James Michael McAdoo Will Face His Biggest Test Yet

North Carolina freshman James Michael McAdoo might not be starting on Sunday, but he'll likely spend time guarding Creighton star Doug McDermott.

Comparisons between Creighton and Duke were brought up quite a bit by both North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and the players. That’s mostly because of Creighton’s reliance on the three-pointer (the Bluejays score 31% of their points from three). UNLV, Florida State (twice) and Duke have been able to get going from three-point range and upset the Tar Heels. If eight-seed Creighton is going knock off the top-seeded Tar Heels, they’ll have to get hot from three as well.

Taking out the Kentucky loss, the three teams that have beaten North Carolina (four total games) have combined to shoot 50-of-117 (42.7%) from three and make 12.5 per game. Creighton makes 8.2 three-pointers a game and shoots 42.5% on the year, so putting up numbers like that wouldn’t be crazy for the Bluejays.

But another important similarity between all the teams that have beatean Carolina – UNLV, Duke and even FSU to a degree – is that all have multiple three-point shooting threats, including a big man that can make a few. Creighton has five players that have made at least 20 three-pointers this year, and they’re led by Doug McDermott, a 6-foot-7 Stretch 4.

If John Henson can’t go for the Tar Heels, freshman James Michael McAdoo likely will have to chase around McDermott, who is averaging 23 points on 61% shooting (49.5% from three).

“James is a fantastic defender,” Carolina center Tyler Zeller said of McAdoo. “He’s got great feet and moves his feet very well, so he’ll be able to stay in front of him. I know (Doug) McDermott is a fantastic player, but I think James will be able to match up with him pretty well.”

McAdoo compared to McDermott to Duke’s Ryan Kelly, another Stretch 4. That matchup has given Carolina a lot of problems in the past if for no other reason than it takes one of its shot-blockers away from the basket. But Carolina’s bigs (and their guards, for that matter) have struggled sometimes with switching screens and on the perimeter or chasing around a Stretch 4 that can move around and get his own shot.

“Going over the scouting report, he’s a great player and it’s not only me guarding him but there’s going to be four other guys on the court that have got to step up,” McAdoo said. “He’s averaging 23.0 points a game, so he’s proved himself. We’ve just got to go out there and try to make him uncomfortable.”

The freshman has come a long way, but there’s a ways left to go certainly. Defensively is probably where he’s made the most progress as most of his points are coming off of putbacks. But even then, he finds himself lost at times.

So guarding a guy that was a National Player of the Year candidate as late as January – in an NCAA tournament game – will present quite the challenge.

“He has a tendency to overrun on the defensive end. He can get off balance and then all of a sudden he’s out there around the centerline trying to find out where the other team is and his guy is 37 feet away from him,” Williams said.

Of course, Williams took halftime of yesterday’s Vermont game to demonstrate to McAdoo “in perfect stance and perfect quickness” exactly how he wanted it done. “One play in the second half, he’s out there denying and he stepped and the guy went back door and he stepped back out,” Williams said.

“All of a sudden he looked over at the bench and he was grinning, looking at us and nodding,” Williams said. “He’s still a kid and that’s something that we really enjoy, too.”

The laid-back freshman looks more like a young Rick Fox than a modern-day college basketball player. His retro-style Carolina hat had an air of coolness to it that some of his other teammates’ fashion choices didn’t.

But the reason for choices like that can be simpler than they seem.

“I like the old-school, snapback baseball cap look,” McAdoo said. He smiled sheepishly, and in a quieter voice than normal (his deep voice is usually barely audible), added, “Plus, I need a haircut.”

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