UNC Basketball: 5 Positive Signs from Tar Heels' Start in 2013-14

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent INovember 22, 2013

UNC Basketball: 5 Positive Signs from Tar Heels' Start in 2013-14

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Even though North Carolina already dropped a distressing game at home against Belmont, there are plenty of positives to point out about the 2013-14 Tar Heels.

    Head coach Roy Williams is patiently dealing with the absences of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, hoping that they will both become eligible and be ready to play as soon as possible.

    Here is a quick look at a few of the positive signs that could help UNC challenge for the ACC title and beyond.

The Tar Heels' Early Schedule Will Prepare Them for ACC Play

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    A quick glance at Carolina's November and December schedule shows that head coach Roy Williams is not afraid to face some of the best teams in the nation head on before the Tar Heels open ACC play on Sunday, January 5, at Wake Forest.

    In the next couple weeks, UNC could play Louisville (Nov. 24 in the Hall of Fame Tipoff) and will battle Michigan State (Dec. 4) in East Lansing and Kentucky at home in Chapel Hill (Dec. 14).

    While the Heels may not have a sparkling record by New Year's Day, they will be better prepared to face the gauntlet that is the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    Especially for this 2013-14 team, it is better to drop a few games against good teams in nonconference play than to be unprepared for the upgraded ACC. 

Shooting Struggles Aside, J.P. Tokoto Is Making a Big Contribution

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    There is no one on the Carolina roster that is more athletic or more energetic than J.P. Tokoto.

    In the opening games of the 2013-14 season, the 6'5" wing has contributed in a wide variety of areas.

    Tokoto is averaging nine points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and two steals per game.

    The only thing that is holding back the sophomore from Wisconsin is his atrocious field-goal and free-throw percentages

    Just think what he could be doing if he were shooting better than 34.6 percent from the field and an awful 32 percent from the line.

    Do you think that UNC coach Roy Williams is keeping Tokoto after practice to work hard at finding his shooting mojo?

    Me too!

Brice Johnson Is on the Rise

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    If you are a Carolina fan, you have to like a lot of what we are seeing from Brice Johnson in the first three games of the 2013-14 season.

    The slender sophomore is averaging 12 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists, and he's shooting a sizzling 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the field.

    UNC head coach Roy Williams is slowly increasing the 6'9" power forward's playing time.

    In fact, ESPN.com's C.L. Brown suggests that Johnson is the Tar Heels' best option to play alongside James Michael McAdoo.

    While Johnson is still lacking in terms of being able to play physical, interior defense, keeping him on the court as much as possible is Williams' best decision.

Marcus Paige Is Becoming More Offensively Aggressive

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    No one at North Carolina thought that Marcus Paige would be starting his sophomore season at shooting guard.

    While P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald sit waiting the results of the school's review and the NCAA's investigation over their eligibility concerns, Paige is getting a crash course on offensive assertiveness.

    By playing off the ball, the 6'1" sophomore is proving to be a competent shooter and scorer in the Tar Heels' first three games.

    He is looking for and taking shots that he would have passed up a year ago.

    With this newfound confidence, Paige is shooting a better percentage from the floor (48.7 percent) and beyond the arc (44.4 percent).

    As a result, he is currently averaging 18 PPG, a vast improvement over scoring 8.2 PPG last year as a freshman point guard.

    When Paige moves back over to run the point, he will be a more self-assured offensive threat.

James Michael McAdoo Is Finally Having a Breakout Season

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    North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo is finally having the kind of season that Tar Heel fans have been waiting for ever since he arrived on campus in 2011.

    McAdoo is putting up 19.7 PPG, grabbing 8.7 RPG and shooting 50 percent from the field.

    One of McAdoo's biggest areas  of improvement is his aggressiveness in going to the rim, drawing contact and going to the line. The 6'9" power forward is attempting 9.7 free throws per game so far, twice as many attempts as he was making just a year ago.

    This would be even more significant if McAdoo was hitting a better percentage than his current unexceptional 65.5 percent.

    McAdoo's newfound assertiveness is a major key to the Tar Heels' success for the 2013-14 season.