On Wednesday night, Carolina secured their first signature win of the Hubert Davis Era as they dismantled Michigan 72-51 in the Smith Center. Now it is time for a new challenge, as Carolina is set to visit Georgia Tech for their first ACC game under their new head coach. Wednesday’s win gave us a glimpse of the type of team, the Tar Heels can be, especially on the defensive end of the floor, after a slow start defensively. We’ve now seen how UNC would respond to adversity, now we’re about to see how they handle success.
Georgia Tech enters with the same record as Carolina (5-2) and is led by senior guard Michael Devoe who leads the team with 25.0 points per game. The Yellow Jackets are trying to follow up the success they enjoyed last year, as they won the ACC Tournament, and made a return to the NCAA Tournament. What’s missing from last year’s team is Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado who provided experience and leadership. Without those two players, Tech only has only two players averaging double figures scoring, the aforementioned Devoe, and swiss army knife Jordan Usher, who averaged 14.3 points, and leads the team in rebounding with 7.7 rebounds per game. During his time in Atlanta, Josh Pastner has proven to be a quality coach and is known for adjusting his coaching to his talent, which is a big reason why Georgia Tech is poised to be a player in the ACC.
You could argue that Wednesday’s win over Michigan was the first time since the 2018-19 season you left a game feeling encouraged about the direction of Carolina Basketball. After a week off, filled with questions about Hubert Davis, his staff, and the players, the team responded in a big-time way. Now they are challenged with following that performance on the road, in a gym that has given them fits over the years, including as recently as last year, when they lost in Atlanta to start the ACC season 0-2. Here’s how Carolina can start 1-0 in ACC play:
Be Ready to Play: Not only is playing on Sunday just weird, add in a 3 PM start time it makes for an odd game overall. Georgia Tech isn’t known for a raucous environment, but with Carolina being in the building, it will be one of the better environments they’ll have all season long. Many times when Carolina visits McCamish Pavillion they aren’t ready to play, and either sleepwalks their way to a win or ultimately get upset. After getting blasted by Tennessee, Hubert Davis is adamant he shouldn’t have to coach effort again, and so far his team has responded. A loss to Georgia Tech doesn’t erase what they accomplished against Michigan, it just lessens the positivity we’re all feeling right now.
Kerwin Walton: Carolina hasn’t needed Kerwin Walton to be a consistent part of their offense because they have 5 players averaging double figures scoring, but it is worrisome that he isn’t a bigger part of their offensive success. Walton is averaging just 5.7 points per game and shooting 35.7% from behind the three-point. On Wednesday night he lacked confidence on both ends of the floor, and that needs to change. Hubert has challenged him to be a better defender, and that has played a part in his playing time or lack thereof. Davis has also challenged himself to get Walton more involved in the offense, knowing that he is still the best shooter on the team. Have a keen eye on Walton in this game, this could be a breakout game for him.
Turnovers: In the win over Michigan, the Tar Heels committed just 6 turnovers, easily their lowest number of the season. Furthermore, they forced 13 turnovers and converted them into 13 points. You can’t expect UNC to commit 6 turnovers a game, but they need to be more aggressive forcing turnovers. Hubert Davis utilized the length on his team, by doubling the post and creating miscues by the opposition. We’ll see how that effort carries over tomorrow.
Get to the Foul Line: Against Michigan, Carolina attempted just 3 foul shots, the fewest in program history since stats started being tracked. It ultimately didn’t matter as Carolina won the game, but they need to get back to forcing the issue, getting the opponent in foul trouble, and getting to the foul line.
Series History: UNC is 69-27 all-time against Georgia Tech, including 22-15 in Atlanta, and 16-13 in the renovated McCamish Pavillion. Carolina is 55-13 in ACC openers, and if they prevail, they’ll earn their 2,300 wins, joining only Kansas and Kentucky to achieve the feat.
UNC - 37th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.1 (14th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.1 (91st)
Georgia Tech - 70th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.7 (81st) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.3 (75th)
TV Info: Tomorrow’s game is slated to start at 3 PM on ESPN2/
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