UNC vs Tennessee: Preview, broadcast information and prediction


The North Carolina Tar Heels will play their second true road game this year on Sunday. This time, they will be travelling to Knoxville to take on Tennessee.

It has been an eleven-day layoff, but the UNC Tar Heels will finally be back on the court Sunday.

The Tar Heels will travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers, in a marquee non-conference matchup. This game is shaping up to be a good one.

This is the second year in a row the teams have faced off.

This time, the matchup will feature two top-20 teams. North Carolina is sitting at number seven in the latest AP poll, and Tennessee is at twenty.

Tennessee comes into the game against North Carolina on a little run. They have gotten off to a nice start, currently sitting at 7-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the number one team in the country, Villanova.

They have won four straight since that loss, but before that loss, they notched a win over Purdue, who is also a top-25 team.

As for the Tar Heels, the last time we saw them, they were laying the smack down on Western Carolina. That game was all the way back on December 6th in the Smith Center. Overall, this Tar Heel team is coming into the game with a 9-1 record on the season.

But Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes has been a thorn in the side of Roy Williams over his career. Joe Giglio, who covers North Carolina for the News and Observer, tweeted out this interesting nugget on Friday.

So Rick Barnes is one of a handful of coaches that has had a decent amount of success against Coach Williams. Tennessee has a strong team this year, which means that this could be a very tough game for the Heels.

Let’s learn a little more about the Volunteers.

One Tennessee player to watch…

Grant Williams, a North Carolina native, will be the player to watch for Tennessee. The sophomore did play against the Tar Heels in the game last year in Chapel Hill and had a nice little game.

Williams poured in seven points on 50% shooting to go with his six rebounds. He also recorded four blocks against the Tar Heels.

But this year, Williams has turned into a complete player for the Volunteers.

Williams is averaging sixteen points and seven rebounds for Tennessee, which either leads, or is tied for the team lead. He is doing that all with a respectable 48% from the field this year.

However, Williams is not much of a three-point threat. He has only made two this season on thirteen attempts. That comes out to 15%, on a team that shoots 41% from deep.

Williams is most effective in the mid-range, and in the paint. It will be a good matchup for Luke Maye, who will start at the four for the Tar Heels.

The matchup of Williams and Maye is the one that could decide the game.

One UNC player to watch…

Joel Berry has lit up the scoring column this year for the Tar Heels, after all, he is averaging sixteen points per game. But one thing that has been relatively quiet is his lack of efficiency.

The senior was highly touted this season, and rightfully so. But it is arguable that Berry has struggled to begin the season.

On a Tar Heel team that is shooting 50% from the field, their best, and most important player is shooting 36% from the field. That is last on the team of any player who plays significant minutes.

But not all is lost for Berry.

He is going to have a lower percentage than most, just because of the sheer amount of shots he takes. But it is about time for Berry to get into form, and start shooting a higher percentage.

If by seasons end, the Tar Heels can have Berry around 45%, that will bode well for their chances come March.

Look for Joel Berry to have a big night, and come out of the mini-funk that he has been in. The Tar Heels chances of leaving Knoxville unscathed rely on his shooting ability.

Difference Maker…

The difference maker in this big game will be the tempo of the game.

According to KenPom, North Carolina, as usual, ranks in the top twenty in the country in adjusted tempo. Meanwhile, nearly one-hundred spots below the Tar Heels are the Volunteers. They like to play a more methodical game, but not quite on the level of Virginia.

Tennessee, being the home team, could have a little bit of an advantage in the tempo, but it is rare for opposing teams to slow down the Tar Heels completely.

Even in losses, most of the time the opposing team will have to beat the Tar Heels in a track meet. Tennessee will not be able to do that. They are not built for that.

If UNC can get into their usual high-speed, high scoring game, it should be a victory for them. But if Tennessee imposes their will, and tempo, the Heels could be leaving Knoxville with their second loss.

Related Story: Tar Heel players climb in new 247 rankings

What you need to know

WHAT? North Carolina (9-1, 0-0 ACC) at Tennessee (7-1, 0-0 SEC)
WHEN? Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
WHERE? Thompson-Boiling Arena, Knoxville, Tennessee
RADIO? Tar Heel Sports Network
SERIES HISTORY: UNC leads the series 4-0.
PREDICTION? UNC 81, Tennessee 75