North Carolina extended its season-long winning streak to seven with an 81-75 victory at Florida State. The story, from my good buddy Tim Linafelt in Tallahassee.
And some thoughts. …
1. Turns out UNC can win without James Michael McAdoo.
Entering Monday night, McAdoo, the junior forward, had averaged more than 18 points and eight rebounds during UNC’s six-game winning streak. He’d been UNC’s best, most consistent player during that span. McAdoo got into early foul trouble on Monday night, though, and finished with his least productive game of the season: no points and five rebounds in 13 minutes. Those kind of numbers, you’d think UNC would have lost. The Tar Heels found a way. Mainly because …
2. Kennedy Meeks proved he can be a go-to player.
Meeks made 11 of his 12 attempts from the field and, no, UNC can’t count on that all the time. Or even some of the time. Or even one more time, really, the rest of the season. Still, isn’t this the kind of thing UNC coach Roy Williams has been talking about? The importance of counting on someone else besides McAdoo and Marcus Paige? Meeks offered hints of this kind of a breakout performance earlier this season, but he never got over the hump. He did on Monday night, though. His 23 points beat his previous high by eight. And, according to ESPN’s statistics department, Meeks became UNC’s first player since Sean May to score at least 20 points on at least 90 percent shooting from the field. May did that in his final game, in the 2005 national championship game. Meeks has drawn comparisons to May, given their similar sizes. Meeks on Monday proved he can produce like May, too.
3. UNC should be off the NCAA tournament bubble.
Nothing like a seven-game winning streak to erase that doubts that come with a 1-4 start in the ACC. The Tar Heels are now 8-4 in the league, and with games left against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, UNC should have little trouble getting to double-digit conference victories. Given what the Tar Heels did out of conference, 10 ACC wins is enough to punch a tournament ticket. Really, though, every game left on the schedule looks winnable – even the regular-season finale at Duke. The Tar Heels are now playing to enhance their tournament seed. And if they get to 12 or 13 victories, that likely means they’d start the NCAA tournament in Raleigh.
The biggest difference was UNC’s rebounding. The Tar Heels created second-chance opportunities, as usual, and overall UNC attempted six more shots from the field than Florida State. Of course, the Seminoles did a much better job getting to the line. Roy Williams called it a weird game. Indeed.
Duke at home on Thursday.