The North Carolina Tar Heels have one more non-conference game before heading to Wake Forest on Jan. 5 to open ACC play. The team’s opponent is North Carolina-Wilmington, a 6-8 team out of the Colonial Conference. Even though the Tar Heels should win the game handily, it is evidently a trap game for them–as was every other game they played against unranked teams thus far–considering their inconsistency.
UNC-Wilmington does not have much size, strength or talent to say the least, but it does possess the one thing that the Tar Heels have struggled against all season, and that is the fact that there is no number listed to the left of the team’s name on the television scoreboard. You never know what to expect from the Tar Heels this year. They can either play like a Final Four caliber team or play like a high school basketball team with little to no urgency to win the game. If the team has any hopes of beginning their ACC schedule with confidence and momentum, they must play this game like an in-conference matchup.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige only scored 11 points in the team’s last game against Northern Kentucky, which is not what the team wanted from their leading scorer against a below average team. The momentum starts with the Tar Heels’ best player, and Paige needs to solidify that position by having a huge scoring game against UNC-Wilmington, then carry that confidence into Wake Forest.
As for James Michael McAdoo, much improvement was shown in the previous game. He was 6-8 from the free-throw line, and although he started the game with only two first half points, he had a huge second half in which he scored 12. The last thing the Tar Heels need is for McAdoo to completely collapse against UNC-Wilmington because with Joel James‘ return for the Wake Forest game unsure, he may be the team’s only threat in the frontcourt. With that being said, Brice Johnson needs to maintain his momentum down low as James’ replacement in the starting lineup.
Leslie McDonald showed that he is getting his three-point shooting touch back, with three straight field goals from beyond the arc in the first half against Northern Kentucky. He cannot be afraid to let the long ball go against UNC-Wilmington, because if he can remain hot, then the team will be very successful during the ACC part of their schedule.
The point that I am ultimately trying to make is that the Tar Heels are on the right track and cannot fall even an inch off this track in a trap game. If they plan on being successful to begin ACC play, they must take the momentum they gained against Northern Kentucky and strengthen it against UNC-Wilmington.