Greensboro, NC — The Bluejays’ game second round game against the University of North Carolina Tarheels on Sunday will take the national spotlight for a variety of reasons.
The relationship between sophomore forward Doug McDermott and his father head coach Greg McDermott has been explored in various mediums throughout the year. However, a new relationship storyline has spawned as a result of Friday’s second-round results.
Doug McDermott will face his high school teammate Harrison Barnes, who he won multiple Iowa state championships with. Barnes is the leading scorer for the Heels and a likely lottery pick in June’s NBA draft.
“I was his way of transportation in high school,” Doug McDermott said. “He didn’t have his driver’s license, so I took him from place to place quite a bit and it’s going to be cool being able to match up with him. I think once we step on the floor, it’s going to be a competitive game. I think all that stuff will be set aside and we’re both competitive dudes, so I think it should be a really fun game.”
Doug McDermott credits his close relationship with Barnes for the type of player he has become today.
“I think that it made me a better player,” Doug McDermott said. “It made a lot of us better because we would be playing in open gyms in front of Coach K and Roy [Williams], so that just brought a lot of extra attention to our team.
Aside from Doug McDermott’s relationships, other storylines are unfolding as well. The status of UNC starter John Henson, who missed Friday’s second round game against the University of Vermont, is still up in the air.
Henson is averaging 13.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and is one of the defensive anchors for this Tarheels team.
The 6-foot 11-inch forward injured his left wrist against North Carolina State University in the ACC tournament and has not played since. His wrist injury has been the topic of many questions asked to the team these last few days.
“I wish I could tell you [if I had an update on John] because I’m tired of answering the dadgum thing,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “But we haven’t done one thing since, we’re going to practice after this [press conference] is over with and see what he can do.”
Regardless of whether Henson plays or not, the Tarheels present arguably the biggest challenge the Jays will face this year. UNC is third overall seed in the tournament and have a frontline full of future NBA stars.
“Obviously that’s a difficult matchup for us whether it’s Henson or [James Michael] McAdoo [starting],” Greg McDermott said. “They’re both very talented, long, athletic, they can change shots at the rim, they’re great offensive rebounds. That’s a tough matchup for us regardless of who they have on the floor.”
UNC boasts a high-powered offense that ranks first in the nation in points per game. Junior guard Grant Gibbs said the team will look to slow down that game in certain instances.
“Obviously we’re still going to play up-and-down but there’s opportunities where I think we can slow it down and play possession basketball a little bit just because of how high powered they are on offense,” Gibbs said. “So we’ll still get up-and-down and play our style, but probably not to the extent as, for instance, yesterday really trying to push every opportunity we had.”
The Tarheels are by no means underestimating the offensive threat that Creighton presents however. Barnes said the Heels have seen a similar team in terms of what the Jays do on offense.
“This team is very similar to Duke,” Barnes said. “You got to run off the 3-point line. Got to make them beat you in other ways. And they’re very well coach and they play very well together. So this is going to be definitely one of our hardest games in terms of all around complete basketball teams.”
Creighton and UNC will tip-off at 4:15 p.m. for the right to move onto the Sweet 16.