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December 25, 2013

Storylines: UNC-Northern Kentucky

UNC's basketball team will return to the court after a couple extra days off to take on the Northern Kentucky Norse on Friday.

The Tar Heels are coming off an overtime victory over the Davidson Wildcats and will look to get another winning streak rolling as they inch closer and closer to conference play.

The Heels lost another game they probably should have won against Texas in the game previous to the Davidson contest and consistency continues to be their greatest inconsistency.

Clearly they are a threat to anyone that steps on the court with them. The problem is they are also their biggest enemy as well.

Let's a take a look at some of the storylines heading into Friday's game.

J.P. Tokoto

UNC let it be known last Friday that they would not seek reinstatement for their embattled former star P.J. Hairston.

The long-running saga of whether or wouldn't he play came to a conclusion as the school determined it likely wouldn't be able to get him cleared by the NCAA and didn't want to risk letting the situation continue on any further.

Fortunately for the Tar Heels, J.P. Tokoto looked like a man that's starting to hit his stride in the game against Davidson. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and gave the Heels a defensive presence on the defensive end.

Roy Williams has said that he thinks Tokoto has the ability to become one of the better offensive rebounders he's ever coached and Tokoto says that he isn't going to change how he approaches his role now that he knows his starting spot won't be yanked in the event Hairston might have come back.

"My role's been the same," Tokoto said. "Attack the boards, be an offensive threat when needed, be a defensive stop for coach, whatever we need - just be that person. I had it in my mind that I was going to be that with P.J., or without him."

The defensive end is where Tokoto makes his mark. He forced five steals against Davidson and is always a stopper on that end. His area of improvement and where he can make the leap to one of the elites in the ACC comes on the offensive end.

While Tokoto will likely never be a guy that has plays drawn up for him on a consistent basis, his hustle and intensity can put him in positive positions to get put backs and easy baskets in transitions when he runs the court.

Perimeter Play

UNC isn't a good shooting team.

They don't hit on a high percentage from beyond the 3-point line and don't take advantage of their chances at the charity stripe.

UNC hasn't shot less than 40 free throws in any of their last three games. A lot of that has to do with them feeling uncomfortable taking an outside shot so they either have their wings drive it to the basket or pound it down low to their bigs.

Either way, UNC isn't taking advantage of the large amount of free points that are available to them game in and game out.

Williams talked about that very thing after the Texas loss, essentially saying that at some point they simply have to be tough enough to make the shot.

They've brought back Leslie McDonald at a critical junction of their season. If he hadn't been able to come back the Tar Heels were in serious danger of burning out their All-Everything guard Marcus Paige.

Now defenses have two guys to pay attention to on the outside and their shooting touch should open up driving lanes for Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo.

James Michael McAdoo

Heading into last season, McAdoo was widely regarded as UNC's most talented player and a guy that would likely use the year as an opportunity to raise his draft stock.

Instead last season revealed a plethora of weaknesses in the Virginians game and he decided to return for yet another year in Chapel Hill. This season hasn't been the easiest for him either.

McAdoo has been asked to play on the outside more than he's ever been asked to before. This experiment puts a couple of things into focus.

For starters, McAdoo has the ability to get to the rim whenever he wants. The problem is he doesn't always do what he's supposed to when he gets there. He's capable of making spectacular plays and often attempts one when a simple dunk or layup would do. If he could just master the art of simplicity his scoring numbers would go up astronomically.

The other is that maybe the NBA isn't salivating about him the way they were a couple years ago. When he was the best guy coming off the bench on a team loaded with lottery picks, the NBA scouts couldn't stop raving about his potential.

The potential is still there but it doesn't feel like anyone expects him to really develop the skill set to be a small forward at the next level. It's more likely he'll always be an undersized power forward that relies on his athleticism and hustle to make the best of his talents.

If that's the case, it could mean that McAdoo goes from a guy that could have been a one-and-done to a guy that plays all four years on the college level before becoming a professional.


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