Three Things: UNC-Indiana
1. James Michael McAdoo is a thinker, something he has admitted--and Roy Williams confirmed--hampered him at times during his rough early transition to college basketball as a freshman. As an interview subject, it's great that he's willing to be thoughtful, because it means he can often generate some very interesting responses when he's handed interesting questions. As a player, of course, overthinking can sometimes be a problem. It's not just that McAdoo has struggled at times early in his sophomore season, it's that he knows he's struggling, which makes him think about ways to fix the problem, which makes him think about his struggles, which makes him struggle, which...well, you see the circle.
But McAdoo made a great point last night. When asked how the Tar Heels could improve he said, "We need to work on our camaraderie."
Danger! Chemistry problems! Someone doesn't like somebody! Playing time problems!
Only that's not what he meant at all. "We're great off the court," he continued. "On the court, when they were going on that run, we were kind of all looking to each other when we should have been coming together as a team and looking at each other as a team."
That exact dynamic has been visible over the last week, and it's no surprise that McAdoo would be the first to articulate it. At Long Beach State, Dexter Strickland barked at Joel James for a simple end-of-game communication that really was inconsequential. The Tar Heels had another miscommunication last night related to which defense had been called. That's something that can easily be fixed, and likely will be fixed over the practice-heavy month of December.
2. Lost in the smoke from the blowout was the fact that Carolina's freshmen played fairly well in Bloomington. J.P. Tokoto's stat line doesn't reflect it (2-7 from the field, 2 rebounds), but he had one of his most solid games as a Tar Heel and provided 13 quality minutes. He's not there yet, and he still can look a little rushed, but there's a player there. Marcus Paige made a pair of ridiculous--dare we say it, Ed Cota-esque--floaters and had a positive assist/turnover ratio. Joel James still isn't quite sure what to do with his massive body, but it makes a difference in games. On one defensive possession, he moved Cody Zeller off the block without even really trying, and Zeller's expression of surprise brought to mind Tyler Zeller's assertion that James hit him harder in a pickup game last year than the elder Zeller had ever been hit in the ACC.
Brice Johnson showed an impressive fearlessness and might be the most pleasant surprise of any freshman. With Indiana surging late in the first half, it was Johnson who dropped in a baseline jumper to temporarily stem the tide. It's not just that he made it (have you noticed how soft every Johnson shot is on the rim?), it's that he had the courage to take it. Roy Williams mentioned in the postgame that Johnson needs to get better on defense, and that will come with time. You can make him get bigger in the weight room or give him a new post move. You can't instill the guts to take that shot on the road at the top-ranked team in the nation.
3. Indiana is an interesting comparison to North Carolina as a program. Basketball is a cultural thing in Indiana. Not just Indiana basketball, but the game of basketball. Middle school basketball, and high school basketball, and college basketball, is a really big deal in a way that I'm not sure it is in North Carolina anymore. We've got people moving in from out of state who didn't grow up with the game, and don't remember the Dixie Classic, and might not recognize a zone press. My son is seven, and the majority of his friends aren't even playing basketball in a league right now. Drive down the two-lane roads in and around Bloomington, and you get the distinct impression there's not much going on other than basketball--and that's meant as a compliment in this case.
Two segments on the video board got the biggest roars from the sellout crowd last night. The first was a taped message from Tom Crean, who talked about how Indiana Basketball was more than just the players and the coaches, it was every fan in the building. It felt a little Green Bay Packer-esque in the way it built a sense of community. At that moment, it really felt like Gene Hackman was about to walk out and measure the baskets.
The second was a simple shot of a janitor lady singing the Indiana fight song. That's it. That's the whole spot. The video showed a lady mopping the floor, and as the camera got closer to her, you could hear her singing the song. Here, I found it online: