As the UNC men’s basketball team prepares for Friday’s NCAA Tournament opening-round game vs. Providence, it is interesting to consider if last season’s two-game run helps or hurts the Tar Heels.
Was a win over Villanova in the round of 64 before falling to Roy Williams’ former Kansas squad in the second round meaningless or harmful for a Tar Heels team that has endured controversy and unexpected roster moves in an overall successful season?
Well, if experience counts, then the Tar Heels certainly have some to draw upon from the 2013 tourney.
Take James Michael McAdoo, whose fortunes seemed to rise and dip with that of his team. The junior forward was terrific in the 78-71 win over the Wildcats, hitting 6 of 12 field goal attempts and 5 of 7 free throws for 17 points.
He was ineffective, however, in a season-ending 70-58 setback to the Jayhawks. McAdoo launched 19 shots, hitting just five as the Tar Heels saw a 30-21 halftime lead evaporate into a disappointing double-digit loss.
McAdoo wasn’t alone in having a poor outing vs. Kansas, as Marcus Paige, Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock combined to shoot 7 of 26 from the field. Williams’ bench didn’t offer much relief, as Tar Heel reserves Leslie McDonald, Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto and Jackson Simmons were a combined 4 of 11 with one field goal each.
The Tar Heels bench, a group consisting of McDonald, Simmons, Desmond Hubert and Johnson, was similarly ineffective vs. the Wildcats in hitting just 2 of 9 shots for seven points.
Fortunately for North Carolina, four of five starters reached double-figure in scoring, led by the departed P.J. Hairston (23 points). Bullock (15) and Paige (14) were outstanding in hitting 5 of 10 trey attempts they put up.
The parallels of this season’s bracket to last season’s are interesting for the Tar Heels in that they face a Big East squad for the second straight time in the Friars. Instead of Kansas, however, a second-round date with the winner of Iowa State-NC Central awaits UNC if it can top the ‘Cats.
A neighborhood battle between the ‘Heels and Eagles would certainly be fun, but UNC wants a return trip to the second-round of the NCAAs either way with an eye on a Sweet Sixteen spot.
Ryan Shearer (research) contributed to this story