North Carolina at Texas, 5:15 PM, ESPN
The Tar Heels travel to Austin, Texas for a third time in the Roy Williams era looking for UNC's first win on the Longhorns home court. During his Kansas tenure Roy Williams posted a 6-1 mark against Texas. Since arriving in Chapel Hill, Williams is 1-5 versus the Longhorns including 0-2 in Austin and 0-3 in the state of Texas. Needless to say, the Tar Heels will be looking to reverse the trend that has seen UNC lose two straight.
UNC can again validate itself as one of the best teams in the country getting a win on the road against a decent team and one that plays a challenging defensive style. After firing Rick Barnes at the conclusion of last season, Texas brought in everyone's favorite candidate for a major head coach position, VCU's Shaka Smart. Coming with Smart to Texas is his brand of pressure defense commonly referred to as "havoc"
So far the "havoc" defense has not been as prominent. Still, Williams has been preparing his team to face that defense in some form. Texas has a defensive turnover rate of 22.5 which is 35th overall. The only team UNC has faced this season with a defensive TO% over 17% was Kansas State(20.1%.) In that game UNC's TO% was just 16.6% but the turnovers UNC did commit kept the Wildcats in the game. Even if Texas isn't in full "havoc" mode, this will be a test for Joel Berry and Nate Britt in running the offense. On the flip side, Texas has been a tad prone to turnovers with a TO% of 18.4. Exploiting that could give UNC an early advantage and speed the game up.
For UNC, this will be Marcus Paige's third game back and after two impressive showings at home, the Tar Heels hope to continue looking the part of a national title contender. It won't be easy given Texas' size on the interior and the presence of reliable three point shooting. Texas is also adept at drawing fouls despite being a poor free throw shooting team. Part of UNC's success over the past two games can be tied to the Tar Heel big men playing solid defense without fouling. This game will be a different animal and the type of game that could frustrate Brice Johnson if there is early foul trouble.
While this isn't quite a homecoming game for Justin Jackson, it is just over two hours from his home in Tomball, TX. Jackson's offensive numbers have been up and down with his three best games of the season coming away from the Dean Smith Center. In home games, Jackson is just 2-13 from three but in four games away from Chapel Hill, Jackson is 6-17 and 6-14 in the past three. Jackson went 6-8 on two point shots versus Davidson and has also been UNC's defensive player of the the game in three of the last four contests. His game hasn't been flashy but still important for UNC's success.
The indicators point to this being a 1-2 possession game however if the Tar Heels can keep rolling with the same level of play seen last week in Chapel Hill, it will be more comfortable than that.
UNC 81 Texas 68