North Carolina vs Temple, 7:00 PM, CBS Sports Network
The Tar Heels quest for a special season begins in Annapolis, MD where UNC will face off against the Temple Owls in front of members our the United States Armed Forces in honor of Veterans Day. This will be the second time UNC has played an opener of this nature. The first was the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego to start the 2011-12 season.
Opening games, especially ones played on neutral court against an above average opponent can be uneven affairs. In this case UNC is working without Marcus Paige in the lineup which means the Tar Heels will need to feel things out with Nate Britt or Joel Berry running the point. While it's possible Roy Williams could start two point guards, it is more likely Theo Pinson starts opposite Justin Jackson on the wing. At least to start the game, that lineup bears a closer resemblance to the type Williams has used in the past.
While the Tar Heels have experience and on some level knows where the production will come from, Temple will be in a rebuild of sorts. The Owls lost its two of its three leading scorers from last season in Will Cummings and Jesse Morgan. Cummings averaged 14.8 ppg while Morgan checked in at 11.9 ppg. Cummings was also the leading assist man a year ago with 4.2 apg.
That attrition means much of the offensive focus falls to Quenton DeCosey the long returning player who averaged in double figures last season. DeCosey averaged just over 12 ppg and shot 36% from three and 39% on twos. He also was second on the team in free throw attempts, drawing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes.
The Owls does possess some size with 6-8 Jaylen Boyd, the team's leading rebounder last season. Boyd averaged 7.9 boards per contest and posted solid individual rebounding rates. He will get help on the interior from 6-8 Obi Enechioyia and 6-11 Devontae Watson.
The Owls had a deep bench last season with ten players averaging double digits and eight players who started at least nine games. So while Temple will be missing two key players from last season, the Owls return enough to be a competitive team. In short, this is a team that shouldn't be take lightly and certainly not in a neutral court affair.
For the Tar Heels it is a simple task of seizing control of the game early and maintaining that control through what might be some ragged play often associated with season openers.
UNC 81 Temple 69