Blue show goes on without its stars

The absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald hurts North Carolina will be felt, in a more subtle way, during two practices for the Hall of Fame Tipoff. Hairston and McDonald stayed in Chapel Hill while the team traveled Thursday for its game against Richmond on Saturday and Louisville or Fairfield on Sunday.

As they await judgment from the NCAA on their playing status they had been participating in practice with the second unit.

“Blue Show is extremely limited without P.J. and Leslie,” said coach Roy Williams referring to the moniker the second unit is going by this season. “So how can [the second team] simulate what Richmond is going to do as well as they can?”

The starting unit won’t get pushed as hard in practice, but they will by the Spiders in the game.

Richmond beat Belmont 69-61 in its second game of the season. The same Bruins squad that made 15 3-pointers in their win over the Tar Heels, went just 4-of-18 in their loss to the Spiders. Their matchup zone will be a look the Heels haven’t faced this season and it could take some time to adjust.

The game’s tempo could factor into the outcome as Richmond will play a deliberate pace. That’s not what Carolina wants to hear. The Heels haven’t gotten out much in transition their last two games, registering a combined six fast break points against Holy Cross and Belmont.

“(Richmond) doesn’t try to slow it down, but they’re patient, they try to move the ball until they get the shot they want,” Williams said.

It could turn into a big weekend for freshman point guard Nate Britt. He’ll be pitted against a three-year starter in Richmond’s Cedrick Lindsay, who happens to lead the team with 19.0 points per game. If the Heels get past Richmond, Britt would likely have to face Louisville’s full-court pressure.

Britt has started every game and only turned the ball over five times this season. But he also played just five minutes in the second half against Belmont because of his defensive struggles. Britt is further behind in his development compared to where Marcus Paige was this time last year as a freshman starting at point guard.

“It’s been a little more difficult for him,” Williams said. “He can play better and I think he is going to play better. I see some improvements in him every day.”