Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Monday, December 28th, 8:30 PM
Records: UNC 9-3; Rutgers 9-2
Rutgers should not be taken lightly though I am trying to find a good reason why on their schedule. Rutgers does not have any wins that jump out and say "hey look at us, we play good basketball!" The two losses are to Vermont and Florida. The latter is not a bad loss but the former should raise red flags. Still 9-2 is not something to be dismissed with a simple wave of the hand.
As for personnel, I can tell you Mike Rosario lit UNC up for 26 points in the meeting last season so anytime you have a guard who can score the chances of upsetting UNC seem to go up. Rutgers biggest issue right now is the loss of center Gregory Echenique for the remainder of the season. Echenique was averaging 12.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 2.3 bpg. His loss could make life difficult for the Scarlet Knights on the interior. Replacing Echenique in the lineup is Hamady Ndiaye, the national leader in blocked shots and also seven feet tall. I expect UNC will work to draw Ndiaye away from the basket to open up the lane as well as take it right at him hoping he picks up some quick fouls. Outside of that, on average there are not many scoring threats for Rutgers.
During the 2nd half of the Marshall game we saw UNC looking more like UNC of last season. The fast break was working and the Heels were firing on all cylinders. UNC is presently ranked 10th by Pomeroy in tempo going against a team in the 140s. If the Heels can press the pace it will make Rutgers uncomfortable. The question, as always, is whether UNC can do it with some manner of control from the turnover side of things. That seemed to be the case versus Marshall in the 2nd half and it would be nice to see that continue here. The other question is whether Will Graves returns to the starting lineup or if Roy Williams has decided the best way to spark Graves and in turn spark the team the same way Danny Green did is to bring the redshirt junior of the bench. That would be my guess but with Roy you never know.
UNC 82 Rutgers 65