A month is just enough time for me to begin disguising non-empirical and kneejerk opinions as thoughtful observations, so here goes…
1. James Michael McAdoo will play great basketball all year, but because of who his is and where he plays and when he plays there this will be a great disappointment to everyone.
J.M.M. entered this season as the latest Tar Heel to have unreasonable expectations thrust upon him, which thrusting we were somehow all ok with even after what happened with our expectations re: Harrison Barnes.
We justified it thusly: 1. We had seen McAdoo play actual college basketball
2. We do not learn from our mistakes.
This year, McAdoo has looked dominant at times, serviceable at others (he accomplished periods of both looks against Indiana, in addition to a third, “like his hands had been frozen in Carbonite,” which better never show up again), averaging out to great, but never inhumanly good, which is what we all felt like we were justified in expecting. I am not blameless in this, either: I have found myself more than once wondering if he had the flu while he cruised to a double-double right in front of me.
McAdoo will be one of the many, many great basketball players to not be the national player of the year, but because he won’t have played like one of the Monstars from “Space Jam,” entitled UNC fans like myself will still look back and think about what might (could, should) have been.
2. James Michael McAdoo will play at an outrageously high level during the ACC and NCAA tournaments and will move on to the NBA.
We’ll call this an inverse-Barnes, who melted during last year’s NCAA tournament, but went pro anyway before anyone could realize that this was an indication of what his game is like without an elite point guard there creating his shots for him, rather than a fluke.
I have nothing to base this on besides his excellent play in the same circumstances last year, but I predict that J.M.M. will erupt in late April/early March. With the emergence of Joel James and Brice James as forces in the frontcourt, and next year’s arrival of soft-handed big man/snuggle bear Kennedy Meeks, he’ll declare for the draft this year rather than let a smaller role diminish his draft stock.
3. P.J. Hairston will not become J.J. Redick, but will be the most beloved Tar Heel at the end of the year.
J.J. was the dominant villain during my formative years as a Tar Heel fan, so my memories of him and the statistics of his actual performance might not match up. In my mind, he shot like 94% from beyond the arc, and would, rather than run the court after playing defense (“playing defense”), blink briefly out of reality and only reappear when a pass was thrown to the spot of the court where he was destined to make his next shot from. Whatever the numbers actually were, he was exactly 100% at shooting cold knives into my heart, and I’ve been waiting and waiting on a Carolina player to duplicate his exact skill set.
After a year and a month of saying “when a few more of these shots start falling, Peaches (my nickname for Hairston, it will catch on if we let it) is going to be a terror,” I’m realizing that he might not be that player. That said, Peaches has done at least one unquantifiable and awesome thing in every outing (the halftime buzzer beater, a play against UAB where he straight bossed a fellow around near half-court to receive a pass, he seems also to be legitimately interested in playing defense), and there’s no indication that this behavior will stop.
He’s also had some fantastic plays driving to the basket, and is becoming this team’s emotional epicenter. He is developing himself into a complete player, not simply an oft-errant sniper. It’s really exciting and I expect Peaches to be eliciting the loudest Dean Dome cheers by the end of the year. Sadly, though, it won’t be because he’s draining threes at a rate and frequency that justify introducing him over Garbage’s “Only Happy When it Rains.”
4. P.J. Hairston and J.P. Tokoto will sadly not establish a sufficient enough relationship to justify my “PJJP Palindrome Parejas” nickname that I really wanted to bust out.
Just something I’d been looking forward to all summer, not a big deal.
5. Brice Johnson will be the ACC Rookie of the year, or if not, there will be a legitimate case to be made that he deserves it.
The glut of young, unproven talent in Chapel Hill this year is Johnson’s biggest obstacle here. On a shallower team he’d be getting more minutes, and we’d all be speaking about him in hushed tones, silently working out what we’d be willing to give up to the Lord in a bargain that would keep him in powder blue for the next three years.
Once every game he does something so brilliant that all the colors in the world get brighter all of a sudden. His .630 is the highest field goal percentage for players averaging at least 14 minutes per game, and he’s got a higher average PPG than Dexter Strickland, who has the benefit of an average of ten more minutes per game. Granted, a lot of Dexter’s time is coming at point guard, a position not known for lighting up the scoreboard in Daggum Roy’s system, but still. He’s also becoming Marcus Paige’s favorite dish target when they’re in at the same time.
By the end of this season we will have stopped thinking of Johnson as a hyper-talented freshman and will begin to think of him as the future of Carolina basketball. Dovetailing with this…
6. Brice Johnson will begin next season with unreasonable expectations thrust upon him, and the grand cycle of hubris and entitlement will continue unbroken
7. UNC will win a game they have no business winning because of their outside shooting.
I have a friend who is excellent at reverse-jinxing Duke to greatness. His favorite thing to say about last year’s Duke team was that he had little confidence in them since they could win or lose any game they played, because they relied so much on outside shooting, and then I was in his kitchen, cursing his name and his family and smashing my head against his wall trying to concuss myself after Austin Rivers’ shot while he giggled or something, or was high-fiving Satan in the corner, or whatever it is Duke fans do to celebrate making the world a worse place.
I feel essentially the same way about the UNC this year, and say it as often as I can, which I guess makes me a hypocrite.
Leading candidates for this are against this year’s thoroughly terrifying Duke team at Cameron, and a game against a higher seed in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, this is a coin that inevitably flips both ways, so…
8. UNC will lose a game they have no business losing because of their outside shooting.
I don’t want to talk about it now, and I won’t want to talk about it then, but it will happen, and probably it will be Clemson, because that would be the absolute worst.