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January 10, 2014

UNC-Syracuse Preview

Basketball Preview

A busy week for the UNC basketball team continues to roll along as they'll tip off their third game in a seven day span when they travel to Syracuse Saturday afternoon.

The Heels are having a rough go to start the ACC season. They're 0-2 with losses to Wake Forest and Miami both happening this week. Their credentials for getting a decent seed in the NCAA tournament, and possibly getting in at all if the downward trend continues, might hinge on how the Tar Heels react to the adversity their currently facing.

Let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into a historic matchup with the Syracuse Orange.

History

Before we get to the bigger picture issues, let's take a step back and appreciate what we'll be witnessing Saturday afternoon. The ever-changing landscape of college athletics ratcheted up over the last few seasons and resulted in the ACC becoming the unquestioned mecca of the college basketball world.

Matchups like UNC traveling to the Carrier Dome are just the tip of the iceberg and will soon feel like normal occurrences, but for now, the fact that this game is happening, as a regular season affair, is really cool.

Jim Boeheim going head-to-head with Roy Williams, the state of North Carolina against the state of Syracuse, North versus South---this game is special and should be appreciated as such.

For fans, this will be a fun atmosphere to watch on television.

Frustrated Roy

For a variety of reasons, Roy Williams seems quite tired. Not just frustrated but also exhausted.

Between the offseason trouble from P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, to the losses that have come out of nowhere and are starting to become a trend, to the health scare he had last year, Williams is not having a lot of fun out there and it's showing in his comments after games.

"It was not a good night for us, to say the least. We had a disappointing loss Sunday night, and this was very much like that. We did not do a very good job," said head coach Roy Williams immediately afterwards. "When you go to school here and coach as an assistant and come back and coach here, it's a feeling of ownership. And it's a feeling of pride. And right now I'm not doing a good job with this basketball team. And that's one of the hardest things I've ever had to say."

A loss to Syracuse wouldn't get put into the same category as losing to UAB or Belmont but as it would come on the heels of back-to-back ACC season opening losses, the pressure will mount and the bleak tone of the season will only get worse.

"I do feel mentally probably worse than I've ever felt as a coach right now," said Williams. "As a coach you start questioning everything you do, from the coat you wear to the defense you're playing. We're going to try to practice as hard as we can to do a better job.

"There's no question we're feeling stressed. That's what happens at North Carolina when you lose. We've got to keep competing."

Scoring

UNC has had a tremendously difficult time doing the most basic function of basketball---scoring the ball.

In back-to-back games, UNC has outrebounded their opponent and lost. In both contests, they significantly won the offensive rebounding battle but couldn't capitalize and turn those extra possessions into points.

There are two ways to look at this stat. Either UNC isn't a good offensive team, which might be true but they've shown otherwise, or this is just a string of bad breaks where a lid has been put on the hoop and the Heels are about to have an offensive explosion because their due.

Leslie McDonald's return has given UNC an extra shooter and a guy that can space the floor but too often the ball has stopped when it's reached his hands. His challenge is to not be a ball-stopper and keep the offense flowing.

Kennedy Meeks has been the most inconsistent Tar Heel this year. A lot of that can be contributed to learning how to play with his changing body. He's lost a lot of weight and has been challenged to lose more. The last couple of games he's appeared to have lost some lift when he goes up and isn't finishing around the room.

It all comes down to Marcus Paige. He's the unquestioned best player on this team and their leader. The team goes as he goes. J.P. Tokoto is beginning to come out of his shell as well and might be in for a breakout season this year in the ACC. But Paige has to get back to his efficient ways.

Paige shot 2-of-15 from the field with 11 of those shots coming from beyond the arc. He has to be more aggressive in driving to the basket so he can create easier scoring chances for James Michael McAdoo and UNC's other big men. They don't have a true "back to the basket" threat down low but they have guys that finish a play off a pass from penetration.

Paige is the key and him getting his stroke back against Syracuse is the biggest storyline to watch.

#2/#2 Syracuse
(15-0, 2-0)
vs.
North Carolina
(10-5, 0-2)

Game Day
Date:
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM EST
Venue: Carrier Dome (34,616)
TV: ESPN

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 91/XM 91)
Series: Carolina leads 4-3
Last Meeting: SU 87, UNC 71 on Nov. 20, 2009, in Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y.

Syracuse at a glance
Location: Syracuse, NY
Nickname: Orange
Colors: Orange
Conference: ACC
Arena: Carrier Dome (34,616)
2012-2013 Record: 30-10 (11-7)
Last Game: Syracuse cruised to a 72-52 win at Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.
More on the Orange:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Virginia Tech)


F - C.J. Fair
F - Rakeem Christmas
F - Jerami Grant
G - Tyler Ennis

G - Trevor Cooney

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: C.J. Fair (17.2 PPG) Trevor Cooney (13.9 PPG)

Rebounding: Jerami Grant (6.1) C.J. Fair (5.6 RPG)

Assists: Tyler Ennis (5.6 APG) Jerami Grant (1.6 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
74.1
Rebounds Per Game: 35.5
Assist Per Game: 13.7
Field Goal Percentage: .467
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .360

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

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

G - Nate Britt

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (17.0 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (14.4 PPG)

Rebounding: Brice Johnson (6.8 RPG) James Michael McAdoo (6.5 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.4 APG) Nate Britt (2.8 APG)

Team Statistics
P
oints Per Game: 77.7
Rebounds Per Game: 42.1
Assist Per Game: 15.5
Field Goal Percentage: .455
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .315

Game Notes: Syracuse | UNC

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