North Carolina needs James Michael McAdoo to be productive today at Florida State. ROBERT WILLETT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — And welcome to Tallahassee, folks, where it’ll be about 70 degrees outside and a lot warmer inside for North Carolina if it can’t get things going against Florida State at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
We all remember what happened the last time UNC played at Florida State. As low as that 33-point defeat was for the Tar Heels, they’ve traveled here seeking a season-turning victory. I wrote about that in a story here.
A pregame look at Tar Heels vs. Seminoles:
North Carolina (10-5, 0-1 ACC) at Florida State (10-3, 1-0)
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, Fla.
Projected starting lineups
C Kiel Turpin 3.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Okaro White 13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg
G Michael Snaer 15.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg
G Montay Brandon 5.6 ppg, 1.7 apg
G Terry Whisnant 6.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg
F Desmond Hubert 1.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg
F James Michael McAdoo 14.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg
G Reggie Bullock 13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg
G Dexter Strickland 8.4 ppg, 4.1 apg
G Marcus Paige 7.2 ppg, 4.2 apg
Player to watch
James Michael McAdoo, sophomore, North Carolina
Roy Williams often tells his players that great players make great plays, and after a good start to his sophomore season, McAdoo has made few great plays lately. To reach their potential, the Heels need McAdoo to play at his yet he hasn’t scored more than 14 points in a game since he had 19 in UNC’s 93-87 victory against East Carolina on Dec. 15. The prospect of the Tar Heels turning around their season would become all the more daunting unless McAdoo becomes the impact player that UNC needs him to be, and now’s as good of a time as any for him to emerge.
Observations: One of the primary storylines surrounding this game is what happened when the teams met last year in Tallahassee, where Florida State defeated UNC by 33 points. Only two players who started in that game will start today, though – the Seminoles’ Michael Snaer and UNC’s Dexter Strickland … Under coach Leonard Hamilton, Florida State has routinely been among the top defensive teams in the country but the Seminoles have struggled defensively this season, relative to their standard. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 40.2 percent, which is the best opponents have shot against FSU since the 2007-08 season. … In FSU’s two ACC victories, though, it held both Clemson and Maryland to less than 40 percent shooting.
1. The importance of this game can’t be overstated for the Tar Heels. I’d argue it’s their most important regular season game since the one at Duke last season that determined the ACC’s regular-season champion. The Heels are already two games out of first place in the conference. More important, though, another loss would further cripple the confidence of a team that simply doesn’t appear to have any right now. The last time the Heels started 0-3 in the ACC, in 1997, they bounced back and reached the Final Four. Of course, that team had Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, too. If UNC is going to turn around its season, you get the feeling that today is a must win.
2. So what needs to happen for UNC to be successful today? The Seminoles were awful during the non-conference portion of the season, but they won their first two ACC games – including an impressive victory at Maryland. FSU hasn’t been playing great defense this season, but it held both Clemson and Maryland to less than 40 percent shooting. The Heels have to shoot better than that, for one. Second, they need their best players to be productive. James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock combined to go 9-for-30 in the loss against Miami on Thursday. That won’t get it done. Last but not least, the Heels have to match Florida State’s energy and intensity. Leonard Hamilton and his team are always motivated to play UNC and Duke. For the Seminoles, it’s a chance to prove themselves, even against a UNC team that has struggled.
3. We can’t talk about this game without addressing what happened when UNC last played at Florida State. The Seminoles won by 33 points and Roy Williams led most of his team off the court with 14 seconds to play. Of course, five players, mostly walk-ons, remained behind to play out the final seconds, and they had to fight their way off the court amid a raucous celebration while Florida State students and fans rushed the court. Williams said he had no regrets about leaving the court, except leaving those players behind. And Jackson Simmons, one of the guys who was left on the court during those final seconds, said the whole thing was blown out of proportion last year. There’s no better way for UNC to forget about what happened last year with a victory this year.