Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
A busy week for the UNC basketball team continues to roll
along as they'll tip off their third game in a seven day span
when they travel to Syracuse Saturday afternoon.
The Heels are having a rough go to start the ACC season.
They're 0-2 with losses to Wake Forest and Miami both happening
this week. Their credentials for getting a decent seed in the
NCAA tournament, and possibly getting in at all if the downward
trend continues, might hinge on how the Tar Heels react to the
adversity their currently facing.
Let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into a
historic matchup with the Syracuse Orange.
Before we get to the bigger picture issues, let's take a step
back and appreciate what we'll be witnessing Saturday afternoon. The
ever-changing landscape of college athletics ratcheted up over the
last few seasons and resulted in the ACC becoming the unquestioned
mecca of the college basketball world.
Matchups like UNC traveling to the Carrier Dome are just the tip
of the iceberg and will soon feel like normal occurrences, but for
now, the fact that this game is happening, as a regular season
affair, is really cool.
Jim Boeheim going head-to-head with Roy
Williams, the state of North Carolina against the state of
Syracuse, North versus South---this game is special and should be
appreciated as such.
For fans, this will be a fun atmosphere to watch on television.
For a variety of reasons, Roy Williams seems quite tired. Not just
frustrated but also exhausted.
Between the offseason trouble from P.J. Hairston and
Leslie McDonald, to the losses that have come out of
nowhere and are starting to become a trend, to the health scare he
had last year, Williams is not having a lot of fun out there and
it's showing in his comments after games.
"It was not a good night for us, to say the least. We had a
disappointing loss Sunday night, and this was very much like that.
We did not do a very good job," said head coach Roy Williams
immediately afterwards. "When you go to school here and coach as an
assistant and come back and coach here, it's a feeling of ownership.
And it's a feeling of pride. And right now I'm not doing a good job
with this basketball team. And that's one of the hardest things I've
ever had to say."
A loss to Syracuse wouldn't get put into the same category as
losing to UAB or Belmont but as it would come on the heels of
back-to-back ACC season opening losses, the pressure will mount and
the bleak tone of the season will only get worse.
"I do feel mentally probably worse than I've ever felt as a coach
right now," said Williams. "As a coach you start questioning
everything you do, from the coat you wear to the defense you're
playing. We're going to try to practice as hard as we can to do a
"There's no question we're feeling stressed. That's what happens
at North Carolina when you lose. We've got to keep competing."
UNC has had a tremendously difficult time doing the most basic
function of basketball---scoring the ball.
In back-to-back games, UNC has outrebounded their opponent and
lost. In both contests, they significantly won the offensive
rebounding battle but couldn't capitalize and turn those extra
possessions into points.
There are two ways to look at this stat. Either UNC isn't a good
offensive team, which might be true but they've shown otherwise, or
this is just a string of bad breaks where a lid has been put on the
hoop and the Heels are about to have an offensive explosion because
Leslie McDonald's return has given UNC an extra shooter and a guy
that can space the floor but too often the ball has stopped when
it's reached his hands. His challenge is to not be a ball-stopper
and keep the offense flowing.
Kennedy Meeks has been the most inconsistent Tar Heel
this year. A lot of that can be contributed to learning how to play
with his changing body. He's lost a lot of weight and has been
challenged to lose more. The last couple of games he's appeared to
have lost some lift when he goes up and isn't finishing around the
It all comes down to Marcus Paige. He's the unquestioned
best player on this team and their leader. The team goes as he goes.
J.P. Tokoto is beginning to come out of his shell as well
and might be in for a breakout season this year in the ACC. But
Paige has to get back to his efficient ways.
Paige shot 2-of-15 from the field with 11 of those shots coming
from beyond the arc. He has to be more aggressive in driving to the
basket so he can create easier scoring chances for James Michael McAdoo and UNC's other big men. They don't have a true "back to
the basket" threat down low but they have guys that finish a play
off a pass from penetration.
Paige is the key and him getting his stroke back against Syracuse
is the biggest storyline to watch.
vs. North Carolina
Date: Saturday, January 11, 2014 Time: 12:00 PM EST Venue:
Carrier Dome (34,616) TV:ESPN Radio:Tar Heel Sports
Network & SiriusXM (Sirius
91/XM 91) Series: Carolina leads 4-3 Last Meeting: SU 87, UNC 71 on Nov. 20, 2009,
in Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y.
Syracuse at a glance Location: Syracuse, NY Nickname:
Carrier Dome (34,616) 2012-2013 Record:
30-10 (11-7) Last Game:
Syracuse cruised to a 72-52 win at Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. More on the Orange: Schedule
| Stats |
Roster Official Site |
Last starting line-up
F - C.J. Fair F - Rakeem Christmas F - Jerami Grant
G - Tyler Ennis G - Trevor Cooney