North Carolina's unpredictable season is going through another upturn.
The Tar Heels have won four of their last five games, lifting themselves out of the Atlantic Coast Conference cellar.
In quick order, Roy Williams' erratic squad has put itself squarely in the middle of the ACC pack and back into a much better place in terms of Selection Sunday.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige is still leading UNC in scoring, even though he has returned to running the point more. Junior forward James Michael McAdoo is playing with greater determination and drive. Senior guard Leslie McDonald is improving game by game.
However, one of the surprising factors in North Carolina's most recent run is the upgraded play of freshman center Kennedy Meeks.
The 6'9" man-child has been impressive over the last five games. After earning increased minutes and moving into the staring lineup, Meeks has provided another piece to the Heels' puzzle.
Let's take a look at his crucial role in North Carolina's recent success and how he will help the Tar Heels continue their resurgence.
Beast on the Boards
Meeks is the best rebounder on the team.
Even though McAdoo has the most boards so far in the 2013-14 season (141, 6.7 RPG), the freshman from Charlotte leads the team in just about every other rebounding category:
|Meeks is the Man|
|James Michael McAdoo||8.9||9.7||13.6||11.6|
In his first three conference games, Meeks only pulled down 13 rebounds, with 0 against Syracuse.
In the last five ACC contests, he stepped up, grabbing 43 boards, with back-to-back 10-rebound games against Georgia Tech and NC State.
Meeks knows how to use his huge frame to thump down low. As he continues to get comfortable on the court, he will become even more dominant on the glass.
Roy Williams does not have to worry about Meeks sliding out to launch a bunch of shots from beyond the arc.
In the Heels' first 21 games, he has not attempted a single three-point shot. For the most part, he stays down low and gets his shots from up close.
Meeks got off to a slow scoring start in ACC play. In his first three conference games, Meeks only scored a total of 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting (38.4 percent).
In the last five ACC contests, he has scored 53 points on 22-of-36 (61.1 percent) shooting.
While these numbers are not going to break any records, it is nice for Roy to know that he is going to get some point production from the center position.
To compare, Joel James and Desmond Hubert have combined to score a total of 55 points over the entire season. Because of this, UNC's opponents do not need to pay much attention to defending them when they are on the floor.
If anyone ignores Meeks, he makes them pay.
Protecting the Paint
While Meeks has the most room for improvement in his game on the defensive end, this is another place where he has contributed to North Carolina's current string of victories.
He has been part of a defensive effort that has held the Tar Heels' last three opponents to a combined 39 percent shooting. He has defended with more energy and, as a result, has been more effective at clogging the middle.
Though he is not known as an intimidating shot-blocker, he tied his career high with three blocks against Clemson.
Is it possible that Roy Williams' center-by-committee approach is coming to an end? Maybe not.
However, if Meeks continues his consistent production, Roy will give him more minutes and make him a bigger part of the Tar Heels' scheme.
Judging by the results of the last five games, maximizing Meeks' skills may keep North Carolina on a winning path.