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Small ball gets North Carolina their third-straight win

Feb 23, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT

North Carolina State v North Carolina Getty Images

When you think of this North Carolina program under Roy Williams, the first thing that is going to come to mind is the point guard.

Ray Felton. Ty Lawson. Kendall Marshall.

Perhaps the single biggest reason for Roy’s success with the Tar Heels has been his ability to find floor generals that are capable of running the show in his uptempo, fast-breaking offense. But what all of those teams had in common was a bully on the block, a first round draft pick in the post to dump the ball into.

Sean May. Tyler Hansbrough. Tyler Zeller.

North Carolina doesn’t have that presence this season. James Michael McAdoo is an athlete and a prospect, but he’s much better in the open floor and facing up than he is with his back to the basket. Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert aren’t ready to shoulder that much responsibility. Joel James is out with a concussion, but it’s obvious he’s a freshman when he plays.

And that’s why, four games ago, Roy Williams made a change to his starting lineup. Instead of playing an overwhelmed underclassman in the middle, Williams has gone to a small lineup. McAdoo is their center. PJ Hairston plays power forward. They spread the floor, they get up and down the court, they shoot a lot of threes and they don’t play all that much defense.

But they’re winning.

On Saturday afternoon, the Tar Heels knocked off in-state rival NC State 76-65, revenge for a tail-whipping the Heels took in Raleigh last month. That came after UNC won at Georgia Tech and put up 93 points in a win over fellow bubble-dweller Virginia. And while UNC lost at Duke in their first game playing small ball, they hung with the Blue Devils, losing by five in a game they led for most of the first half.

The latest win may be the most important, however. It’s just the second win that the Heels have over a tournament team, and it also puts the Heels a game in front of the Wolfpack for third in the ACC standings.

North Carolina still doesn’t have the kind of quality wins that would make it a lock for the NCAA tournament at this point, but they are slowly creeping closer. They’re at Clemson and Florida State and host Maryland before getting a return game with Duke at the Dean Dome. It will be interesting to see whether this smaller lineup will have continued success now that there are four games worth of tape for coaches to scout, but at the very least this change, for the time being, as got the Heels going in the right direction.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. tg1896 - Feb 24, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    UNC’s worst team in 10 years beat State’s best team in 20 years. State was a preseason #6. Now they’ll probably finish #6 in the ACC. Typical.

    • nyheels29 - Feb 24, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Worst team in 10 years? This team is worse than 2009-2010? Not even close. As a tar heel fan I agree with the sentiment tho

    • lundy337 - Feb 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      What is typical is a Unc fan talking down about another team. THAT’s typical…
      And a unc fan talking smack about a team being over-rated is hiliarious especially considering last years fiasco. All you guys have to talk down to others to feel better about yourselves.
      Short term memory perhaps?
      unc’s worst team?
      I think you’re forgetting the last of the Doh’erty’s teams. Also the reason this is the best State team for 20 years, which is questionable, is due to allegations of wrongdoing in State’s athletic dept. that brought about the end of the Valvano years and a return of the University’s mission to educate and deemphasize athletics.

      Sounds earily similar to what is going on now at unc doesn’t it?

      How many years are the investigations going to continue at unc? Wonder if the new chancellor will hold the athletic dept. accountable and make athletes go to class? Fake classes don’t count by the way. I’m sure that graduation rates will drop like a rock and the trend of athletes always being eligible regardless of what questionable students they were in high school will cease too.

      Preseason pols don’t mean smack, they sell magazines and get web clicks. And all that hype about a schools team thats been in the doldrums for decades was foolish for everybody especially those that actually follow the sport with other than blue tinted glasses.

      Will unc escape all the investigations? Regardless there will be no more 6 credit hour AFAM, write a plagiarized paper or a foreign language class that never meets with the professor, to stay eligible scams called classes to keep players on the court/field. The playing field will be level for a while. Duke will continue to steamroll unc as will other teams and State will catch up.

      The internal battle at unc is just getting started. Who will be the new chancellor will determine a lot about the future of unc sports. If it is a academian then your teams will suck for years. If it’s an internal within the family blue kool aid hire then we know the rams club won and the cheating will continue unabated until the LOIC letter eventually finds its way to the door.
      However I would say it’s hard to prove LOIC when the institution has been in control all along…

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