North Carolina basketball got the exact game the Tar Heels needed against No. 1 Michigan State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in East Lansing, Wednesday. The victory came because of a terrific game plan deployed by coach Roy Williams where five players scored at least 12 points and the Heels outrebounded the Spartans, 49 to 38.
However, no matter how sweet the victory was, junior forward James Michael McAdoo‘s struggles have to be a major concern going forward for North Carolina. McAdoo recorded his fourth-straight game of scoring less than 10 points with an eight-point effort. McAdoo only hit 3-of-11 field goals and grabbed just four rebounds. Luckily, a great game from him was not needed. The concern is more was expected in the preseason and will be needed from McAdoo come conference games in January. It will be difficult for North Carolina to completely rely on the freshmen and sophomores, who excelled against the Spartans.
The Tar Heels continue to have a challenging out-of-conference schedule in December with No. 3 Kentucky and Texas still on the docket. These games should give even more insight to whether McAdoo is ready to be a leader, or if he will have to settle in as a scrappy role player. McAdoo’s main strength is his athleticism, but he has not been able to harness it and turn it into an efficient offensive style. Against Michigan State, McAdoo would get out of control on offense and that led to his awful shooting night. This has been a season-long trend for him and he now shooting at 39.5 percent clip. Considering he should not be taking outside shots and could be a potent inside threat, this percentage is shocking. Williams cannot waste time designing a way to find easy opportunities for McAdoo. The key for McAdoo in finding his offensive game will have to come on defense. McAdoo can become a lockdown defender because of his length and he needs to turn steals into fast break layups and dunks.
Sometimes a player just needs a few easy baskets to turn the season around. There is no guarantee this will flip his game, but becoming a better defender could be what helps propel UNC into an ACC contender. The Tar Heels have shown they can beat any team without McAdoo contributing on offense. If he does not turn into a reliable scorer, maybe becoming a shutdown defensive player will be enough.