This is the game that most fans have been waiting for; a true test for both squads to show where they measure up. North Carolina (5-1) and Indiana (6-0) are two historic programs that have combined to win well over 3,500 games combined and will face each other Tuesday, November 27 at 9:30 pm eastern time at Assembly Hall.
As UNC head coach Roy Williams knows from first-hand experience, Indiana's home crowd can be very hostile. While this year around he's more worried about all five IU starters averaging in double figures in scoring, he knows that the Assembly Hall crowd will bring spirit to tonight's action.
"(It's a) tremendously enthusiastic crowd," Williams said.
"We went up there in a very difficult situation in 2004, (in) one of the most hostile crowds I have ever played in. They booed Sean May every time Sean touched the ball."
UNC won that night on its way to the 2005 NCAA title, and it was because the Tar Heels were a better basketball team. Will that be the case this time around?
"To me that was one the most hostile environments I've ever been in and it wasn't that bad, because we scored more points than they did. The crowd is not going to beat us. They (Indiana) are good players," Williams said.
This will be a marquee game in the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge, which starts Tuesday night. Indiana leads the all-time series between the two programs 7-5, however; UNC won the last matchup that was played in the 2004 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
WHICH UNC TEAM WILL SHOW UP?
North Carolina, who just came back from the EA Sports Maui Invitational, will take on their biggest test so far this year, when they come into a ruckus crowd in Assembly Hall and play #1 Indiana.
UNC has been efficient on offense in the past few games, except for the first half against Butler. It seems as they are starting to find some rhythm on offense and not depending so much on James Michael McAdoo.
But the question is, will they be able to keep up their offense against a solid defense and a team that has a high tempo offense such as UNC does?
Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston will be leaned on big time in this game, to not only knock down their shots, but to move the ball effectively. Hairston has been showing signs of what people thought he could be last year; an outside shooter that also can put the ball on the floor.
With Hairston unable to play, expectations from the other guards will increase, as they will need to pick up their game in his absence.
In the past few games Bullock has impressed his fans, as he increased his point total and also dish out some much needed assists, which helped out Marcus Paige tremendously.
Dexter Strickland will need to step up also for the Heels, as his defense will be a key contribution to the team, along with his ability to create turnovers and getting transition baskets.
FREE THROWS A BIG FACTOR?
If the game is close coming down to the wire, free throws will be a huge factor in the game, which lean heavily in Indiana's favor. UNC can't struggle at the line as they have so far this year, only shooting 58 percent from the line.
More often than not, we have made more free throws than our opponents have attempted (over the years), and that's one of our goals every year," Williams said. "That was one of my goals this year (as well)."
Williams cited a lack of toughness as his biggest disappointment from Maui, and while rebounding effort probably sits at the top of that category, not making free throws is a part of mental toughness that needs to really improve for UNC.
"I think other teams have even shot more free throws than we've shot right now," Williams said. "We haven't made much of ours either, but I think the other teams have even shot more than we have."
Indiana, as a team, is shooting 74 percent from the free throw line and has almost 100 more attempts than the Heels have so far this year (Indiana has 192 free throw attempts, compared to 99 for North Carolina).
However, the biggest test that will have scouts drooling and fans watching will be the battle between two top NBA talent players Cody Zeller and James Michael McAdoo. Zeller is one of the top players in the nation and will be trying to show off his talents against a high profile team like UNC.
McAdoo, who has averaged 16.8 ppg and 8.8 rebounds a game, will try to match up and compete against Cody, who has averaged 15.2 ppg and 7.7 rebounds a game.
These two guys account for so much of their teams play (Zeller makes up 18 percent of Indiana's points, as McAdoo accounts for 19 percent of UNC's points), that this should be a great test for both of what to come throughout the season and in their NBA futures.
The starting line-up might look a little different as Williams shook up his line-up in last week's game against Chaminade and might even look to play a smaller line-up in some cases, putting J.P. Tokoto in the four slot.
This could lead to more transition points, the Heels being quicker on defense, and possibly a better chance at knocking down some long range shots.
Indiana is No. 1 for a reason, as they have all the tools from last year's squad; a squad that was able to surprise the Big Ten and the world. Tom Crean took over a program that needed rebuilding and he has been able to accomplish that in such a short amount of time.
Indiana prides their selves on defense and getting into their offense, much like North Carolina does.
They have five players that score in double digits so far this year (Cody Zeller - 15.2ppg, Christian Watford - 13.2 ppg, Jordan Hulls - 13.0 ppg, Victor Oladipo- 11.0 ppg, and Will Sheehey - 10.7 ppg) but North Carolina has scorers of their own that will be able to match up very well against the Hoosiers (McAdoo - 16.8 ppg, Bullock - 12.7 ppg, Hairston 10.8 ppg, McDonald and Johnson 8.7 ppg, Strickland - 7.7 ppg, and Paige at 7.3 ppg).
If you want to know how closely these teams matchup together, here is a chart that shows their statistics and where each team has an advantage and disadvantage.
INDIANA North Carolina
Points per game 88.7 85.3
Opp. Points per game 56.3 63.2
FG% 52.5% 47.1%
3pt % 41.4% 38.8%
Total Rebounds per Game (Off.) 41.2 (11.7) 46.0 (18.3)
Assists/ Turnover per game 15.7/ 12.2 19.2/ 14.0
Steals per game 8.7 11.2
This will be Indiana's first true test so far this season, even though they have a strength of schedule of 53, compared to UNC's SOS of 296. Indiana has yet to play a true road game yet, but have battled against some very good teams such as Georgetown and against a pesky Georgia team.
Indiana will still be missing their two freshmen that are ineligible for receiving improper benefits and they will also be missing forward Derek Elston, who will miss six to eight weeks with a tore meniscus.
The play of the two true freshmen at point guard could play into the game, as they will both be showing off on the court against each other. Kevin Ferrell (#2 PG in 2012 according to Rivals.com) and Paige (#4 PG in 2012 according to Rivals.com) will have an intense match up and will show which one can handle the pressure of the big stage.
Marcus has been up and down with scoring during the start of the season but has handled high expectations so far pretty well, while Kevin Ferrell has proven that he can run this high tempo offense and feed the ball down into the big fellows.
This is promised to be a high intensity game against to storied programs and with two coaches that have high expectations for their teams. Tipoff will be at 9:30 pm eastern time, the last game played on Tuesday night in the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge.
The ACC leads 10-3 overall against the Big Ten, but the Big Ten has won the last 3 series against the ACC.
There are many interesting matchups this year with some high profile programs going against others, which will for sure make it another interesting year for both conferences.