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Game Preview: #12 UNC vs ECU

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina vs East Carolina, 3:00 PM, ESPNU

After another loss in a game UNC probably should have won, the Heels will look to rebound both figuratively and literally against ECU.

Given the difficulty of UNC's schedule which included five straight games against teams in the KenPom top 100 and two more to come in Kentucky and Ohio State, there is very little respite. Out of the 13 non-conference games, UNC will play six games that would be considered "cupcakes." While everyone chalks these games up as being little more than glorified practices, for UNC it is an opportunity to address various pressing issues.

UNC is presently at a stage where Roy Williams and his players are still trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. However the more pertinent issue is the shooting. The Tar Heels have not shot the ball well at points this season and as such it is possible there has been a severe loss of confidence. Brice Johnson appears to be one player dealing with unsteady faith in his game. Riddled with foul trouble, poor shooting and issues rebounding the basketball, Johnson really needs a solid outing to get this footing again.

Likewise Marcus Paige and the offense in general simply need a game where execution is sound and the shots fall. The level of competition will make both of those easier but in some ways they doesn't matter. The Tar Heels need to bounce back to create some momentum heading to Lexington in six days and beating up on ECU should provide that. So the value in a game like this may very well be getting certain key players on track and improving on the on-the-court chemistry.

Regarding ECU, the Pirates do not have a lot of size and the one 6-10 player, Marshall Guilmette, has missed all but two game this season. Caleb White is ECU's best three point shooter hitting 41% of his 29 attempts from beyond the arc so far with Lance Tejada hitting 8-21 from three. Guard B.J. Tyson is the player to watch. Tyson is averaging 16.2 ppg and hitting 48% of his shots. Tyson has struggled from three point range hitting just 22%. ECU doesn't have one significant facilitator but two players 2,8 and 2,1 APG.

Much has been made of effort and toughness for this UNC team. This sort of game doesn't exactly set up to get the Tar Heels into the right gear. Certainly coming off the loss will light a fire under the team but a late Sunday afternoon game in front of what is likely to be a subdued crowd could dampen the team's approach. That being said, UNC isn't in a position to take any game lightly, mainly because any game is an opportunity for the team to grow as a cohesive unit ahead of a monster challenge next Saturday.