In the second of three games at Chapel Hill this week, North Carolina will welcome Davidson to the Dean Dome at 9:00 PM tonight. This will be the fourth year in a row that these two teams will face off during the regular season, with UNC winning the first three contests. It’s likely that the Tar Heels have a win coming to them, however, the Wildcats should not be underestimated, especially with Joel Berry out for the game.
The Wildcats are off to a solid start to the season with a 5-2 record, making them one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference at the moment. Despite their success against some lesser teams, Davidson has fallen to both Clemson and the College of Charleston so far this year. North Carolina has usually served as the team’s first roadblock in the season, so they are already heading into rough waters with No. 7 UNC and No. 4 Kansas coming up in back-to-back games.
Despite the trouble facing them at the moment, Davidson should give UNC a much higher level of competition than Radford did. This team will bring more toughness and energy, and North Carolina will need to be ready for it. They would represent a tough opponent even if they did have Berry playing. There is at least a chance that Davidson could see Carolina as leaderless and take advantage.
Where the Wildcats offer competition is on defense, with a good portion of the team being capable rebounders thanks to their impressive height. They are led by senior guard Jack Gibbs, who has averaged 23.3 points per game with 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Behind him is junior forward Peyton Aldridge with 19.7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds. Say what you want about their overall offensive output, but the rebounding skills are no joke.
At this point, we know that the Tar Heels will have to make do on their own without Joel Berry. The junior point guard sprained his ankle in the game against Radford and has been ruled out for tonight. He is also said to be questionable for Sunday against Tennessee, so this could be something to watch over multiple games. Regardless of how much time he will miss, North Carolina will need to figure out this whole basketball thing without their leader.
Roy Williams has admitted that losing their best three-point shooter, best perimeter defender, and leading scorer will leave UNC in an unfortunate position. The Tar Heels play a fast game up and down the court, and any point guard that steps up will not only need to keep pace but also set the tempo for the entire team. This is why Williams seems to be hesitant to hand the ball over to Seventh Woods just yet. He may have the potential, but he has not shown the ability to work as quickly as he needs to. Nate Britt offers Roy an experienced and trusted guiding hand that could be preferable, despite the upside of Woods. Either way, both will see playing time tonight.
As good as Davidson is on defense, UNC has one of the best offensive teams in the country, averaging over 90 points per game. It’s unlikely that these Wildcat defenders will be that good. The combined might of Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, and Kenny Williams should be more than enough to take care of their opponent.
Davidson can win if:
- The loss of Berry proves to be the undoing of UNC’s offense.
- Their defense can stop UNC’s frontcourt.
UNC can win if:
- They continue to spread the ball around their post players, even without Berry to guide them.