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A Brief Look at Tennessee State

Let's start with the one salient fact that jumps out about tonight's opponent, Tennessee State – they beat South Carolina. Yes, the South Carolina that UNC will face in Las Vegas in three days, because technically these games are part of the Las Vegas Invitational, just not in Las Vegas and against teams that have no hope of advancing there. And not because they can't win – again, Tennessee State beat South Carolina – but because the tournament is designed in a way that makes such a win irrelevant. Small teams get to play the big boys on the road, and that's it. 

Fall basketball tournaments are a little sad in that regard.

Anyway, while the Gamecocks try not to blow things again against Mississippi Valley State, North Carolina gets the Tigers. Tennessee State won their last game by jumping out to a huge lead, as high as 22 points early in the second half, before allowing their opponents to come back. They got that lead with a hot hand from behind the arc; they hit more threes (6) than twos (4) in the first half, and shot better from outside than they did overall. This will be a test of UNC's perimeter defense, which has been positively airtight to date. Look for Robert Covington, small forward, and Jordan Cyphers and Wil Peters, shooting guards, to do most of the heavy lifting. 

Everywhere else on the floor, expect the Tigers to be outclassed. They're rather small, unless Indiana transfer Muniru Bawa gets more than the four minutes on the court he did last game. They don't rebound well, their interior shooting is going to have trouble with Carolina's frontcourt, and their defense was pretty weak last year. This should be an easy victory for the Tar Heels, who just need to look at their opponent's last game to know what happens if they don't take the game seriously.