CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– The Battle 4 Atlantis showed me a lot of things, but if anything it showed me that this team’s got it.
Despite dropping to No.17 in the AP Top 25 poll, their performance overseas was a good measuring stick for how they’ll fare in future contests after wins over Northern Iowa and Arkansas.
The Tar Heels started out the first half against the Panthers slowly – trailing by six points to start the second – but got it together after halftime. In the first ten minutes they outscored the Panthers 34-8, cruising to a 91-69 victory at Imperial Arena in a performance sparked by the offensive prowess of transfers Cormac Ryan and Harrison Ingram.
Elliot Cadeau also looked more settled in what was just his fifth college game, putting up a season-best 15 points off the bench.
Against Villanova North Carolina put up a strong effort led by RJ Davis’ 23 points and Ingram’s 20, before he fouled out with 3:44 left in regulation. While the Tar Heels fell short in overtime losing by two, it showed me that UNC has a wealth of options to choose from on the offensive end. Ryan finished the game with 18 points before coming out with an ankle injury.
The Tar Heels continued to show efficiency in their final game against Arkansas where Davis’ 30-point performance led the Heels to a dominant 87-72 win over the Razorbacks.
Like I said, they did their thing out there, but now it’s time to come back to reality and do a vibe check on this team, take a deeper dive into some of these performances and how they serve as an indicator for future challenges this team will face.
In the next few weeks UNC will play more formidable opponents in No. 10 Tennessee, No.4-ranked UConn and No.12-ranked Kentucky – all of which will prove crucial contests before the Tar Heels conference-focused slate of games. With that being said let’s focus on what these past six games have shown us:
UNC’s Defense Needs Work
Last season the Tar Heels’ inability to execute and close out games lost them some key wins that could have changed the trajectory of their season. In the Bahamas they allowed one-man shootouts from Villanova’s Eric Dixon and Arkansas’ Tramon Mark – both of whom were able to drive into the paint with ease and roll past defenders putting up 34 points apiece on the Tar Heels.
Going forward, they’ve got to limit these types of showings and put more stock towards their full-court defense against opposing offenses in the back court. However, a lack of size also plays a role on this team as UNC does not have a height advantage in the backcourt, making it easier for post players to trickle in and score.
Elliot Cadeau is Still Developing
The ACC Preseason Freshman of the Year was one of the most exciting Carolina commits the program has seen in a while and when the news about him reclassifying dropped, Tar Heel fans went absolutely berserk. With that, added pressures began to fall on the 18-year-old’s shoulders with everyone expecting
him to put on a star-studded performance every night. That expectation was far from realistic as he hasn’t had the greatest offensive output, averaging 21.3 minutes and 7.5 points per game.
Elliot is still settling in and he earned his first collegiate start last Friday against Arkansas, where he contributed seven points and three assists before fouling out for the second game in a row. That being said, I believe he’s on an upward trajectory in terms of adjusting to the college level and there’s still plenty of games left on the docket. He had his best game in the loss to Villanova and leads the team with 3.2 assists per game. And let’s not forget that he has plenty of basketball experience from his stints on the FIBA U18 team, EYBL and his overseas play. He’s going to get there, just watch.
RJ Davis Knows How to Show Up
The veteran got hot this past week in the Bahamas being named to the Battle 4 Atlantis All-Tournament team and earning ACC Player of the Week honors following his two stellar performances overseas. His scoring output got better with each game, as he led the team in scoring with 23 points against Villanova and
erupted for 30 points the following day against Arkansas – a feat that matched his career-high.
This level of production early on is a good sign from the senior who is also leading the team in free throw shooting with 91.3 percent from the line. He will continue to be one of the program’s most prolific shooters and top-scoring threats, and his eye for the ball will be needed as the Tar Heels dive into a tougher non-conference slate in the coming weeks.
Harrison Ingram Loves North Carolina
During media availability, Harrison Ingram told me that playing in Carolina blue gets him fired up, and from what I’ve seen so far he can get fired up both on and off the court. Ingram brings a fresh energy to UNC’s offense whether he’s celebrating his 3-point shot or leaping up to swat the ball away. He’s set the tone from jump.
The junior has been pushing the pace of the Tar Heels all season, living up to the caliber that head coach Hubert Davis has always expected him to. When asked about Ingram Davis told us that he was brought in to strengthen UNC’s ball-handling as a point forward. And it seems as though he’s made a profitable investment as Ingram’s size allows him to operate as a sharpshooter and consistent wing player, a piece that was noticeably missing last season.
He contributed 20 points against Villanova before fouling out and has described himself as being a versatile player who just wants to have fun with it. Whether it’s facilitating the offense or drilling shots from beyond the arc, his long-range tenacity bodes well for the Tar Heels and gives us all a reason to celebrate.