Friday, December 17, 2010

Full Court Press: Texas-UNC Preview

Our full court press returns with a detailed closer look at this weekend's marquee nonconference matchup between Texas and North Carolina in the Longhorns' latest big game before heading to the Breslin Center for their clash with Michigan State.

#25 Texas Longhorns (8-2)
Head Coach: Rick Barnes

Probable Starting Lineup:
PG: Dogus Balbay (6-1 Sr., 4.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 56% FG, 67% FT)
SG: Cory Joseph (6-3 Fr., 11.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 44% FG, 70% FT, 42% 3pt)
SF: Jordan Hamilton (6-7 So., 18.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 44% FG, 77% FT, 41% 3pt)
PF: Gary Johnson (6-6 Sr., 11.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 51% FG, 72% FT)
C: Tristan Thompson (6-8 Fr., 11.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 48% FG, 48% FT)

Key Reserve:
G J'Covan Brown (6-1 So., 9.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 39% FG, 79% FT)

Keys To Victory:
On The Board - Even after the loss of all-time Big 12 rebounding leader Damion James to the NBA, the Longhorns are just as strong on the glass with the frontcourt trio of Johnson, Thompson and Hamilton; who combine for over 22 rebounds each night, accounting for more than half of Texas' average per game. (43.1) While their backcourt scoring is suspect after their rookie sensation Joseph, the 'Horns make up for it with their long-range proficiency.
Tenacious D - Both teams are strong on defense, but North Carolina has been known to yield some higher than usual point totals while Texas comes into Greensboro tomorrow holding opponents to just 61 points over forty minutes. Their opponents also average 15 turnovers when they play the Longhorns, and Carolina enters this matchup right on target with that statistic.
Hot Wings - Jordan Hamilton may only be a sophomore, but he's the experienced one at the wing in this game. That's because Hamilton's counterpart is none other than freshman sensation Harrison Barnes; who despite his uncanny ability to make plays and lead his team, has still shown that signs of maturity are on the way. If Hamilton can exploit Barnes' rookie status and force him into making more mistakes than usual, Texas will have conquered one more obstacle on their way to facing the Spartans.

North Carolina Tar Heels (7-3)
Head Coach: Roy Williams

Probable Starting Lineup:
PG: Larry Drew (6-2 Jr., 5.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, 37% FG, 65% FT)
SG: Dexter Strickland (6-3 So., 7.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 48% FG, 70% FT)
SF: Harrison Barnes (6-8 Fr., 11.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 35% FG, 74% FT)
PF: John Henson (6-10 So., 10.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 53% FG, 35% FT)
C: Tyler Zeller (7-0 Jr., 15.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 51% FG, 76% FT)

Key Reserves:
F Justin Knox (6-9 Sr., 6.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 61% FG, 78% FT)
G Reggie Bullock (6-7 Fr., 7.7 PPG, 44% FG, 44% FT, 43% 3pt)
G Leslie McDonald (6-4 So., 7.1 PPG, 48% FG, 62% FT, 43% 3pt)
G Kendall Marshall (6-3 Fr., 3.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 61% FG, 50% FT, 56% 3pt)

Keys To Victory:
Home Cooked Meal - It's not really a home game since it's in Greensboro, but you can bet the Tar Heel fans will travel down Tobacco Road to only make it harder for Texas to compete with their hometown team. In what should be an atmosphere just as electric as what you would find at the Smith Center, Carolina gets an advantage before the opening tip that will be left in the hands of the players to control once twenty minutes are placed on the clock.
The Muppet Show - Tyler Zeller is the Tar Heels' leading scorer; but if you look at the stats and box scores, you'll find that it's John Henson that makes this team go. Roy Williams' prized recruit from a season ago has grown by leaps and bounds as he enters the midpoint of his second campaign in Chapel Hill, averaging a near-double-double a night, and it will be a battle on the glass on both sides, as Henson and Zeller go up against Gary Johnson and Tristan Thompson, with the Harrison Barnes-Jordan Hamilton matchup taking on yet another important facet in this game.
Guard It With Your Life - Texas' guard play is good, but not great. The same can be said of North Carolina. However, the Tar Heels possess something the Longhorns do not: A champion. Larry Drew, although a backup to Ty Lawson at the time, is one of three regulars in Williams' rotation (Zeller and Justin Watts the other two) still remaining from the 2009 national championship team. Drew has improved his ballhandling to the point where he averages two assists for every turnover, making up for his lack of scoring.

So, Who Wins?
Texas enters on a two-game winning streak after their surprising loss to USC, while Carolina has won three straight after their loss to Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. A concern here is (and rightfully so) UNC yielding 91 to Long Beach State in their last; and Texas has the prospect of facing Michigan State on the road after this one goes final, something that could make the Longhorns susceptible to a bounce on Wednesday at the Breslin Center. Carolina still has to prove they are back to their normal dominant selves, and the fact that they're still not there yet is the deciding factor in a game whose scales will ultimately tip toward the Lone Star State as Texas gets a quality road win.

Your Final: Texas 87, North Carolina 80

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