CHAPEL HILL — Roy Williams has coached teams that didn't need to be taught intensity - ones whose attitude came naturally from the players who provided it.
This North Carolina team, though, is not such a group, Williams said Friday, but the Tar Heels coach hopes the start of ACC play today against Boston College (2:30 p.m., WRAL) will help the Tar Heels find their edge.
"Coach has been harping on it the past week," UNC sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall said earlier this week. "(About) getting ready for conference play."
The Eagles enter with a 5-9 record, with embarrassing losses against the likes of Holy Cross, Boston University and Rhode Island. But it's not necessarily the actual game that's most important for UNC today. It's what it represents: Conference play.
During the non-conference portion of their schedule, UNC sometimes appeared bored, lackadaisical. Williams has often demanded more intensity from his players. Asked on Friday whether this team was naturally an intense group, Williams gave a simple answer: "No."
"I think we have to emphasize it," Williams said. "I think they care a great deal, but we don't have any of those wacko guys flying around, and that kind of thing. Jerod Haase was like a kamikaze."
Haase, who's in his ninth season as a UNC assistant, played for Williams at Kansas. Williams doesn't see a Haase among this group of Tar Heels.
Nor does UNC possess a player with the attitude of Tyler Hansbrough, whose leadership qualities might have been as important as his play during the Heels' 2009 national championship run. UNC senior forward Tyler Zeller was a freshman on that team. He experienced first-hand Hansbrough's intensity and watched it rub off on the team.
"I think at times we can be that intense," Zeller said.
Still, Zeller described the Tar Heels as a "happy" group. Told that Williams questioned UNC's level of intensity, Zeller smiled.
"This team does a good job of trying to balance it," Zeller said. "Sometimes we get a little too happy or whatever you want to call it - having too much fun. But coach does pull us back in and he does a great job of letting us have fun but also making sure we get better."
Based on the score alone, it might be difficult today to tell whether UNC improved. The Eagles - with 12 players new to the program and nine freshmen - aren't expected to pose much of a challenge.
Williams, though, might not pay as much attention to the scoreboard as he will to his players' attitude. At the start of a new season, he's hoping UNC plays with a new attitude, too.
McAdoo doubtful: UNC freshman forward James Michael McAdoo is "doubtful" for the game today, Williams said. McAdoo suffered a sprained left ankle in practice on Wednesday. X-rays were negative.
McAdoo, one of UNC's key reserves, did not practice Thursday or Friday.