The first official game of the hundredth year of the University of North Carolina's men's basketball program was perhaps the first real chance to see exactly how this year was going to shape up as well as the first chance to see some weirdo '57 throwback jerseys with red accents. WEIRD. So though the game ended with a decisive victory, 88-72, against Isiah Thomas's Florida International University Golden Panthers, I couldn't help but feel disappointment: This is one of the best basketball teams in the country?
UNC didn't take care of the ball, turning it over 26 times. By contrast, FIU turned it over only 20 times. Routinely, we looked sloppy and careless, making terrible passes and ill-advised plays. Despite having a huge size advantage, we really failed to capitalize and force the issue. Our offense looked confused and aimless. Guys were clearly making mistakes on defense and it was obvious some guys didn't know the system. It looked like a young team. Which it is. So I guess these things are okay. Still, a little disappointing.
But there were good things. Indeed, there were many, many good things. Drew II is much improved from last year and was killing it with a credible Ty Lawson impression: speed, pinpoint passing, and some sweet on-ball moves including a bad-ass cross-over and at least one ankle breaker. Who would have thought that training with Kobe, one of the hardest working and most skilled basketball players ever, in the off-season would pay dividends? By the way, the answer is everyone. "What about idiots?" you ask. The answer to that is "What about them?"
Deon Thompson looked good. He looked like he looked at the beginning of last season when Tyler was out: ready and willing to get in the trenches and do the dirty work and, oh yeah, score. Currently, Deon looks like the best and most consistent option on offense, and thats more than okay.
Ed Davis played well: A double-double and four blocks in twenty-three minutes bodes well for the future, despite one ill-advised attempt to lead a fast break on his own. Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves looked ready to lead this team after their seasons off: both were all over the place on both ends of the floor and seem more than capable. Ginyard had a big dunk that surprised me, considering that when I think of "Marcus Ginyard" and "dunk" the connecting phrase that comes to mind first is "missed another." Propers to Marcus. Will Graves, incidentally, got the start at small forward, which was also a surprise to me.
I thought John Henson, would start at small forward, but everyone's favorite 6'10" freshmen beanpole came off the bench. He looked good tonight, though not extraordinary, didn't get that many minutes and apparently doesn't really yet have the offense running any plays for him. Imagine this: Henson and Ed Davis pick and roll. That is frightening. In any case, the talent seems clearly there, and with that I will clearly inaugurate the John Henson Breakout Watch, wherein I will devote a section of each recap to noting how far along Henson has come in his quest to come to Earth and destroy our conception of what 6'10", 200 lb beanpoles can do.
Everyone else was fine. Zeller, Watts, McDonald, and Strickland were meh and the Wears were a little disappointing, but all in all-- everything was fine. We shoot more threes than I expected in the first half (12), but only shot one in the second so I felt somewhat indicated. The other shift at the half was when we made a real commitment to getting to the line (6 vs. 13 attempts), which seems like a real reliable way to get points, especially if people are going to be consistently good free throw shooters. I was also surprised to see Roy Williams use some brands and blends of zone defense so early in the season. In the past, it seems like we've lived and died by man to man. It was also cool to see Roy test out our full-court press and trapping, but as it stands now, I'm dubious to the efficacy of these when we run it.
In any case: this is a good team, but maybe not deserving of our ranking yet. There's a lot of raw talent to figure out how to use and a lot of practice to be done. Adding the Henson/Davis pick and roll could go a long way towards making up for any offensive short-comings.