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Preview: #24 UNC vs #3 Louisville

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Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament
#24 North Carolina vs #3 Louisville, 1:00 PM, ESPN

With the Heels playing their fifth game of the season without the services of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald it is difficult to have too high of an expectation heading into this game. Louisville is the #3 ranked team in the country and has all the parts to live up to that ranking. Besides that this is a team that doesn't turn the ball over and on the defensive end forces a turnover rate of 31% which leads the nation. The Cardinals have size, three point shooters and play at a high level on offense and defense. Not to mention Montrezl Harris grew up in North Carolina a UNC fan but didn't get an offer from Roy Williams. That sort of thing usually never ends well for the Tar Heels. Even if UNC had Hairston and McDonald this was going to be a tough game but not necessarily out of the realm of possibility. Given the limitations of the current roster, UNC will probably need some "help" from Louisville to have a real chance in this game.

Which is not to say UNC can't win just that is will be a very tough hill to climb. The upside is this is only an early season game for a team that has some room for growth. Through four games, there are signs of some identity forming. Marcus Paige has come into his own as a legitimate scorer. Brice Johnson has stepped into the role of that spark of the bench and paired with Paige has given the Tar Heels some solid inside/outside production. The problem is there isn't much beyond that besides James Michael McAdoo, who need to be more consistent giving the Tar Heels a "big three" they can effectively rely on night in and night out. While that's not all UNC needs, it's a solid core to start with. There still needs to be a player or two outside of those three to step up and produce on a consistent level. The options are limited, especially since what UNC needs most is another three point shooter and there are no eligible ones to be found at the moment.

For now this game is a test. Paige and Johnson have played well so far this season but not against the quality of competition UNC will face in Louisville. Seeing how both those players respond in this type of game will be instructive in judging where they are at. McAdoo has plenty of experience in games of this nature and will need to have one of his better outings to give the Tar Heels some footing. Beyond that, it's really a mystery except Nate Britt and Luke Davis facing Louisville's press could be the stuff of nightmares.

Louisville 80 UNC 66