What: NIT Tip-Off Semifinal
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: November 22nd, 9:00 PM
Records: UNC 3-0, Gonzaga 4-0
This will be the first ranked opponent UNC has faced. Gonzaga, who was chucked from the college basketball radar after Adam Morrison left for the NBA, has been impressive in their first four games. The Bulldogs handled Rice by 38 and then knocked off Baylor by nine to get to New York. All of this has garnered them a #23 ranking in the coaches poll. Gonzaga's leading scorer is 6-11 sophomore Josh Heytvelt who is averaging 17.5 points per game. This sets up an interesting matchup in the paint with UNC's Tyler Hansbrough(22.3 ppg). Two seniors guard Derek Raivio(16.5 ppg) and forward Sean Mallon(10.0 ppg) are also key components to the offense as are a trio of 9 ppg scorers. Gonzaga has some good depth with eight players averaging double figure minutes and six of those averaging over 20 minutes. Gonzaga does not look a great deal to the perimeter for their offense having only attempted 54 three pointers in four games hitting only 33% of them. This bodes well for a UNC team that has shown a propensity to give up too many points on the perimeter so far.
For UNC it will be Tyler Hansbrough, Brandan Wright, and Wayne Ellington who have comprised most of the offense so far. I personally am waiting for Reyshawn Terry to produce more on the offensive end. Bobby Frasor has done a tremendous job taking care of the ball while Ty Lawson continues to acclimate to the system and works on reducing his turnovers. I would expect Raivio to be shadowed by Marcus Ginyard who is the Heels defensive specialist. I would imagine along with Hansbrough, Wright will also shadow Heytvelt.
By and far this is the stiffest test UNC has faced. The first two games were clear indicators that while UNC was talented they also had a variety of issues to work on. Just the sheer matter of gelling these players together and having so many young players still acclimating to the college level gave UNC the appearance of a team being a little out of sync. The win over Gardner Webb was a good exercise for the team even if it is was against an overmatched team. I think UNC will show some good signs of what is to come.
UNC 86 Gonzaga 72