After two games in the friendly confine of the Dean Dome the UNC Basketball team headed west to play in a game before going to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Tonight, at Walter Pyramyd, which is the site for the wild court I postedabout a while back, #11 AP/USA Today North Carolina (2-0) will take on Long Beach State (1-1) in a game that will tip off at 11:00 p.m. EST and will be televised on ESPNU/ESPN3. This is the third game between these two programs, with UNC having won the prior two games in this series. This is also the first of five games for head coach Roy Williams’ squad in the next eleven days.
One thing is for sure, Long Beach State is not afraid of taking on big time programs, as they will play, besides North Carolina, Arizona, OSU, SU, UCLA and have already taken on USC, losing 62 to 44 to the Trojans. And the 49’ers are doing this with a team that, a lot like the Heels, have lost a huge chunk of their team and returns only one starter. So coach Williams and the coaching staff needs to make sure that this talented, but young, team is not looking towards the Aloha State while playin in California.
My keys to this game are:
Feed it inside! Especially when it comes to sophomore James McAdoo, which is averaging 22.5 points and 12 rebounds and has made the early season Naismith watch list, Carolina can still be an inside out squad, even if not close to the level of last season. The pair of freshmen, Joel James and Brice Johnson, are doing well to begin this 2012-13 campaign. The only one that needs to step it is sophomore Desmond Hubert. From the look at the two rosters, the 49’ers do have some big bodies but I doubt any have the talent the Tar Heels do and that should mean that Carolina should be in control when it comes to the paint, and they need to use that to their favor throughout the game.
It will be interesting if coach Williams keeps Hubert as the starter next to McAdoo, or if he will replace him, either in this game or during the tournament next week, with James, who has started both of the second halves so far this season. The one thing that is for sure neither McAdoo nor James can get into foul trouble this season if the Tar Heels want to have an inside presence.
D to Duece. The Tar Heels need to play very good defense, which can turn into quick scores for them. They have the talent to play shut down D and they must use it in this game (and going forward) if they want to keep being ranked among the best programs in the nation.
The Point. Just like it happened against Florida Atlantic in their last game, North Carolina will likely see full court pressure from Long Beach State in this game. This means that both freshman Marcus Paige and senior Dexter Strickland have to take care of the ball, find the right seam and get the easy baskets. Of course, easier said than done, but if the Heels struggle against the full court press they might see more and more of it. The one way for a team to stop pressing is to be burnt over and over, this is what the Tar Heels need to do to the 49’ers tonight. The other thing is going to be how the first year point guard is going to handle non partisan crowds.
Free throw shooting. Carolina has gone 21 for 46 (.457) in the first two games. That is just not going to cut it if this squad wants to win the big time games. Or, for that matter, want to win close ones. Not one player on this squad is above 60% from the line and that is just not acceptable.
Let me add that being 7 for 46 from beyond the arc (.259) also needs to change and change quickly in order for this team to be in the tough games. Shooting like that is going to be the opponents to sag on the bigs and that will take away the bread and butter for this squad in the early season.
In the end Carolina needs to get the ball to McAdoo when possible, needs to hit from outside when they are open and hit at the charity stripe. If they can do these three things well enough, even if the game is going to be a tough one, adding the time zone change to all of this, the Tar Heels should come out ahead. The Las Vegas insiders have UNC as a 11 points favorite, and while I am not sure if the team will cover that, with the final being 75 to 65.
Once this game is over the team will head to the 50th state and play three games in as many days in the Maui Invitational, with the first one being on Monday against Mississippi State.
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