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Preview: #16 UNC at UAB

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

#16 North Carolina at UAB, 6:00 PM, Fox Sports 1

The Tar Heels take the court for the first time since last Sunday's upset win over #3 Louisville in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament. That win, for the moment, righted the ship that looked to be listing a bit following a couple of shaky wins over and the much talked about collapse against Belmont. More than that, UNC appeared to gain some confidence and a better handle of the team's overall identity in beating their first ranked team since defeating UNLV last December.

A huge factor in UNC's win was the play of Marcus Paige. The sophomore guard looks fully acclimated to the wing guard position. Five games into the season, Paige is averaging 22.4 ppg and shooting 53% from three. It is reasonable to expect Paige will cool off some from this torrid start however UNC will still need him to carry much of the offensive load. Likewise Brice Johnson looks to add to his already productive start to the season. The Paige/Johnson duo has been impressive but for UNC to continue to keep their collective heads above water a third reliable scorer needs to emerge.

James Michael McAdoo has been largely quiet since scoring 27 points in the loss to Belmont. Playing without P.J. Hariston and Leslie McDonald has been difficult enough for this team. Adding McAdoo's struggles only serves to magnify some of the Tar Heels' offensive deficiencies. Quite simply McAdoo needs to step up his game. Outside of those three, Roy Williams is still looking for other players to step up. Kennedy Meeks efforts against Louisville provides some hope he can hold down the center position in key stretches. Other players have made small contributions but no one has really stood out or seized on the opportunity to become a consistent contributor. Having someone step up alongside the three noted scoring options could help the Tar Heels sort out the offensive end even more.

Under former UNC assistant coach Jerod Haase, UAB has started to reflect some of the style elements found in Roy Williams' program. The Blazers have size, push the tempo and rebound well on the offensive glass. Plus this is a road game against a mid-major in a season where there will be ups and downs. This game could easily be seen as the 2013-14 version of the College of Charleston outing from 2010. Then, the Tar Heels lost in overtime after giving up a game tying three at the buzzer. The approach heading into this game is somewhat different, especially since the losses the 2010 season are not lost on Roy Williams. At the very least the Tar Heels will be ready to play even if the talent level is not quite what it can or should be at this juncture of the season.

UNC 80 UAB 71