It’s Not the Size of Your Frontcourt but the Motion of Your Jump Shot

While I’m sure in two minutes of googling I could find 50 or so quotes from esteemed sportsmen about how there are no moral victories in sports, what the hell, I’m calling the Duke game a moral victory.

Duke has been the superior team all year, and Cameron Indoor Stadium has been tough on veteran UNC teams in the past. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this year’s squad had gotten blown out by 20, so to keep it within single digits is something for this team to be proud of.[1]

More than that, though, it was just a fun game to watch. The first half, when UNC was holding on to a solid lead and every Carolina fan was thinking we might actually win this, was the most enjoyable half of Carolina basketball this year, no matter the final score.

Plus, in hindsight, that game gave UNC fans something even better: the “small-ball” lineup.

One of the biggest pains of the basketball season so far has been watching the cycle of incompetency that has been UNC’s rotation at center so far this season.  Desmond Hubert and Joel James, both athletic yet raw players, would at this point have a hard time filling the shoes of Luke Zeller, let alone Tyler Zeller.

Fortunately, Roy, in a surprising display of coaching flexibility, realized this, and went to his four-guard lineup with James Michael McAdoo at center. It’s worked beautifully so far, nearly catching Duke by surprise and even helping net a victory against a big Georgia Tech frontcourt, largely for the surprisingly simple reason that McAdoo and these four guards are the best five players on the Heels roster this season.

While I love having a big body in the paint who can play as a true center[2], this year’s UNC squad just doesn’t have the personnel for that, and it’s good to see Roy has stopped trying to force round pegs into square holes and adjust his strategy to the players he does have.[3]

UNC is still sitting precariously close to, or on the NCAA tournament bubble (depending on the “bracketology” writer of your choice), but if the Heels can keep this level of play up it should have no problem getting the wins necessary in a weak ACC to lock up a tourney spot.

Plus, we’ll always have that first half in Cameron.


[1] It somewhat reminds me of the 2006 UNC team. They lost their first game against Duke in a matchup that was closer than it should have been, and, while disappointing, as a UNC fan you could still feel confident seeing that young team growing up so fast. They eventually ended that regular season with one of the best upsets in the history of the UNC-Duke rivalry. I don’t think this team is as talented as that ’06 squad was, but a guy can dream right?

[2] Something Kennedy Meeks will hopefully be able to provide next season

[3] Which he’s been reluctant to do in the past

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