Thursday, March 15, 2012

UNC arrives in Greensboro for NCAA tournament: What to watch

GREENSBORO — Welcome to Greensboro. I have arrived here for NCAA tournament preparations and, more important, so too has North Carolina. The Tar Heels will hold their open “practice” here at the Greensboro Coliseum later today at 2:15. And before that, we’ll have a chance to hear some words of wisdom from Roy Williams and his players.

UNC will play Lamar tomorrow afternoon but, in the meantime, some things to watch between now and then:

First …

The John Henson watch. Will Henson play or won’t he? Is his injured left wrist feeling better or not? Can he catch, dribble and shoot … or can’t he?

Henson warmed up for the ACC championship game on Sunday in Greensboro, and he appeared to be catching and shooting just fine. But he struggled with the dribbling. He remained dressed for Florida State's 85-82 victory against UNC, and could have played in an emergency situation. But he stayed on the bench.

The Tar Heels have been careful with Henson in practice this week, and have kept him limited. And even if he is healthy enough to play, few would be surprised to see him take a break against Vermont.
Stay tuned …

Second …

Will the Tar Heels flip a switch and keep it on? There were more than a few times along the way to this point when the Tar Heels looked like they might be bored. With a few notable exceptions, UNC mostly coasted through November and December, and then began ACC play with a couple of easy victories before playing at Florida State on Jan. 14.

And we know what happened then.

The Heels’ 90-57 debacle of a defeat at FSU served as a kind of turning point for UNC. The embarrassing lost refocused the Heels, and it gave them new energy. Still, though, UNC has been prone to lapses in energy and intensity since then, too.

Look no further than the Heels’ 85-82 defeat against the Seminoles in the ACC title game on Sunday, when the North Carolina started the game flat and never overcame its poor start. All along, we’ve been waiting for UNC to flip a switch, so to speak, and turn into the kind of dominant team that a lot of people expected the Tar Heels would be entering the season.

And they have been that team at times this season – for a half, or for a 10-minute stretch or, in the case of the 88-70 victory at Duke, for an entire game. But can the Heels be that team consistently over the course of several games? Now we get to find out.

Third …

Will Creighton beat Alabama? The Bluejays and the Crimson Tide play on Friday at 1:40 and the winner will play UNC here on Sunday in the the round of 32 (assuming, of course, that UNC beats Vermont on Friday).

If Creighton emerges victorious on Friday, it’d set up a reunion of sorts between UNC’s Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott, Creighton’s sophomore all-American forward. Both Barnes and McDermott were stars on the same Ames (Iowa) High School team, which they led to back-to-back undefeated state championships.

Barnes entered this season surrounded by considerable expectations, and he enters the tournament averaging 17.4 points per game. He earned first-team All-ACC honors.

McDermott, though, has perhaps exceeded his own lofty expectations. He became the first sophomore in Missouri Valley Conference history to be named the league’s player of the year. He enters the tournament averaging 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. And if you like good storylines, root for Creighton on Friday.

It’d be fun to see McDermott matched against his old high school teammate, who isn’t too bad in his own right.


Anonymous said...

UNC 88 Vermont 65

Anonymous said...

What a fool that wrote this article. Doesn't that fool know that Vermont won last night??? I know the paper was bad, but I guess the website is the same now.

Alexander Julian said...

More importantly, which Sport Coat(s) will Roy Williams be donning tomorrow and Sunday?

Anonymous said...

With Henson hurt we'll be lucky to make it through the weekend.