UNC Basketball: Is James Michael McAdoo Finally Ready to Break Out?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08:  James Michael McAdoo #43 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo may be one of the most maligned college basketball players in recent history.

Just about everyone close to the Carolina program assumed that he would be an instant Tar Heel sensation. After all, he was a 5-star recruit with a UNC pedigree that dated back to his legendary kin, Bob McAdoo, who starred for Dean Smith in the early 1970s.

On the contrary, he has spent the better part of two-and-a-half seasons falling short of the hype and hysteria that accompanied him when he arrived in Chapel Hill.

And people have not been quiet about what they thought about his game, good or bad.

As a freshman, McAdoo came off the bench to give future NBA first-round draft picks Tyler Zeller and John Henson a breather. Even though his actual first-year numbers (6.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 15.6 MPG) were rather ordinary, NBA scouts were impressed enough that many expected him to leave school after his freshman season.

When he returned as a sophomore, there was no shortage of predictions that McAdoo would take over the ACC and become one of the best players in the nation.

NBC Sports' Rob Dauster was one of many singing JMM's praises:

But his second year in Chapel Hill was uneven and uninspiring.

Keeping It Heel’s Alexander Hines suggested that “James Michael appeared to be the same exact player as he was as a freshman, just with more playing time.” Not a compliment.

As McAdoo returned this year for his junior season, some of the previous optimism about his game was mixed with a measure of cautious uncertainty.

No one doubted his potential. Many wondered whether he would ever consistently tap into it.

Even pseudo-sports journalists on Twitter made light of McAdoo's future:

McAdoo's 2013-14 season has been a roller-coaster ride. He started with a bang, averaging 19.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in UNC's first three games.

This early, exciting output turned quickly into a frustrating four-game funk that saw his production drop like a rock. All of a sudden, McAdoo looked lost and played passively.

Against Richmond, Louisville, UAB and Michigan State, McAdoo managed to average only eight points and 3.7 rebounds.

McAdoo's Four-game Funk
RichmondLouisvilleUABMichigan State
FT Percent3-of-4 (75%)3-of-6 (50%)0-of-3 (0%)2-of-6 (33.3%)

With a cloud beginning to form over his junior campaign, McAdoo, all of a sudden, found "it."

For the next six games, he showed signs that he could become the animal of this year's ACC. During this stretch, he was active and aggressive, putting up 16.7 points, grabbing 6.2 rebounds and getting to the line 11 times per game.

The Tar Heel faithful were wondering again, "Is he finally ready to break out? Could the agile power forward be on the verge of turning into the dominant force that we expect him to be?"

CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 29:  James Michael McAdoo #43 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Dean Smith Center on December 29, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The answer to their anticipation may have come in UNC's disappointing ACC opener against Wake Forest.

If you only looked at the box score, you would see that McAdoo had 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals against the Demon Deacons. However, respectable numbers do not always tell the story.

When Carolina had the ball, McAdoo seemed to move without purpose or direction. Instead of posting up or flashing the middle, the 6'9" junior appeared like he was content with setting picks and staying out of the way.

When the Tar Heels were on defense, he was a step slow and often out of position.  

Most likely, McAdoo will go through the 17 remaining league contests alternating between impressive and ordinary performances. There will be flashes of excellence and games that are easily forgotten.

It will not be a surprise if he ends up sustaining his current points (14.6 PPG) and rebounding (6.1 RPG, 1.2 rebounds fewer than last year) standards throughout the rest of 2013-14.

But maintaining moderate numbers will not create a monster season for McAdoo. Going back and forth between fabulous and frustrating is not what anyone would call breaking out.