After a week off to get finals out of the way, fifth/sixth ranked North Carolina (8-2) will once again be in action at the Dean Dome, taking on Appalachian State (4-5), coached by an ex Tar Heel player, Jason Capel (1998-2002). The tip off for this home coming of sort is 6:00 pm EST and will be televised by ESPNU. For head coach Roy Williams’ squad this match up could be a trap game if they do not focus from the get go, as the team has been off for seven days and the Mountaineers have a guard as their best scorer. That brings back memories of the last game that Carolina played, where Long Beach State’s Casper Ware was unstoppable, scoring 29 points. While there should be no comparison between the two opponents, I hope that the players remember the lesson and put Appalachian State away before the end of the first 20 minutes.
Once again North Carolina will play one of those games where in the end it’s a lot more about what the Tar Heels can and will do than what the opposition is going to muster up. This for UNC means two things on offense: fast break points when sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall can push the ball up as quickly as possible and the offense going inside first, with either senior Tyler Zeller or junior John Henson being the ones to touch the ball first, which might not be so easy as UNC-G will show zone plenty of times during the game. Feeding the post for coach Williams’ squad is going to be a focal point for most of the season as the NBA like front court is going to be a lot taller than most of the competition they face, especially outside of the conference. Playing against the zone is something that the team also needs to do as right now the top team in the country plays mostly that. Of course, as far as the team is concerned the free throw shooting has to improve as the season gets into the thick of the schedule, as it will be vital for this squad to make them when playing in close games. Talking about bigs, another thing to watch for will be how hard James McAdoo pounds inside, since in the game against Evansville his head coach was going to make the whole team run sprints if he didn’t see the freshman go up for a dunk.
On the defensive side of the ball what needs to be stopped is the dribble drive, which was hurting the Heels in several games, and guarding the three point line, which both UNLV and LBSU took advantage of in their games. This means that Marshall is going to have to work hard when the opposing point guard has the ball, making it hard for Appalachian State to slash into the paint or to make passes in low. Another player who is going to have to be sharp on the defensive side is junior shooting guard Dexter Strickland, the best perimeter defender on this year’s team. Again, all of this is going to be a mute point if Carolina can take care of business and have this game in hand by the time intermission comes around.
One thing you are going to see different in this game, which has nothing to do with the present team, is that the many former Heels that have been in attendance won’t be anymore as the NBA is about to start up once again. For that make sure to check out my other site, The Fifth Corner, where I do a daily recap of what the former Carolina players did on the hardwoods. Speaking of former Heels, Wes Miller has been named the interim head coach at UNC-Greensboro, making him the youngest head man at a Division I program, Capel is the third youngest right now. As far as the Vegas insiders are concerned this should be a total wipe out, with North Carolina being a 28 point favorite against Appalachian State. If it was another head coach and not a former Tar Heel coaching I would say that the spread could easily be reached and surpassed, but in this circumstance I believe coach Williams will refrain from making the game getting so one sided. From today on UNC will be busy, as this is the first of three games in five days in the nine game home stand that the team is on right now.