The Tar Heels enter an almost must win situation against UNLV Saturday at the Dean Dome. North Carolina sits at 9-3 and is now unranked after being bounced from the Top 25 this week after an ugly loss to the Longhorns in Texas. The Runnin’ Rebels are ranked 20th in the nation with a 11-1 record.
UNC has just two days to prepare for UNLV after returning to practice yesterday and they better get it together quickly against the now favored Rebels to avoid a fourth loss before conference play. This is a big game for both teams as the Rebels look to add to their resume and the Tar Heels desperately need to bounce back.
Rotation Madness: Who will Roy Williams start at center? Will it be Desmond Hubert, Joel James or Brice Johnson? How many different lineup combinations will he use? Or is this the start of the rotation finally becoming settled as we approach conference play? I wrote an entire column about the rotation and expanded on the fact that it’s time to tighten things up and establish some consistency at this point in the season.
Keys to Victory: Marcus Paige had his best game in the Heels last contest against with nine assists and zero turnovers to go along with a 2-2 night from down town. If Paige can play that type of game and get the Tar Heels offense out in transition and organized in the half court the team can start to find the identity they’ve been missing all season.
Live by the three, die by the three. The Tar Heels win when they are able to connect from downtown and they fall hard when they don’t. The key to hitting from outside is starting inside and establishing the post and opening things up on the perimeter. The teams shooters P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald need to start with higher percentage shots and avoid putting all the pressure on their outside shot in order to have an effective game on the offensive end.
Defensive intensity, UNC has had a very hard time this season of playing a full 40 minute game, staying focused, showing heart and hustle. It’s pretty simple, the Heels have to do better than that and play with more energy and passion. Matching up with UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett will be challenging, Bennett is averaging 19.5 points on 55% shooting and nobody so far this season has had an answer for him. UNLV may also get back Mike Moser who returned to practice Wednesday and is questionable for the game. The Rebels have five players who average double digit scoring and a terrific point guard to run the offense in Anthony Marshall who was recently named to the watch list for the Bob Cousy award.