A new year and a new team with former Heels players coaching it coming to play against UNC at the Dean Dome. That is what is going to happen today, tip-off at 3:00 pm EST, when No. 5 AP/No. 6 ESPN/USA Today North Carolina (12-2) hosts Monmouth (2-11) with television coverage on ESPNU. The records alone should tell you enough about this game, but it will be nice to see another former player return to Chapel Hill, as King Rice, who played the point will be able to watch an amazing one in floor general Kendall Marshall. For head coach Roy Williams this will be not much more than a glorified practice, but it will also keep the team in tune as the ACC schedule co6mes closer and closer. And while many find these games worthless I am always curious how a team that knows they are superior reacts to these match ups. Let’s also not forget that with a win it will make it 26 wins in a row at the Smith Center, a new record for the club.
“We didn’t want to take a step back,” point guard Kendall Marshall said. “Coach always tells us that you’re either going to progress or regress. You’re not going to stay in the same place.”
Having said of all that it would be surprising to see the starters play more than 20 to 22 minutes in this game, while the three main back ups should see almost as much time as the starting five, which will help with conference play about to begin. Interesting to me will be how much senior Justin Watts gets as well. The two things to watch for in this game, one being for the perimeter players and one for the front court. For Marshall and Dexter Strickland it’s about watching Monmouth’s top scorer, Jesse Steele, who is the Hawks’ best three point shooter. While for the big bodies that include Tyler Zeller, John Henson and James McAdoo, it’s going to be about the rebounding, with their opponent’s biggest player being 6’7″ and the rest not going over 6’3″.
In the end this might be the last game of the season where it’s about what North Carolina can (and will) do than what their oppositions might do. I see no reason why this game should be close by the time both teams head into intermission and I think that you will see plenty of blue team as the game winds down. The ESPN computer simulation, AccuScore, who runs the game over 10,000 times puts UNC as the winner 99.9% and winning big, by over ten points, at 99.3%, while their average score has the Heels winning 97.7 to 54.4, covering the spread which the Vegas odds makers have at 41.5. Once again it’s an enormous spread, but I will say that the squad will cover it on the way to treating all the fans to some “biscuits”, as the final score will be 109 to 62. After this one coach Williams and the squad will have the week to prepare as Boston College rolls into Chapel Hill next Saturday.