The Tar Heels face East Tennessee State tonight at 7:30pm at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill looking to improve on their 6-2 record on the season while East Tennessee State is just 2-4. after losing seniors Marcus Dubose and Sheldon Cooley who where arrested on drug charges and suspended indefinitely after two games this season and were suspended indefinitely.
Center of attention: Every game this season the question of who will start at center and we still do not know who the permanent starter will be. Desmond Hubert, Brice Johnson and Joel James have all taken turns inside beside James Michael McAdoo this season and it’s anyone’s guess who will start there tonight.
Defensive focus: UNC has a great opportunity to get their defense back on track with the second of three straight home games against lesser opponents. To the naked eye the UAB game was a relief watching UNC score over 100 points, shoot the ball well and get over the humiliating blowout loss to Indiana in Bloomington. Underneath the surface was yet another defensive performance that left a lot to be desired as UNC surrendered 55 second half points.
UNC has given up 79.8 points per game this season their 84.1 per game scoring average makes them one of the best offenses in the nation, unfortunately that balance has made them one of the worst on the defensive end and often they have been in situations where they are trading baskets with the opposition and on nights where they aren’t connecting on the offensive end the contest has resulted in a loss.
Health Issues: Marcus Paige is listed as probable for the game after sitting out against UAB while Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston played through their injuries in the last contest. The Tar Heels were left beat and banged up after a long and exhausting road trip. After a week off UNC is for the part patched up. For Tennessee State they were without freshman point guard Petey McClain in their last contest with an ankle injury and may miss his second straight game tonight.
History: UNC leads the series with ETSU, 5-0. The Tar Heels defeated the Bucs, 118-65, at the Dean E. Smith Center on Feb. 18, 1987 with Roy Williams serving as Dean Smiths assistant the last time these two teams met.
This is another game that UNC should win by a wide margin but this is not about winning or losing. It’s about the journey as UNC has got to find a way to create offense in the half court consistently without always relying on the three point shot and they must find a way to get their defense on track. This team doesn’t run nearly as much as traditional UNC teams and figuring out a way to initiate the offense and get shots off early in the shot clock is key to rediscovering what they are about.