North Carolina went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational, but it wasn’t the tournament the Tar Heels expected, or hoped for.
“We didn't get what we wanted out of the tournament, because we wanted to win the championship,’’ coach Roy Williams told reporters after his Tar Heels blew out undermanned Mississippi State, lost to Butler (in a game where they trailed by as much as 29 points) then blew out Division II Chaminade to finish in third place.
“We didn't get what we wanted because we wanted to get better every day, and we didn't do that.”
Some questions as the Tar Heels prepare for their fifth straight road game, at top-ranked Indiana next Tuesday:
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION IN THE POST?
Could it be going smaller? After Butler outplayed and was far more physical than UNC’s front line on Tuesday night, 187-pound freshman Brice Johnson replaced sophomore Desmond Hubert in the starting lineup against Chaminade, beside James Michael McAdoo in the post. Johnson finished with 18 points.
… If a frontcourt spot is going to be potentially outplayed on one end of the floor anyway, why not try to make up for it on the other end? That’s the benefit of the smaller lineup that UNC used for 16 minutes of Wednesday’s game and assuredly will utilize again.
The offensive strength of this team is on the wing and a small lineup maximizes that strength. With Hairston, Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald combining to shoot 44 percent from beyond the arc this season, getting them on the floor as much as possible is a priority.
“I think we found out that going small sometimes might be one of our better lineups, particularly on the offensive end of the court,” Williams said. “We played P.J. as a four, we played J.P as a four -- only had one post player in there. So I think that might help us down the line as well.”
IS THIS THE HAIRSTON WE’LL SEE ALL SEASON?
Hairston shot 14-for-31 for the tournament, scoring a total of 43 points off the bench. He was confident, like the Hairston who earned all-tournament honors in the Las Vegas Invitational last season, before his shooting inexplicably dipped to 30.3 percent his freshman season.
And as GoHeels.com’s Adam Lucas wrote, the sophomore’s game seems to have evolved beyond just being a sniper, as he scored in the lane, pulled down rebounds, created defense.
UNC needs to continue to see that diversity and confidence out of the wing.
WHAT’S UP AT POINT GUARD?
Freshman Marcus Paige played only four minutes in the second half against Chaminade, and 16 minutes for the game. Andrew Carter of The News & Observer reports that Paige “tweaked his back” during the previous night’s loss at Butler, according to a team spokesman, and his playing time was limited against the Silverswords as a precaution.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
It looks like they’re still trying to figure that out. Entering the Maui Invitational, this was a team still trying to find its identity after losing four starters to the NBA.
As we expected, they proved they are capable of shooting great from the outside during any given game (46.9 percent from 3-point land against Mississippi State, 31.8 percent against Butler, 48.1 percent against Chaminade). But the Tar Heels are still trying to figure out how to play defense without John Henson’s long blocking ability, and play physically and intense each and every outing (see: Butler).
They are a work in progress.
HOW FAR WILL THE TAR HEELS FALL IN THE POLLS?
After coming in at No. 9 in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls last week, look for a drop Monday. N.C. State fell nine and 10 slots after its blowout loss to Oklahoma State; the same sort of plummet wouldn’t be surprising for the Tar Heels.