UNC Basketball vs Texas: Game preview, info, prediction and more

Feb 29, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams encourages his team against the Syracuse Orange in the second half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams encourages his team against the Syracuse Orange in the second half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports /

UNC basketball faces off with Texas Longhorns in 2020 Maui Invitational championship game

The North Carolina Tar Heels squeaked out a three-point victory over the Stanford Cardinal in the Maui Invitational semifinals on Tuesday night. It wasn’t a pretty game, and the Tar Heels definitely didn’t play their best basketball, but they’re moving on to the championship game against the Texas Longhorns.

Neither has played a particularly tough schedule to this point, as Wednesday night’s title game will mark the first ranked opponent for both teams on the young season. We aren’t sure yet if Stanford is a really good team that played North Carolina to the wire, or if Indiana is as bad as the 22-point loss that the Longhorns handed them in their semifinal matchup. But with both Texas and UNC ranked inside the top 20, tonight’s game could be a solid barometer for how good each team really is.

The Longhorns are averaging just over 78 points per game. The Tar Heels are a smidge under 75 per game. Both teams have veterans and freshman contributing, and both have balanced scoring attacks. In their win over the Hoosiers, six Longhorns scored in double-figures. Similarly, five Tar Heels scored double-digit points in their win over Stanford last night.

With six freshman in the regular rotation for Roy Williams’ squad, and no real preseason this year, the Tar Heels are still trying to figure out what works best. That means trying different combinations on the court, and seeing which players do well as starters versus coming off the bench. To this point, we’ve seen the same starting five for the Tar Heels in all three games, but I wouldn’t be incredibly shocked to see that change at some point. The health and availability of Anthony Harris could prove to be a factor in that, as early numbers show that neither R.J. Davis nor Caleb Love are as effective when the other is on the floor, as they are when they are without the other.

For now, though, the Tar Heels will look to quickly find cohesiveness with their young pieces, and star-power from their front court bigs, Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot. The latter should help the team outrebound just about every opponent, so with some decent shooting from the young back court tonight, they could very easily put a “W” next to this date on the schedule.

Key to victory for UNC

The Tar Heels have to take better care of the basketball against the Longhorns than they did in Tuesday night’s game against Stanford. In one of the sloppiest North Carolina games we’ve seen in a while, the Tar Heels turned the ball over 24 times, and they did so in just 72 possessions. Stanford turned those 24 turnovers into 22 points, and in turn kept the game close throughout. On top of that, North Carolina committed 22 personal fouls, sending Texas to the free throw line 24 times. And to make things even worse, the Tar Heels missed nine of their 24 attempts at the charity stripe, a place where they’ve connected on just 68.8 of their shots to start the season.

Don’t be surprised if…

Don’t be surprised if Texas wins this one. After all, they lead the all-time series 8-3, including eight of the last nine matchups. North Carolina hasn’t beaten Texas since 2011, and whether it’s Rick Barnes or Shaka Smart at the helm, the Longhorns just seem to have the Tar Heels’ number.

Starting lineup

G – Caleb Love – 13.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.3 apg
G – R.J. Davis – 12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.0 apg
G/F – Leaky Black – 6.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg
F – Garrison Brooks- 10 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
F/C – Armando Bacot – 11.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.3 apg

What you need to know

WHAT? No. 14 North Carolina Tar Heels (3-0) vs. No. 17 Texas Longhorns (3-0) – Maui Invitational
WHEN? Tuesday, December 2 @ 4:00 p.m. EST
WHERE? Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, North Carolina
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
LAST MEETING? Texas won 92-89 in Las Vegas (2018)
ALL-TIME SERIES? Texas leads 8-3
PREDICTION? Tar Heels 85, Longhorns 82

Next. Garrison Brooks named to Wooden Award watch list. dark

Check back with Keeping It Heel for complete coverage of the championship game, as well as postgame coverage and everything else UNC basketball.