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Preview: #12 UNC vs Holy Cross

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament
#12 North Carolina vs Holy Cross, 8:00 PM, ESPNU

The Tar Heels return to action tonight against the Crusaders of Holy Cross in the first of four Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament games. UNC will face Belmont on Sunday and then travel to Uncasville, CT for games against Richmond and either Louisville or Fairfield. As previously announced the Tar Heels will be without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald for this game. Barring an additional announcement, both players will also be unavailable for the Sunday contest against Belmont.

The continued absence of Hairston and McDonald means the patchwork lineup of Nate Britt at point guard and Marcus Paige at the two guard will remain in place into the foreseeable future. Likewise J.P. Tokoto will see his second start at the wing forward position. There is still an open question of who will join James Michael McAdoo on the interior. Joel James got the start a week ago and split time with Kennedy Meeks playing 14 and 13 minutes respectively. Paige noted during the Thursday press conference that James runs the floor better but doesn't have great hands. Meeks has great hands but doesn't run the floor well. Since both players have different strengths, the odds are Williams will continue to alternate the two big men.

Because the wing depth is so painfully thin, it is expected there will be additional experimentation with the lineups used. McAdoo will spend some time at the three. Brice Johnson will likely spend time at the four or five. Isaiah Hicks will get time at the four also with a smattering of Desmond Hubert and Luke Davis thrown in the mix. If UNC pulls out to a huge lead as they did versus Oakland, the second half could see more odd lineup choices.

In terms of individual performances, eyes will be on both Paige and Tokoto to see if they can build off their first game performances. The question with both players at their positions is not are they capable of producing as needed for the role but rather can they do so consistently? Not that doing it in back-to-back games necessarily equates to doing it all season against better teams. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction. This probably applies to Tokoto more than Paige simply because Paige has been pressed into service against quality teams last season and at times performed well. With Tokoto it is more of a wait and see situation given he has suddenly been thrust into the limelight. Likewise, McAdoo needs to produce consistently, especially since he is presently the best player the Tar Heels have on the floor.

Holy Cross enters the game at 1-1 having lost by ten to Harvard and won versus Sacred Heart in double overtime. The Crusaders are mostly undersized with the exception 6-10 Dave Dudzinski. The Crusaders lone senior is averaging 25 ppg and against Sacred Heart had 15 rebounds. Dudzinski also had six steals and three blocks in his first two games. Holy Cross is also a team that likes to shoot the three. Seven of the eight Crusaders who have seen significant time have also attempted three points. Guard Cullen Hamilton is 7-18 from beyond the arc after going 0-5 vs Harvard and 7-13 against Sacred Heart.  Another key cog in the Crusaders' lineup is 5-9 PG Justin Burrell who has 12 assists versus two turnovers in his first two games.

Drawing from last week's excellent first half followed by a more grounded second half, the Tar Heels will likely settle into a level of play somewhere in between. There is still very much that is up in the air about this team not to mention several players adjusting to new and larger roles or college basketball in general.

UNC 82 Holy Cross 65