During a four-game stretch earlier this season, it was fair to ask what was wrong with North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo.
He was held to single-digit scoring performances against Richmond, Louisville, UAB and Michigan State. In the process, he shot just 29.2 percent from the floor and his rebounding plummeted to 3.5 per game during that span.
For all the problems that face the Tar Heels, McAdoo is not part of that conversation.
McAdoo leads the Tar Heels in scoring (13.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg) in conference play. Those numbers might still be a disappointment to some who, based on recruiting hype, expected McAdoo to be a transcendent talent.
Now in his third season at UNC, it’s time to forget about whatever McAdoo was projected to be and appreciate and accept what he is. He’s not going to be the savior who can singlehandedly carry the Tar Heels the rest of the season. But in the past 11 games, he’s proven to be the consistent player Carolina needs.
UNC coach Roy Williams called McAdoo “sensational” after his 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks against Boston College last weekend.
“Marcus [Paige] and J.P. [Tokoto] and James Michael have given us a little bit of consistency, and we need them to keep doing it, find us two guys in the other spot who can do the same,” Williams said.
McAdoo has been especially consistent in the first half of games.
Since scoring 11 first-half points with three assists against Kentucky, McAdoo has shown a penchant for getting off to fast starts. He’s reached double figures in scoring in two of the last three games before halftime.
McAdoo has tried to set the tone for the Heels with his aggressiveness.
“In all the games that we lost, there’s kind of been a lack of effort,” said McAdoo, who noted Carolina has also suffered from a “lack of concentration" in ACC play.
That could explain why the Heels have had a tendency to stop going to McAdoo despite his quick starts.
Take the Syracuse game, for example. McAdoo scored 10 of the Heels' first 15 points, all within the first eight minutes of the game. The Orange did make adjustments to take away McAdoo in the high post, but the Heels never countered. He was 5-of-7 shooting in the first half but managed just four attempts in the entire second half.
If the Heels manage to turn their season around, part of the solution begins with making sure McAdoo stays an integral part of the offense after intermission.