North Carolina vs UNC Wilmington, 5:00 PM, ESPNU
The Heels looks to close out the calendar year with a solid showing in their final tune-up before starting ACC play on January 5th. This is also another game in the Former Tar Heel Who is Now a Coach series that Roy Williams has going on with Buzz Peterson coming to town with UNC Wilmington. Peterson played at UNC from 1981-85 and was a member of the 1982 NCAA title team. He also was roommates with Michael Jordan while they were both at UNC.
Roy Williams indicated on his radio program last night that Joel James would not be available for this game and it is likely he would limited in the Heels' ACC opener. James has started running again but it is clear they are taking it slow with the big man given there is still the majority of the season schedule yet to come. With James out, the focus will again be on Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks to fill in the gap. Johnson has had his issues in his first two starts of the season. He was held to two points and fouled out against Davidson and drew Williams' ire when he kept missing box-outs versus Northern Kentucky. Johnson was one of four starters who did not start the 2nd half due to lackluster play in the opening 20 minutes on Saturday. Meeks' defense and conditioning are still an area of concern meaning he probably won't get the start even though Johnson might be better coming off the bench.
With one game left before ACC play, UNC continues to acclimate to Leslie McDonald's return. McDonald has been outstanding from three point range since coming back from a nine game suspension. UNC's overall three point shooting is already up over 2% on average since he returned. Through three games McDonald is shooting 47% from beyond the arc hitting three or more three pointers in two of his three games. McDonald will likely settle down closer to 40% especially when he see more robust defense in ACC play but if he can be consistent it will take some pressure off Marcus Paige as the only legit perimeter scoring threat.
The other question concerning this team is how well they guard the ball. UNC has been gashed for three straight games by drives to the basket. In two of those three games Williams has shown an unwillingness to employ the 3-2 zone which has proven effective in earlier games. If the trends of drives to the basket continue, it will be interesting if Williams sticks with straight man-to-man or once again uses the 3-2.
UNC 81 UNCW 62