The North Carolina Tar Heels are in a completely different position gearing up to today’s second game against the Florida State Seminoles. In their first meeting this year back in mid-January, the Tar Heels were coming off of back-to-back losses in conference play against two good teams in Virginia and Miami, and there were panic alarms blaring in Chapel Hill due to a 10-5 record. Leonard Hamilton’s squad was also playing at home, which was filled with bad memories for veteran UNC players such as James Michael McAdoo, as last season’s struggles in Tallahassee were still fresh in their minds. But UNC prevailed 77-72, and wins over Maryland and Georgia Tech gave them a three-game winning streak that was started by the Florida State victory.
Now, the Tar Heels are 20-8, and they are in cruise control with a tournament spot locked up. There isn’t one panic alarm going off in Chapel Hill at this moment in time, and this team has come together perfectly (Roy Williams finally starting P.J. Hariston and Marcus Paige’s quick development are two major factors). The Heels have finally figured out their mojo, as well as some modifications that make their offensive set better fit the unique talent on the floor.
UNC is on the verge of going on a five-game winning streak, and they have taken down some tough teams lately. After being blown out by Miami and barely falling to their bitter rivals in Durham, UNC put up 93 points against the usual dominant-defensively Virginia Cavaliers, and that fantastic performance started the four-game run-off that should turn into five games today against Florida State. The Tar Heels then took care of GT by 12 points, dominated hated their bitter rivals in the North Carolina State Wolfpack by more than ten, and they recently notched a win over the Clemson Tigers.
Below are three players that the Tar Heels will have to watch for.
1. Michael Snaer- Snaer has snared our hearts this season with buzzer beater after buzzer beater, and he and Devin Bookert provide an excellent guard duo as far as offensive efficiency and ball distribution go. Although Okaro White is their best player, Snaer is more than just a sidekick and has a solid 18.7 PER and averages an excellent 14.3 points per game with a 38.8% three-point clip.
2. Okaro White- Now for the mighty junior forward. White isn’t as prolific of a scorer as Snaer is, but he is the more efficient player with a fantastic 61.3 TS% and a 23.3 PER. He averages 12.4 points per game and six rebounds per game, and White is also by far the team’s best defensive player. He is the guy who will give UNC the most fits both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor, and he averages the same amount of steals (1.1) as blocks per game.
3. Kiel Turpin- The final guy I want to highlight on the Florida State Seminoles squad is Kiel Turpin, who is flying a little bit under the radar with a solid 17.1 PER, and he is the second-best rebounder on the team with three boards per game in just 15 minutes per game. Turpin doesn’t get much playing time and doesn’t shoot much, but he is a solid, efficient bench player who brings down the boards and is the team’s best shot-blocker with 1.3 blocks per game. White’s athleticism and ability to get steals barely makes him the better defensive player, but Turpin is also a guy on the interior that the Tar Heels will need to account for.
On a final note, best wishes to Florida State’s head coach Leonard Hamilton, whose mother passed away at the age of 96. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for Hamilton to have to prepare his team for a tough game, whilst also dealing with the death of his mother. I wish the best to Hamilton and his family, and may our thoughts and prayers be with them.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.