After winning twice in the Dean Smith Center last weekend to open the 2012-2013 season, North Carolina heads west for a short stop before they head even farther west to Hawaii.
The Heels will be taking a stop at Walter Pyramid to take on Long Beach State (Friday, Nov 16 at 11:00), a team that has given the Heels some close games over the past few years. LBSU led in Chapel Hill a year ago against UNC's veteran-laden squad, and they'll be looking to spring the upset on its home floor this time around.
FIRST TRUE TEST
Even though this isn't quite the same Long Beach State team from years past, this will be the first true test for the Tar Heels because of this being their first road game. Players will need to step up big time in this game and help out the freshmen.
Life on the road is never easy and this trip will be no different. The Tar Heels will travel across the country to play on Friday, then head out to play in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, beginning on Monday, November 19 against Mississippi State.
Long Beach State will be trying to do exactly what UNC is doing this year---reload and not rebuild. LBSU is trying to claim the Big West conference for the third year in a row, after they had an overall record of 25-9 and lost in the NCAA first round to New Mexico last year.
As one may see in this year's schedule and in past ones, LBSU is not afraid to take on the big boys, as they will be having one of the strongest strength of schedules nationally with opponents such as UNC, Ohio St., Syracuse, USC, UCLA, and Arizona.
Head coach Don Monson lost seven seniors from last year's team, but will be returning his lone starter in James Ennis, who was selected to the preseason All-Big West team and is averaging 16 points a game so far this year.
Coming off a recent loss to Southern Cal on Tuesday night, the 49ers will look to bounce back in a highly anticipated homecoming with the Heels.
LBSU has only averaged 60 points in their two games do to poor shooting (they're shooting 38 percent) and the lack of movement on the offensive side (averaging only eight assists a game).
Even though Long Beach State lost so many key players from last year, they will have some players that will be able to contribute to the team.
However, the 49ers will need its bench to show up this game, as they were outscored 23-3 in their game against USC, a game they eventually lost 62-44.
Long Beach has been no walk over the past two year for the Tar Heels, losing by single digits in both contests at the Dean Dome (losing 96-91 in 2010 and 84-78 in 2011).
For the Niners to pull off the upset this time, they will need a big performance from their junior transfer Dan Jennings, who transferred from West Virginia and who was one of the top centers in the nation coming out of high school.
KEYS FOR CAROLINA
There is no mystery where the Heels strong point has been over the first two games and it shouldn't change in this one either.
James Michael McAdoo, Joel James, Brice Johnson, and Desmond Hubert should be able to control things down in the paint for the Heels.
McAdoo, who was recently named to the 2012-2013 Naismith Early Watch list, has been averaging 22.5 points and 12 rebounds a game so far.
However, the drop off after McAdoo is quite drastic, as Reggie Bullock is the next highest scorer with 10 points a game. The guard play will be a key component in the game, as it gives Bullock, P.J. Hairston, Dexter Strickland, and Leslie McDonald some experience needed, especially in a hostile atmosphere.
The play of Marcus Paige, in his first true road game as Tar Heel, will also be important if the Heels expect to come away with a win on Friday night. Marcus will need to be able to run the team just enough for the team to run smoothly.
However, Strickland will likely have to help out running the point at times Friday night, as full court pressure will be put on Paige by Long Beach State much like it was in the game against Florida Atlantic.
Everyone knows the play of the freshmen Paige, Johnson, and James have been key components for this team and they will need to grow up quickly to give the Heels a chance coming tournament time.
J.P. Tokoto played quality minutes against FAU and will need to keep up his intensity when playing on the court. The only thing that Tar Heel fans have been waiting for is to see that Vince Carter look alike, 'bringing down the house' dunk that he is capable of doing. Do not worry everyone, it will come soon enough.