James Michael McAdoo led UNC basketball to an impressive win last night at Long Beach State, but with the Maui Invitational on the horizon, Tar Heel fans have to ask, can the highly touted power forward lead his team through the tournament to victory?
First, let's look at the field.
UNC opens with a deceivingly good Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have lost a lot of the talent that fueled them last season, but with a new head coach and plenty of young, scoring-driven recruits, this could be a trap game for the Tar Heels.
If the Tar Heels can get past Mississippi State as expected, they will come up an impressive field that includes Butler, Texas, Illinois and USC.
This field is not as talent-laden as some of the other preseason tournaments, such as the Battle 4 Atlantis or the Champion's Classic, but each team in this field is more than capable of pulling off an upset or two.
Take Butler for example. The Bulldogs are coming off a rebuilding season, and if their loss to Xavier is any indication, they are still trying to put all the pieces together. That being said, they are still riddled with talented players such as Rotnei Clarke, Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall that could make them an incredibly dangerous team to play.
Each team in the field is similarly dangerous in their own way.
This is where James Michael McAdoo comes into the picture. He is the X-factor in this tournament.
Beyond being far and away the most talented player in the field, McAdoo is easily the best big man of any team in the tournament.
If UNC wants to emerge from the Maui Invitational victorious, they will have to lean heavily on McAdoo.
The question at hand is whether or not he is up to this challenge.
This has been the theme of the season thus far, and it will continue to be throughout the season. With the departure of most of the talent that allowed UNC to make a deep tournament run last season, McAdoo is left to lead young recruits and bench players made starters.
So far this season, McAdoo has filled this role admirably. Just look at his stat line for the first three games of the season: 21 points and 11.3 rebounds a game.
These numbers are slightly padded because of the less than stellar competition that UNC has played against. However, UNC's recent victory at Long Beach State was no easy contest.
The 49ers are a tough opponent, and playing them at home made victory far from promised.
McAdoo shined in this type of challenging environment, though.
Although he faced double-teams all night long, he was able to power through the defense to find success, especially in the second half.
Two observations can be made about McAdoo from this last game. He is a smart, aggressive scorer in the post, and he makes adjustments when necessary.
Another thing that McAdoo did well last night was deciding when to shoot and when to push the ball back out to the perimeter where guards could find open shooters. With so much attention being placed on McAdoo, UNC was able to hit shooters to the tune of 10 three-pointers.
The Tar Heels proved that they can shoot the long ball last night. This fact means nothing without McAdoo, though. Shooting three-pointers well is not enough to win the Maui Invitational.
To win the Maui Invitational, UNC will need McAdoo to continue to play at the incredible level that he is currently. They will need him to be smart, aggressive and have the awareness on the court that has become expected of him.
In short, they need him to be the Player of the Year candidate that most see him as.
If McAdoo can continue his current rate of production and leadership that we have seen over the first three games of the season, UNC will be the easy favorite to leave Maui victorious.