The Tar Heels will complete their three-game home stand Sunday when they host Tennessee at 5:00 pm. Carolina is fresh off a win against Davidson, that at one point was a little too close for comfort. Following Wednesday’s game, Coach Roy Williams was unhappy with his team’s performance, saying watching them “was not fun.” The Heels had a large lead against the Wildcats for much of the second half, but they let their guard down allowing Davidson to make it a three point game with just minutes left. Multiple players were frustrated with themselves, even despite the win. Tonight, UNC will be motivated to make a strong showing, and get back to basketball that’s fun to watch.
The Vols come in to Chapel Hill 4-3 on the year, following a walloping of Presbyterian College at home on Tuesday. Rick Barnes, in his second year at Tennessee, has a young group of guys that has struggled at points this season. A roster made up of seven freshman and just three upperclassmen, means a rebuilding year for UT basketball. Even so, Barnes has high hopes for his program this season. A 13 point loss to mid-major Chattanooga kicked off the season poorly, and left Vols fans disheartened. However, they have won three straight since their close loss to Oregon in the Maui Invitational.
Tennessee has a few things going for them that could make for an interesting game. With the help of freshmen Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden, the Volunteers sunk a school-record 16 threes against Presbyterian on Tuesday. As a team, they are also shooting over 77% from the free throw line, with their top four scorers all over 80%. Essentially, it seems like Tennessee could very much shoot their way into a close game from deep, and close it out with good free throw shooting.
Much like Carolina’s need to shuffle things around, Barnes has not used a set starting lineup this season. All of Tennessee’s guys who get quality minutes have had the chance to start. As a result, the Carolina coaching staff will not be able to anticipate match ups to start the game, so there will be a period of adjusting to the Volunteer personnel. The Tar Heels will also likely be without junior point guard Joel Berry II for the second consecutive time. On Wednesday against Davidson, Nate Britt got the start alongside Theo Pinson stand-in Kenny Williams. It will be interesting to see if Roy Williams keeps Britt in the starting lineup after an underwhelming offensive performance on Wednesday.
The Tar Heels head to Las Vegas this week to face another set of Wildcats. These ones happen to be ranked 6th in the country, making Saturday one of the biggest games of the year. But, it will only remain as a top-ten match up if the Heels take care of business today against the Volunteers. If the Heels impose their will early with tough defense and up-tempo offense, it could get out of hand early. However, the Volunteers have some young shooters who will want to put on a show in the Smith Center. Carolina is hoping to put last game, final exams, and next game out of their heads and take it to Tennessee.