most notable recent disaster being Hurricane Matthew, which left a significant amount of damage in the eastern parts of the state last year.
There was a decent turnout at the Dean Smith Center, as fans from all over the state gathered and watched their team play against three other teams with a 14-minute running clock for each game. At the last 3 minutes of each game, the normal game clock and rules went into full effect, similar to the scrimmages that take place during Late Night with Roy.
So what, if anything, can be learned from UNC’s performance against these three teams? Let’s take a look at what can be salvaged from yesterday’s event.
The outcome of each game doesn’t matter
What seems like a given doesn’t always sit well with a sports fan base, especially for games with as unique of a layout as yesterday’s was. So, with that said, this needs to be pointed out: the outcome of each of these games in no way, shape, or form matters. Please refrain from unleashing all of the hot takes about UNC losing to UNCG 24-32. If you need to, please step away from the keyboard and dip your fingers in a bucket of ice water to cool down the flames that are burning inside of you.
The biggest takeaway from this game was that Roy Williams was not set on any particular lineup throughout the course of this event. In fact, the lineups were downright weird at times. To give a brief idea of just how weird they got, here are some examples:
- Jalek Felton, Brandon Robinson, Sterling Manley, Andrew Platek, Brandon Huffman
- Theo Pinson (playing point guard), Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams, Garrison Brooks, Luke Maye
- Seventh Woods, Andrew Platek, Walker Miller, Brandon Robinson, Brandon Huffman
While maybe one or two of these lineups may actually be used during the regular season at some point, it is clear that Roy Williams had no intent on sticking to a lineup that was designed to win every game that was played yesterday. In fact, someone from the Inside Carolina website pointed out that Roy actually had lineups on a notecard.
Given the statements that he made after the game, it’s clear that not only is Joel Berry II’s absence affecting his choices in personnel, but even if Berry was healthy, Roy wasn’t going out of his way to win every single game. He wanted to see what works and what doesn’t work, and it is almost guaranteed that it will be rare to see anything too crazy this Friday when UNC takes on Northern Iowa.
The defense performed better than against Barton
When UNC played Barton College a little over a week ago, the defense seemed to struggle more than we are used to seeing. A lot of this is due to what tends to happen at the beginning of each season, in that the team is learning to mesh with each other and essentially are still knocking the cobwebs off from the offseason. Perhaps the most notable issue was that players weren’t playing help defense very well, causing opposing players to get open more often.
Things looked better during yesterday’s event, which is a good sign going into the game against Northern Iowa. UNC’s big men were getting out on the perimeter more than they did against Barton, teammates were helping double-team more often, and overall they just looked like they cared more about getting a stop.
It is important to emphasize that things still weren’t perfect — there were times when some players were still lackadaisical on defense and when it came to grabbing boards. Roy Williams shared some heated words with his team following the loss to UNCG and their effort improved almost immediately in their game against UNCW. Time will tell what kind of defense shows up Friday.
Cam Johnson was the player of the game
When it comes to who had the best day for the Tar Heels, that honor goes to former Pittsburgh player Cameron Johnson. Johnson scored 18 points for the day, shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point range. He was all over the court all day, and it is becoming evident that he is getting a bit more comfortable in Roy Williams’ system.
Aside from his strong offensive performance, Johnson also showed that he has strong potential on the defensive side of the ball. He was very aggressive in defending his assignments, and overall looked like he was playing for a starting job this coming Friday. He has some strong competition, as Kenny Williams was also very aggressive on both sides of the ball during the exhibition games. We will see who Roy Williams ends up starting, but regardless both of them will end up seeing significant minutes throughout the course of the season.