This may be one of the most inconsistent North Carolina Tar Heels basketball teams that the college basketball community has ever seen, but it seems as if they have finally found some consistency. After defeating their bitter in-state rival North Carolina State quite handily yesterday, the Tar Heels moved to .500 in the ACC, which is a tremendous accomplishment considering they began conference play 0-3. Aside from two games against Duke and one against Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels do not have to face another team that could really keep up with them throughout the rest of their season.
Throughout the Tar Heels’ three-game win streak, they have shown a sense of urgency that was nearly invisible in the beginning of conference play. Players are diving on the floor for loose balls, their transition offense is giving opposing defenses a tremendous amount of problems and the Tar Heels’ big men are getting to the rim and finishing through contact.
When they do not finish through contact, and they get fouled, their free throw shooting is not even close to what it was like in the first half of the season. Even though they are still struggling from the line, they are making just enough to help them towards victory. Roy Williams is able to coach the fundamentals of the game, but he is unable to coach a sense of urgency. Now that the team seems like they actually have confidence, Williams job is much simpler.
The Tar Heels are now ninth in the nation in rebounding, mostly thanks to emerging freshman forward Kennedy Meeks, who has been a force in the frontcourt ever since he entered the starting lineup. James Michael McAdoo has been nothing short of stellar in recent games, and the fact that he is finally playing up to his freshman year expectations is helping the Tar Heels immensely.
Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald are starting to get more shots off from beyond the arc, and even though their shooting percentages could use some improvement, it is nice to see that they are attempting to express their abilities. J.P. Tokoto is emerging as a third scoring threat next to McAdoo and Paige, while Brice Johnson is coming off the bench and making an abundance of momentum shifting plays.
We are finally seeing the Tar Heels team that defeated the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country during non-conference play. The team that we saw to begin ACC play was not even close to NCAA tournament caliber, let alone NIT caliber. They committed way too many stupid turnovers, and it almost seemed as if they had given up on their season the second they fell behind in a game. This team is playing like they have something to prove, and they could do some serious damage come March.
The Tar Heels have two more “should-win” games against Maryland and Notre Dame before their treacherous back-to-back games against Duke and Pittsburgh. If they continue to play like this brand new team that we have been seeing, and maintain their tremendous amount of momentum, then the ACC is theirs for the taking.