Where: Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, TX
When: Saturday, December 19th, 2:00 PM
Records: UNC 8-2, Texas 9-0
Another week, another top ten opponent for the Heels, this time in a football stadium. Let me go on record and say that playing basketball games in the middle of cavernous football stadiums is dumb. But as long as people show up and pay money to be in the building then it will continue to happen. This is basically your proof of concept game which will be used to lobby for other basketball events at the stadium such as the Final Four and the NBA All-Star Game. One key difference here that makes it slightly better than say Ford Field in Detroit it the huge HD video screen hanging over the middle of the field/floor. That enables folks with bad seats to have a better view of the game than I probably will at home today.
As for the game, UNC faces a team with plenty of versatile players and the most depth of any team in the country. Texas also has some physical interior players such as Dexter Pittman who is huge and could give both Ed Davis and Deon Thompson trouble much like we saw against Syracuse. The upside is when I saw Pittman against Duke in the NCAA Tournament last March in Greensboro, Bryan Zoubek actually had a decent game against him. If Zoubek could be effective to a point then I anticipate so could UNC's more talented post players.
Texas has all of the parts you hope to have working on the offensive end. They shoot extremely well from the floor, have three players who shoot 35% or better from three, rebound extremely well at 45 rpg and only average 14.3 turnovers per game which is decent. Their depth, which has been talked about ad nauseum would make Roy Williams jealous. No Longhorn player averages more than 26 mins per game. Texas has plenty of versatile players which will test the UNC defense.
The big question for UNC is whether Dexter Strickland will be available and how effective Marcus Ginyard will be. If Larry Drew has to put in excessive minutes it is going to take a toll against players with fresher legs. Besides that if Strickland is out, UNC is not as quick of a team and relies even more on interior scoring than they already do unless Justin Watts has a huge game. This game will likely hinge on UNC taking care of the basketball and being really efficient on the offensive end with the opportunities afforded them. Defensively, UNC will have their hands full guarding the many options Texas has.
One bit of good news is Texas has not really played anyone great. Iowa, USC and Pitt are the only BCS conference schools they have played and none of those teams are particularly good. There is also the issue of playing in a football stadium which screws with shooters' sight lines. The team most affected by a poor perimeter shooting day is Texas though it may not matter since Texas can also get it done at other places on the court. All things consider I like UNC for some reason here. So we will go with that.
UNC 81 Texas 78