One of college ball's greatest rivalries goes down this afternoon when the North Carolina State Wolfpack visit Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, and James McAdoo needs to be as dominant as ever. The sophomore is leading his team in scoring and rebounding this year, but a solid performance in a win over NC State will keep the Tar Heels' tournament hopes alive.
Currently, North Carolina is unranked and in a three-way tie for third place in the ACC with NC State and Virginia. Needless to say, today's game is a must-win.
Moreover, McAdoo is in a prime position to have a great game against an NC State team that has struggled mightily on defense, ranking 80th in rebounding compared to UNC, who ranks fifth. He is averaging 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, so he has the skills on both ends of the floor to help carry his team to victory.
McAdoo also has the size at 6'9", 230 pounds to be a force on the inside, but faces a bit of an uphill battle.
In spite of his prowess on both ends of the court, McAdoo is shooting just 45 percent from the field. For someone whose best work comes in the paint, the fact that he cannot sink jumpers is a big concern. In order to give the Tar Heels the edge in this game, he must stay in the paint and stick to high-percentage shots, be they layups or dunks.
But that brings up yet another concern. If McAdoo does stick to that strategy, there's the chance that he'll be fouled quite a bit.
This season, McAdoo's free-throw shooting has been abysmal, at just 57 percent. In his two years at UNC, he has shot just 60 percent from the charity stripe.
Simply put, McAdoo needs to throw all of his flaws behind him for this game if he and the rest of his teammates want a shot at playing in the big dance and not just the NIT. He must attack the rim and be aggressive in his on-ball defense.
Though staying in the paint on offense is the ideal approach, he cannot pass up an open jump shot if the opportunity presents itself. At the free-throw line, he cannot let his struggles dog him.
The key to this approach is simple execution and if McAdoo can be the x-factor against NC State, UNC's tournament hopes will skyrocket and the team will find itself in a much safer position on the bubble.
Otherwise, the Tar Heels will start to slip off and be in a position that can only spell tourney contention elimination.