After North Carolina had a pair of relatively easy home victories, Roy Williams expects to learn a lot about his team during a stretch of five games in three states over 12 days.
The No. 11 Tar Heels open that challenging run Friday night with a stop in California to play Long Beach State and further tune up for a tournament in Hawaii.With four freshmen and some returning players in new roles, North Carolina (2-0) likely needs to consistently improve if it wants to be a serious national title contender. Williams believed the Tar Heels took a step in the right direction Sunday, routing Florida Atlantic 80-56 two days after beating Gardner-Webb 76-59.James Michael McAdoo had a second straight double-double Sunday with 19 points and 11 rebounds while Reggie Bullock scored 16. North Carolina shot 54.5 percent in the second half, owned a 56-36 advantage on the boards and held the Owls to 27.9 percent shooting."I do believe we got better, but we need to get better because things start really getting drastically higher competition-wise when we get rolling now," Williams told the school's official website.After this contest, the Tar Heels play three straight days in the Maui Invitational starting Monday against Mississippi State. They're the only ranked team at the event but could face some tough tests with a field that includes Texas, Marquette and Butler -- all three received votes in this week's AP poll -- as well as Illinois and Southern California. Following that tournament, North Carolina visits No. 1 Indiana on Nov. 27.This stretch should give Williams and the rest of the nation a good idea of just how talented the Tar Heels are, or how much they need to get better."I hope to learn that we're good," said Williams, who starts two sophomores and a freshman. "The toughness, we're getting better at that. We have to be more attentive to the detail."A key reserve last season as a freshman, McAdoo appears to have transitioned nicely to his role as North Carolina's go-to option with 45 points and 25 rebounds through two games."It's definitely been a confidence booster," said McAdoo, who is expected to produce inside with last season's starting frontcourt of Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson now in the NBA.One area in which the Tar Heels need to see immediate improvement is free-throw shooting, having gone 21 of 46 (45.7 percent)."They're not a great North Carolina team," Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis said. "They're good and they're still North Carolina."The Tar Heels have not had an easy time beating Long Beach State the last two years, and both games were in Chapel Hill. After posting a 96-91 victory over the 49ers on Dec. 11, 2010, North Carolina overcome a five-point halftime deficit as Bullock had 15 off the bench in last season's 84-78 victory.Long Beach State went on to win the Big West Conference but has only one starter back from that team and is off to a rough start. The 49ers (1-1) struggled to beat Division II North Alabama 75-65 on Saturday, then had their worst shooting performance since 2008 by hitting 28.6 percent from the field in a 62-44 loss at USC on Tuesday."This was a good game for us in that we've got a long ways to go," said coach Dan Monson, whose 49ers have committed 44 turnovers in two games. "That's why we plays these games."Swingman James Ennis and guard Mike Caffey have scored 58 of Long Beach's 119 points. They combined for 11 versus North Carolina last season.