The real shame is this game didn't happen last season when Tyler Zeller was still in Chapel Hill and he could have faced his brother Cody. Then again that may have killed their parents so it is probably for the best. UNC heads to Bloomington tonight to fave a well rounded opponent in Indiana which boasts five players averaging in double figures and a balanced offensive attack. UNC having benefited from the play of one Zeller during the past four years will see what life is like on the other side of that coin tonight against the Hoosiers' leading scorer and rebounder Cody Zeller.
While much of the attention will be focused on Zeller(in part because his brother played at UNC), Christian Watford actually presents as much a problem. The 6-9 Watford presents a match-up problem of sorts since he will likely draw James Michael McAdoo as his defender leaving one of the freshmen or Desmond Hubert to try and handle Zeller. Watford has three point range making 45% of his attempts from beyond the arc. In short, I think Zeller and Watford are going to get their share of points and rebounds.
So what hope does UNC have? Some effective perimeter offense and defense to start with the former complicated slightly by P.J. Hairston sitting back in Chapel Hill with a knee injury. UNC has proven it has the perimeter shooting to score points in bunche and while depending on shooting threes is haphazard, UNC has the personnel to do it effectively. Reggie Bullock has hit a blistering 51% of his threes so far and UNC will need a big night from him in order to have a chance. Dexter Strickland will also be key. On the defensive end, I would expect him to guard Jordan Hulls whom he has four inches on. Hulls is 19-35 from three so far this season so shutting him down will be critical. Strickland is beginning to look more comfortable driving the basketball and his speed can create scoring opportunities for UNC.
This game will be well paced. Indiana is not playing prototypical Big Ten basketball so they will run with UNC some. Since the Hoosiers are fairly deep, this is probably not a situation UNC can wear them down over the course of the game. For UNC this is a game that will take some huge performances from McAdoo, Bullock and Strickland. Leslie McDonald and Marcus Paige will need to step into the game and provide some scoring as well. The question is how much this team, especially the freshmen learned from the Butler game when they were pushed around a bit. If the lessons of Maui have been taken to heart, then even if UNC loses, as long as they bring a tough competitive fight to Indiana in a wildly hostile gym, the prognosis for the rest of the season will be brighter.
Indiana 83 UNC 75