Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Big Carolina Blue Enigma

Well after a painful three game slide which had people seriously doubting whether UNC is a tournament team (and make no mistake, the answer has yet to be determined), the Tar Heels finally reverted back to the early season form that had some people thinking they could make a run at the Elite Eight or Final Four. Yes, it was only State, but it was the first true road win for the Heels. Furthermore, aside from a brief dry spell to start the second half, it was the most composed and consistent performance the team has put together since beating Michigan State back in December.

Assuming Davis's ankle is recovered and does not become a nagging injury, the team should be able to build on last night's win. Doing so will be crucial given the next four games: UVA at home, @VT, @Maryland, and Duke at home. The Tar Heels pretty much have to win the UVA and VT games if they want to make sure they get a NCAA bid. To remain in contention for a wide open ACC, the Heels will need to win at least one of the other two games, neither of which will be easy. The Terps actually may be playing the best of any team in the ACC right now, and it will be a major chore to try and slow down General Grevis and Eric Hayes in College Park. As far as Duke goes, Scheyer and Singler will be looking to get some revenge for all the losses they suffered at the hands of Hansbrough, Lawson, and Co.

So can the Tar Heels go 3/4 in that stretch? I think so. Will they? It depends on a lot of things. Following are my short thoughts on some of the players and culminating in what I think the starting lineup should be.

Marcus Ginyard- In a weird way I think the worst thing for Marcus Ginyard was the preseason comparisons to David Noel. Whereas Noel was able to carry the 2006 team (even though Hansbrough was the leading scorer) Ginyard has failed to do so and honestly looks as lost as the freshman at many points during the game. Ginyard is not Noel, and he is trying to do too many things right now. He was at his best as a role player who could come into a game, give great effort on defense, grab some boards, and knock down a couple shots.

Deon Thompson- Deon hasn't evolved in the dominant player some thought he could be when Hansbrough left, but neither does he deserve the criticism some have heaped on him. He leads the team in points, and is the only player other than Davis who can be consistently relied upon to score. As seen last night, he works best when Davis is in the game and he can become isolated with his man. I would like to see him hit the boards harder and go to the rim stronger during games.

Will Graves- Graves is and always has been a volume shooter. If he's knocking down a bunch of threes then he's probably also missing a fair number. Where he has impressed me is on the defensive end and with his rebounding. He's working his way into better shape and giving a more consistent effort. He shouldn't be the primary scoring threat, but is the best outside shooter on the team. On a slight tangent I absolutely loved the "eff you" three Graves knocked down at the end of the game. It showed a swagger this team has been desperately been missing.

Ed Davis- Nothing to really say here. He's been the best player on the team bar none. Here's to hoping his ankle injury was just a minor blip.

Larry Drew II- Drew II is perhaps the biggest enigma on the team. He seemed to really catch on during the nonconference schedule, then has been extremely underwhelming during the three game losing streak, looking unconfident with his shot and turning the ball over. I was almost ready to give up on him, then he put on a great performance last night with 18 points, 7 assists, and only a single turnover. Hopefully this will lead to Drew playing confident throughout the rest of the schedule, but the true test will be against Vasquez and Scheyer.

Dexter Strickland- Strickland is the best talent on the team aside from Davis. However he has yet to consistently take advantage of this talent and for every performance like last night's he will have a game with a 5 points, 2 assists, 4 turnovers stat line. He attacks the basket better than anyone on the team and at his best looks like a poor man's John Wall. He seems to be most effective when playing off guard alongside Drew II.

The rest of the freshman have all shown flashes (John Henson continues to flash potential at points without truly breaking out) but have not put up any consistent performances. McDonald has become more comfortable on the court and deserves more PT. The Wears are sound players, but they never dominate. While Henson could bolt after next season if he puts on some muscle and live up to his potential, I expect these freshmen to really come into their own their junior year, ala May, McCants, and Felton.

Quickly, Tyler Zeller for the second straight season is missing significant time due to injury. While I was very frustrated with his play against Virginia Tech, the truth is that UNC is only 1-3 in his absence and could definitely use him.

So with all that covered here is how I would like to see the starting lineup and rotation shake out for the next few games.
PG: Drew II (30 min), Strickland (10 min)
SG: Strickland (15 min), Ginyard (17 min), McDonald (8 min)
SF: Graves (24 min), Henson (8 min), Ginyard (8 min)
PF: Thompson (30 min), Wears (8 min), Graves (2 min)
C: Davis (32 min), Wears (8 min)

When Zeller gets back he can take a chunk out of Thompson, Davis, and the Wear's minutes as necessary. I think getting Ginyard 25 quality minutes off the bench will help get him back settled into his natural fit of being a productive role player. All of the freshmen aside from Strickland are getting a solid 8 minutes (based on recent trends Travis may get a larger share of the 16 split between the two twins), which should let them continue to develop. The starting lineup give UNC its most effective backcourt, its one major 3 point threat, and about 30 points and 15 rebounds per game in the frontcourt.


  1. You said you thought LMac deserved more PT, but then in your ideal lineup you had him getting 8 a game. If you gave Ginyard's numbers at the 3 to McDonald, I would agree with the whole thing. Also, take 4 minutes of Grave's time at the 3 to his spot at the 4, and give Henson 4 more minutes at the 3. His minutes at the 4 can come from Deon.