North Carolina vs Texas, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
This game, in many ways, is very dangerous for a UNC team that is very close to finally shedding the label of being an "up and down" group. After the big win on Saturday which happened in front of a raucous crowd, the possibility of a letdown is real. While I would expect a good crowd at the Dean Dome, it won't be on the same level as Saturday night. It has all the makings of a game where UNC might not play well. Texas, on the other hand, is 9-1 and would love to notch a win over a ranked team on the road to bolster their overall resume.
All that being said, Roy Williams has made passing mention to UNC losing to Texas three times in the past four years. There is a good chance, this game is on Williams' radar as one he really wants to win(beyond the normal desire for victory obviously.) This is also a good lesson for this young Tar Heel team on what it takes to bring the same focus and emotional intensity in back-to-back games. That was an issue when the Heels went to UAB but that came after a week off and the Thanksgiving holiday. The Heels were a little crisper against UNCG after beating Michigan State. The expectation here should be the same as versus UNCG. Classes have ended which allows the players to focus on just basketball. The routine of having a game every few days is also helpful in maintaining a certain level of game readiness.
In terms of individual focus, James Michael McAdoo was impressive against Kentucky. He was aggressive with the basketball using his quickness to drive into the lane and spend much of the game at the free throw line. That kind of mentality and effort is what UNC needs consistently out of McAdoo. While there will be some focus on McAdoo's ability to finish at the rim, the fact he is taking the ball into the teeth of the defense puts pressure on the opposing team and potentially causes foul trouble. Couple that with his jump shot falling and what you get is the McAdoo everyone has been looking for this season but rarely shown up.
Another player to watch is Nate Britt. Britt came to UNC having fallen in the recruiting rankings and it was unclear if he could play up to the level required of a Tar Heel point guard. He was then thrust, unexpectedly, into the starting role when P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald were held out for NCAA issues. For the first six games, Britt struggled but starting with the win over Michigan State, the freshman has found a groove. Most notably he has become more aggressive and is looking to penetrate the lane using his quickness. Britt's eight points versus Kentucky, with six of them coming on drives to the basket versus bigger guards, cannot be overstated enough. Britt continues to get more comfortable and given Roy Williams' track record developing point guards, it will be interesting to track his progress.
Much like the Kentucky game, this contest will be about the rebounding. Texas has comparable size to UNC but not the same depth. That is why McAdoo getting to the rim and drawing fouls could be extremely important in changing the dynamic of this game should Texas' Cameron Ridley or Jonathan Holmes get saddled with a couple of fouls early. Also of note is UNC's perimeter defense. Opposing teams are attempting 39.5% of their field goals from three which is the highest in the Roy Williams era. However teams are shooting just 31.7% from three against the Tar Heels, a tick better than the 31.9% allowed in 2012. These numbers are right in line with how Roy Williams' defensive philisophy is supposed to work. UNC is forcing teams to take threes and those threes aren't falling. If that trend can continue along with holding teams to 42% from two, teams will find scoring against this UNC team very tough.
UNC 78 Texas 68