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UNC vs Tennessee: Three things to watch

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The Tar Heels host the volunteers on Sunday

NCAA Basketball: Davidson at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC looks back on schedule after back-to-back wins over Radford and Davidson. Up next, Tennessee. This is the last home game for the Tar Heels before they pack up and head to Las Vegas to take on Kentucky. Here are three things to keep an eye on for this matchup.


Overlooking the Vols

This is something to keep an eye on for a few reasons. Yes, UNC has Kentucky up on the schedule and that combined with finals may have the team’s state of mind located elsewhere. Another thing to think about is the fact that Tennessee has lost to opponents that UNC has defeated handedly. Tennessee has lost to Chattanooga 82-69, and Wisconsin 74-62. UNC beat Chattanooga 97-57 and Wisconsin 71-56. Just by looking at these comparisons it would be all but assumed that UNC will crush the Vols. Let’s just hope the Heels don’t overlook them because of this combined with the looming date with the Wildcats the following week.

I personally don’t see Carolina overlooking Tennessee due to this week’s game with Davidson. Let’s be honest, that game was a lot closer than it should have been. If it is at all possible to feel like a loss while still winning by nine, the Tar Heels managed to do it. I assumed the Heels would play some team closer than they should have around the Kentucky date for the above mentioned reasons. Let’s just hope that game already came against the Wildcats and not against the Volunteers.

Kenny Williams official starter?

Williams should start as Berry is most likely not going to play, but we should take notice of how he looks in the assumed role. Kenny Williams has made his case for a starting role with this team. Against Indiana he didn’t play particularly well on offense, but he made enough noise defensively to earn the defensive award for his effort against the Hoosiers. He followed his best defensive game with possibly his best offensive game as he scored 19 points against Radford on 7-10 shooting and 5-6 shooting from the three-point line.

He did follow this up with a subpar performance against Davidson with only six points, three assists, and two rebounds. We must take note of this game as well, but despite this performance it still seems as though the job should be his.

One thing to take notice of is how well Williams has shot the ball this year. Kenny is shooting a team best (and extremely impressive) 48.3% from the three-point line on the season. Granted he has only shot 29 threes, but still, the numbers are gaudy. The reason Williams is someone to watch for on Sunday is because Tennessee isn’t very impressive when it comes to defending three-point shooting. On the year they rank 237th in the nation, allowing teams to shoot 36% from beyond the arc. Williams could have a field day against the Vols with the expanded minutes we’ve seen since the injury to Joel Berry.

Seventh Woods

It is unclear if Berry will play for the Tar Heels against the Vols seeing as he missed UNC’s game earlier this week against Davidson. That being said, we should see more of Seventh Woods due to his absence.

On the year Woods is averaging 3.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, and 1.7 apg. Woods was averaging the least amount of minutes per game of all the freshmen, until the Berry injury. He has been somewhat in the doghouse this year with Roy Williams. Coach Williams has famously said, "I’m not calling him Seventh because I haven’t seen the guy that I recruited show up yet.” Woods has even confirmed that Williams has called him Sixth or Eighth in the meantime. Clearly Woods isn’t playing up to Williams’ standards but it is important to note that he is coming back from some injuries and that definitely isn’t helping his freshman curve.

Against Radford earlier this week Woods scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds in 22 minutes of action, his highest virtually everything of the season. He looked more comfortable but at times seemed too sped up, which is confirmed in the five turnovers he committed. The following game, against Davidson, Woods put up four points, three rebounds, two assists, and one turnover in 11 minutes of action.

I personally believe that Berry’s absence will eventually result in a blessing in disguise for Woods. It will force him to see more action in games and as a result it should help him become more comfortable, and give him some confidence, which could go a long way throughout the year. Seeing how Woods develops with an expanded role as Berry sits out is something to keep an eye on from here on out.