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January 3, 2014

UNC-WFU Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC is coming off an 84-51 victory over UNC Wilmington and will head into conference play with a three-game winning streak going.

The Heels have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, leaving the middle ground untouched as they beat some of the tougher teams the nation has to offer while letting winnable games against lesser competition slip away from them.

They head into the ACC schedule as one of the biggest unknowns in the conference. Are they a team that can compete for the title? Certainly. Do they have the potential to become this season's biggest disappointment? Absolutely.

As the Tar Heels gear up for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Sunday night, let's take a look at some of the storylines for that game and the remainder of the year.

Stepping Up

This could mean any number of things.

The Tar Heels are taking a step up in competition as it will be all ACC foes from here on out. No more chances to take teams lightly because their name isn't big enough. Every game will increase or decrease their standing in the conference rankings.

The Heels also need their perimeter players to step up and be the players they need in order to win.

There is no longer a question of whether UNC will regain the services of P.J. Hairston so there shouldn't be any questioning of changing roles down the road due to guys coming back.

Hairston is gone, Leslie McDonald is back, J.P. Tokoto needs to gain consistency on his shot and Marcus Paige needs some help. McDonald should give the Heels more space in the driving lanes by extending defenses beyond the arc but other guys like Tokoto and Nate Britt are going to have to find their shots as well.

James Michael McAdoo may never be as hyped as he was a couple seasons ago, but they need his veteran leadership and have to count on him at the foul line when he attacks the basket aggressively.

This team tends to go or make steps forward as he does when it comes to the charity stripe.

The front court also needs to find stability. Roy Williams has given multiple guys chances to solidify the front court spot opposite McAdoo. If Kennedy Meeks can step up and claim that spot as his own that would ideal. He has the basketball savvy and full court passing ability that gives Williams his best chance to play his brand of basketball. Brice Johnson and Joel James only play one side of the court too often making Meeks the logical conclusion as the best option.

It's just a matter of everyone taking what they want and making it their own.

Freshmen Focus

This is a young UNC team that is relying heavily on it's freshmen to have an immediate impact this year.

The Heels lost the services of Reggie Bullock and Hairston for differing reasons and haven't fully figured out how to replace that production.

Paige has been dynamite this year but he can't do it alone. Expect his numbers to taper off in the not to distant future if he doesn't get help.

Britt has done a solid job handling the rock but still has his first year moments. His shot hasn't been on-point and he makes the types of plays you would expect a young guy to make from time to time.

The real key is Meeks. They need him to give them a dual-threat, offensive and defensive presence at that center spot. He's done an admirable job dropping the weight but he's got to keep himself consistent in getting himself in the right positions. The Louisville game showed that he can be the most dominant player on the court when he's focused.

The guy with the most room to improve and the greatest ability to increase UNC's fortunes is Isaiah Hicks. His talent his off the charts as anyone who saw his 30 rebound performance in last year's state championship game can attest, but he's been playing out of position all year long.

He might as well get used to it because that role isn't likely to change this year. He made his first three of the season the last time out and has looked more comfortable as the season has gone along after looking like a deer in the headlights the first couple of weeks.

Hicks played double-digit minutes in back-to-back games for the first time this year since the first two games of the season over the last week. He responded by shooting 4-of-6, with the aforementioned three, and grabbed seven total rebounds while blocking three shots in those combined efforts.

Wake Forest
(10-3, 0-0)
#19/19 North Carolina
(10-3, 0-0)

Game Day
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Venue: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (14,665)

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 85/XM 85)
Series: UNC leads 155-65
Last Meeting: Carolina won 87-62 on February 5, 2013, in Chapel Hill

Wake Forest at a glance
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Nickname: Demon Deacons
Colors: Old Gold & Black
Conference: ACC
Arena: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (14,665)
2012-2013 Record: 13-18 (6-12)
Last Game: Lost 68-53 to Xavier on December 28.
More on the Demon Deacons:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Xavier)

F - Devin Thomas
F - Travis McKie
F - Tyler Cavanaugh
G - Codi Miller-McIntyre

G - Coron Williams

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Codi Miller-McIntyre (17.0 PPG) Devin Thomas (11.5 PPG)

Rebounding: Devin Thomas (9.3) Tyler Cavanaugh (5.4 RPG)

Assists: Codi Miller McIntyre (4.0 APG) Madison Jones (3.6 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
Rebounds Per Game: 42.8
Assist Per Game: 14.7
Field Goal Percentage: .450
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .338

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

F - Jame Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Kennedy Meeks
G - Marcus Paige

G - Nate Britt

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (18.4 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (14.7 PPG)

Rebounding: Brice Johnson (6.7 RPG) Kennedy Meeks (6.0 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.0 APG) Nate Britt (3.0 APG)

Team Statistics
oints Per Game: 80.1
Rebounds Per Game: 41.2
Assist Per Game: 15.7
Field Goal Percentage: .474
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .348

Game Notes: WFU | UNC

Changing Lineups

Last year, Williams stuck with the same line-up for an extended period of time before ultimately letting Hairston loose on the floor at the beginning of games, replacing Desmond Hubert. Williams is loyal to a fault when it comes to making a switch to his starting rotation but has been quicker with the trigger this year. He hasn't locked anybody into anyone spot. His main thing is effort. If he's not getting it, he'll make the switch.

A couple of spots that could see changes are if he chooses to replace Britt with McDonald and the front court spot opposite of McAdoo.

It would a tough pill to swallow if Britt were replaced because he's done a decent job thus far. But he's not the scorer McDonald is and doesn't hit the outside shot like the veteran does.

The other one is entirely dependent upon Meeks' consistency level. Johnson and James will most likely always be specialists. James starting playing basketball later in life and hasn't developed a natural offensive touch while Johnson just has too much fun gunning for points. It remains to be seen if Johnson can bring that same type of enthusiasm to the other end of the court.

But Meeks is a natural baller that just hasn't hit his groove yet. He has all the instincts you would look for but hasn't put together a string of games that says he can do it night in and night out.

His development is the most intriguing storyline to follow going forward.


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