#5 UNC vs Texas

Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Wednesday, December 21st, 7:00 PM
TV: ESPN2
Records: UNC 10-2; Texas 9-2

This is the real final exam for this team before an eight day Christmas break, two helpings of Christmas cookies when they come back then ACC play.

UNC welcomes Texas against whom they have lost four straight games and trail in the series 4-2. Under Roy Williams, UNC is 0-3 versus Texas losing in the 2nd round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament to the Longhorns plus defeats in 2010 and 2011. Seeing that Texas is coached by Rick Barnes, I think I speak for UNC fans everywhere this is a trend we would like see ended with extreme prejudice this evening in the Dean Dome. More importantly this game serves as a test for the Heels against a team that is bound to be more physical and provides some interesting matchups.

The Texas offense is guard oriented with the top four scorers on the team being backcourt positions. J'Covan Brown leads the Longhorns with 19.3 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.3 spg and 35% from three.  The safe bet is Dexter Strickland will guard Brown and Kendall Marshall will try his best to keep Myck Kabongo in front of him. Kobongo is averaging 10.8 ppg and 6.0 apg making him a crucial part of the Longhorns offense. Seeing that Texas is guard heavy, keeping Kobongo out of the lane where he would collapse the defense and create open looks for his teammates is a high priority. Overall UNC is bigger than Texas at almost every position. Texas only has one player over 6-7 in 19.1 mpg big man Clint Chapman who makes the most of his time on the court collecting 5.5 rpg. Outside of Chapman we are talking a very small lineup relative to UNC but also the kind of lineup UNC has shown some issue rebounding against with players who simply do a better job of getting to the basketball, especially on long rebounds. The focus for UNC will be not so much John Henson and Tyler Zeller controlling the boards but Dexter Strickland and Harrison Barnes keeping rebounds away from the smaller Longhorns.

UNC's edge in this game is an interior offense that Texas will be hard pressed to stop given their height disadvantage. That and the fact this is Rick Barnes we are talking about means the Longhorns will likely try to be physical with Zeller and Henson. A smaller lineup likely means double teams and attempts to strip the ball from Zeller in the post. Generally speaking Texas has a good offense and defense ranking in the top 30 for both. KenPom has the Longhorns 188th in tempo but it would not surprise me to see UNC force the pace and Texas possibly run with the Heels. The play of Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston off the bench will be crucial since they both are very active and match up very well with the Longhorns in terms of size.

After a slate of cupcakes, UNC gets to test itself against a probably NCAA Tournament team. UNC has been a little sloppy in playing Appalachian St. and Nicholls over the weekend which is fine. The games were won with relative ease and no one had to play excessive minutes. With an eight day break looming, there is no reason for the Heels not to come out and play at a very high level in this game. Texas is a young team with six freshman, three juniors and two seniors. The six rookies comprise 61% of the minutes played. If UNC can come out and play well out of the gate, not afford a young team any ray of confidence on the road, winning this game will be a much easier tasks. This is the last tough opponent prior to the start of ACC play and one in which the Heels really need to play well to head into the Christmas break on a good note.

UNC 84 Texas 68

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