Two months ago, the North Carolina Tar Heels were sitting with an 11-7 record after losing four of their first five Atlantic Coast Conference games.
Since then, Roy Williams' squad reeled off 12 consecutive wins, moving from the league basement to being ranked No. 15 in the most recent AP poll.
Junior forward James Michael McAdoo has provided quality frontcourt play through this surprising run, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds per game. Beyond his solid stat line, McAdoo has emerged as a team leader, helping his teammates step up and come together in one of Carolina's more unusual seasons in the recent past.
Within the last few weeks, the national media has recognized McAdoo's rise. ESPN's Jeff Goodman tweeted:
Rush the Court credited McAdoo with being Carolina's catalyst:
The good news for UNC fans is that McAdoo may be getting ready to deliver bigger and better numbers in the postseason. He might be on the verge of producing the best performances of his college career.
Even some of the most hopeful and optimistic North Carolina fans might be a little cynical about such claims.
But history points to the fact that McAdoo has raised his game when March Madness rolls around. The Norfolk, Va., native bumps things up a notch after Selection Sunday.
During most of his freshman season, McAdoo came off the bench to spell Tyler Zeller and John Henson, averaging 6.1 points and 3.9 while playing 15 minutes per game. But after Henson hurt his wrist in the opening round of the 2012 ACC tournament, JMM was thrust into a starter's role, and he stepped up big.
When the Heels hit the NCAA tournament, McAdoo elevated his game. In his first March Madness contest, he scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and pinched four steals. When Carolina faced Kansas in the Elite Eight, he scored 15 points and pulled down four boards.
It was these impressive outings that led many people to believe that McAdoo was going to leave Chapel Hill and enter the 2012 NBA draft.
Instead, he returned to campus for his sophomore season. To maximize his talent, Williams went with a small lineup. McAdoo was forced to play out of position and found himself shouldering most of the Heels' interior load.
When UNC lined up against Villanova in its opening-round game of the 2013 tournament, McAdoo scored 17 points and snatched five rebounds. The Tar Heels faced No. 1-seed Kansas next, and McAdoo faced the Jayhawks' Jeff Withey, scoring 11 points, grabbing six rebounds and nabbing four steals.
As we speak, Carolina readies for the 2014 ACC tournament and waits for its Selection Sunday seeding. There's good reason to believe that McAdoo once again will bring his smooth approach and excellent athleticism to help thrust the Heels forward in the 2014 NCAA tournament.
If he blows up (again), look for North Carolina to get at least to the second weekend of March Madness or further.
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