The roster turnover at North Carolina and Syracuse has radically changed the way the Tar Heels and the Orange operate on the hardwood.
Roy Williams lost speedy point guard Ty Lawson, sharp-shooters Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, and All-American center, Tyler Hansbrough while Jim Boeheim won his 800th game without Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, Eric Devendorf, and Kristof Ongenaet.
Both teams functioned successfully with high-tempo guard orientated attacks last season. But if both teams' first game is any indication of the rest of the season, then both squads will have frontcourt dominated offenses.
Despite the two victories for UNC (88-72 over Isaiah Thomas's Florida International team) and 'Cuse's (75-43 over Albany), one team should be quite happy with its performance while the other needs to improve.
North Carolina look like it had the game in the books late in the first half and into the beginning of the second half. But suddenly Zeke's team came alive and made a run at the Tar Heels to cut the lead below 20.
UNC began to lose its lead despite having the majority of its starting five on the floor during the second half. When the freshmen entered the game, FIU drew closer even quicker.
North Carolina should have won this game by 35 or 40 points, but instead won by only 16 against what is supposed to be the Sun Belt Conference's worst team.
In comparison to last year, the 2008-2009 Tar Heels would win this game against this FIU team 110-65.
The freshmen are supposed to be North Carolina's strength. The Tar Heels are supposed to be reloading, not rebuilding.
If the freshmen play like they did tonight, they will be rebuilding. The starting five UNC put on the court is not a top 10 or even 15 starting lineup. The freshmen have to develop for this team to be successful.
A few late buckets moved their collective line to 6-12 for 15 points and six turnovers. The defense from the freshmen was mediocre and they were careless with the ball. They certainly didn't look like five top 40 prospects.
John Henson, who's considered a top five freshman, doesn't look like he's going to have a top five impact.
He's INCREDIBLY skinny. He's an absolute twig and Henson looked like he wanted no part of the paint. The freshman had just one rebound in 12 minutes. Henson did guard the perimeter and the ball pretty well. For a recent comparison, he's a more talented Donte Greene that can play defense.
As a whole, UNC turned the ball over 22 times (not counting garbage time) and couldn't handle FIU's second half scrappiness. The turnovers were not the fault of Larry Drew who looked like he should fill Ty Lawson's shoes pretty well. He looks almost as fast as Lawson, but he is not built as well as Lawson who may have been short, but was fairly stocky for his speed.
Luckily for North Carolina, this was just the Tar Heels' first game and more specifically their five stud freshmen's first game.
As for Syracuse, Jim Boeheim should be thrilled with his team's performance especially after losing to LeMoyne in an exhibition game.
The Orange, like the Heels, won this game in radically different fashion than last year. Last year's up tempo team would have hung close to 100 on Albany and probably allowed at least 70 points.
Syracuse continued to run and gun, but could not convert as easily on the offensive end. The defense basically couldn't have been any better.
The length of this new 'Cuse team is outstanding and plays right into Boeheim's trademark 2-3 zone. Syracuse forced a turnover for every point the school won by.
The Orange won by 32 points.
That's 32 turnovers.
That's ridiculous for a team who needed the opponent to miss shots to get a stop last season.
Replacing a 5'10'' Jonny Flynn with a 6'4'' Brandon Triche who actually hits the defensive glass, a 6'3'' Paul Harris with 6'7'' Wesley Johnson, and 6'4'' Eric Devendorf with 6'5'' Andy Rautins makes a huge difference defensively.
Off the bench, Boeheim could use Kris Joesph, Mookie Jones, and James Sutherland who all stand at least 6'6''.
Boeheim has the most size since the 2003 title team.
Besides forcing turnovers, the length of Syracuse also forced Albany to shoot 27.3 percent. The Great Danes put up a pathetic 51.8 offensive rating (average is about 101).
Syracuse does have some concerns. In approximately 83 possessions, the offense put up just 78 points because of 2-17 shooting from three and 21 turnovers.
Brandon Triche looked ok in his debut, but Scoop Jardine deserves to start over Triche as the red-shirt sophomore had an efficient 12 points and 4 assists. Triche tended to force too many passes and repeatedly entered the lane uncontrollably. The freshman got into foul trouble in the first half because of two offensive charges.
Andy Rautins also left the game with a bum ankle and did not return (most likely because the game was a blow out, not because he was too injured).
Few other points from the night:
- North Carolina needs to get rid of the red trim on its jerseys. It looks ridiculous. Tar Heel blue and white is the way to go.
- Florida International has to consider this a victory for the program. It looked like the Golden Panthers were going to get blown out, but Thomas said something at half that inspired this team to keep the game relatively close.
- Ohio State's Evan Turner had an outstanding debut as the Buckeyes' point guard. In OSU's 100-60 win, Turner had 14 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals and just 2 turnovers.
- Hey Big 10, have fun guard Ohio State's perimeter based attack.
- Amazingly, the line for the Ohio State-Alcorn State game was 39 points. The Buckeyes covered by a single point.
- California didn't look very good against Murray State. The Golden Bears struggled at times defensively (same problems as last year). Cal's four returning starters played fairly well, but the Golden Bears didn't get contributions out of anyone else.
- The close game means the much anticipated debut of Bak Bak didn't happen for Cal.
- Morehead State is the very trendy pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference, but Murray State looks like the Racers could give MSU a real challenge.
- Entering today, California-North Carolina looked pretty solid for the Coaches vs. Cancer Final. Now, Syracuse-Ohio State looks like a better pick.
- Monday afternoon, I wrote that Seton Hall could finish as high as fifth in the conference. Well that is looking less likely after Keon Lawrence had a pretty nasty run in with the law.
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