James Michael McAdoo is the difference maker for North Carolina.
North Carolina isn't used to being the underdog in many matchups, but it will be fighting an uphill battle Sunday in an effort to topple No. 1 seed Kansas.
The eighth-seeded Tar Heels enter the matchup fresh off a seven-point victory over Villanova on Friday, but will be facing a different beast in the Jayhawks. Led by sensational freshman Ben McLemore, Kansas breezed through the regular season and currently holds a 30-5 record.
The sharpshooting McLemore didn't waste any time making his presence felt, draining 43 percent of his threes while leading the Jayhawks in scoring (16.2) in a terrific freshman campaign.
However, the Tar Heels have a trio of stars who have the ability to knock off the second No. 1 seed of the tournament. Let's take a look at which UNC stars must shine for the Tar Heels to topple Kansas.
James Michael McAdoo, F, Sophomore
The story begins and ends with James Michael McAdoo. The 6'9" sophomore made a minimal impact as a freshman before exploding onto the scene this season. After averaging just 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 15.6 minutes of action last year, the rangy power forward improved those marks to 14.5 and 7.3 while playing nearly 30 minutes per game.
What makes McAdoo such a dynamic threat is his natural athleticism. With off-the-charts leaping ability and a musclar, cut-up frame, McAdoo can jump out of the gym. He's incredibly quick for a man his size, making him a tough matchup for slower-footed power forwards.
Although he isn't a polished scorer, he's a tremendous finisher. McAdoo will move around the baseline and is a tireless worker. As for fast breaks, watch out. The kid can throw down with the best of them.
McAdoo is no stranger to pressure, as he came to UNC as Scout's Inc.'s No. 3 power forward in the country. Although he doesn't have a ton of experience, he's the No. 1 threat to Kansas' chances of moving on to the Sweet 16 because of his unique athleticism and momentum-changing dunks.
P.J. Hairston, G, Sophomore
Like McAdoo, fellow sophomore P.J. Hairston has seen his playing time and role within the team drastically expand over the course of a year. And while McAdoo flashed glimpses as a freshman, it's been a serious turnaround for Hairston.
As a freshman, the 6'5" guard shot just 30.8 percent from the field, including a pitiful 27 percent from downtown. Hairston's overwhelmingly disappointing debut killed his self-confidence, writes Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer.
However, Hairston did a complete 180 this season, improving those percentages to 43.5 and 39.8, respectively. Playing in just over 23 minutes per game, Hairston has developed into a terrific scorer for the Tar Heels. He is the co-leader on the team with McAdoo at 14.5 points per game and represents a tough matchup for Ben McLemore and Kansas' backcourt.
Reggie Bullock, G-F, Junior
Now in his third season at UNC, Reggie Bullock has seen his role grow from contributor to leader. The 6'7" guard-forward has developed a reliable jump shot and an even deadlier three-point stroke during his three-year career.
After improving from 29.6 to 38.2 percent from downtown last year, he's upped that mark to an elite 43.9 percent as a junior. Bullock's ability to stretch the defense and knock down perimeter shots is essential to North Carolina's offense.
Bullock isn't just one-dimensional either; he's an adept rebounder and solid defender who is willing to put his body on the line. Along with McAdoo and Hairston, Bullock comprises a tough trio of Tar Heels who will look to topple Kansas Sunday evening.
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