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December 16, 2013

Texas-UNC Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC put another big victory in the win column Saturday afternoon when they defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in Chapel Hill. After stumbling a couple times early, this Tar Heels team is beginning to look like a legit contender in the national discussion.

While the team still has its faults, it also has proven time and again that it can get up for the big games and win them. The main concern is whether UNC can make that consistent effort against everyone and not play to the level of their competition.

They've got another big name team coming into the Dean Dome on Wednesday when the Texas Longhorns come to town. This isn't the same Texas squad that has featured the Kevin Durant's and T.J. Ford's of year's past but they are a formidable team with a high profile.

Unlike past games where UNC had to bring themselves back down to earth and play "lesser" competition after a big win, this shouldn't be the case this time around.

Let's take a look at some storylines heading into the game.

Aggressiveness

This is not a timid UNC basketball team.

They lose two of their top players and barely bat an eye as Marcus Paige casually takes over the scoring and leadership role. They don't have a wing presence so Roy Williams bumps over James Michael McAdoo to small forward and inserts freshman Isaiah Hicks into that spot with the expectation that they'll pick it up and help the team. They lose Reggie Bullock to the NBA Draft and instead of having a second-year point guard running the show they have to go with a freshman (Nate Britt) for a second year in a row.

They lose two games they should have won against Belmont and UAB and they respond by taking out the defending national champs and the No. 1 team in the nation shortly thereafter.

It doesn't seem to matter that every single player on the team seems to be playing out of position or being asked to play a different role than the one they expected to play. This team has answered questions and come back stronger than most expected.

They need to keep that aggressive mindset going as they match-up with a Texas team that has only one loss thus far. The Longhorns are looking to help their tournament resume by beating a Tar Heel team that is the talk of the nation right now.

If UNC doesn't come out aggressive, a lot of that goodwill they've built up will go away and they'll have be in for a rude awakening against a team that is still looking to prove themselves.

Marcus Paige

If you're not enjoying the "Marcus Paige Era" then something is seriously wrong with you.

The guy simply can't be fazed by anything. He was supposed to sit and learn behind Kendall Marshall last season but was thrust into the starting spot and forced to learn on the fly. Then he was supposed to start at the point this year, a role he spent all last year prepping for, and is instead being asked to fill in as the only scoring presence from the outside as the team lacks any real wing players.

How has he responded?

By improving his stat sheet all the way across the board.

His points per game and field goal percentage are both up by over 11 points, he's turning the ball over less, shooting a higher percentage from behind the 3-point line and the free throw line and is even rebounding at a higher clip all while sitting a total of five minutes per game (35.2 MPG).

When UNC's needed him he's stepped up. That was certainly the case Saturday when he scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half during crunch time.

So when UNC takes the court against Texas, take a moment to appreciate what you're watching because Paige has truly been sensational this season and we haven't even reached conference play yet.

Staying Up

It feels like UNC is starting to level out and find a consistent rhythm to their season. That's to say that they are looking more and more like a team that is legitimately good and not one that has had some fleeting moments. It feels like this team is going to win big games more often than not and shouldn't be celebrated for early season wins like it's the Super Bowl.

This team isn't as talented as the national title teams from a few seasons ago but make no mistake, they are talented enough to beat anybody at any time. It doesn't matter if it's on the road, at home or at a neutral site, this time has the goods to get it done and may still get back the services of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald later on.

Texas
(9-1, 0-0)
vs.
#14/18 North Carolina
(7-2, 0-0)

Game Day
Date:
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Venue: Dean E. Smith Center (21,750)
TV: ESPN2

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 85/XM 85)
Series: Texas leads 5-3
Last Meeting: Texas topped UNC 85-67 on December 19, 2012 in Austin, Texas

Texas at a glance
Location: Austin, Tx
Nickname: Longhorns
Colors: Burnt Orange & White
Conference: Big XII
Arena: Frank Erwin Center (16,540)
2012-2013 Record: 16-18 (7-11)
Last Game: Texas won 85-53 over Texas State in Austin on December 14.
More on the Longhorn:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Texas State)


F - Jonathan Holmes
C - Cameron Ridley
G - Demarcus Holland
G - Isaiah Taylor

G - Kendal Yancy

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Jonathan Holmes (12.9 PPG) Isaiah Taylor (11.7 PPG)

Rebounding: Cameron Ridley (7.8) Jonathan Holmes (6.8 RPG)

Assists: Isaiah Taylor (3.8 APG) Javan Felix (3.1 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
78.8
Rebounds Per Game: 43.7
Assist Per Game: 12.3
Field Goal Percentage: .448
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .342

North Carolina at a glance
Last starting line-up
(against Kentucky)

F - Jame Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Joel James
G - Marcus Paige

G - Nate Britt

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (19.2 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (13.8 PPG)

Rebounding: Brice Johnson (6.9 RPG) Kennedy Meeks (6.3 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.2 APG) J.P. Tokoto (2.6 APG)

Team Statistics
P
oints Per Game: 78.0
Rebounds Per Game: 40.4
Assist Per Game: 15.2
Field Goal Percentage: .479
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .298

Focus has been the one glaring drawback of the team. Whether it's playing a lower profile team after a big win or connecting at the free throw line, consistency is the one area the Tar Heels haven't proven themselves just yet.

Unless they have an epic collapse during conference play, this team has done enough to not be a bubble team come March. However, ever game they play won't be against the Louisville's, Michigan State's and Kentucky's of the world. There will be a few Boston College's and non-hyped first round match-up's in the NCAA tournament to come and the Heels have to bring the same intensity to those games as they do to the bigger ones.

If they can do that, this could be an unexpectedly special season for UNC.




 

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