The Tar Heels started off their quest for the program’s seventh national title with a comfortable win on the road at Tulane Friday night. Joel Berry and Justin Jackson starred, combining for 50 of the Tar Heels’ points. Carolina now turns their attention to a Chattanooga team coming off of an NCAA Tournament season of their own in the home opener at the Dean Dome.
Here are three things to watch out for:
Can Carolina keep up the three-point shooting stroke?
One of the biggest question surrounding the program in recent years has been if they can find a way to consistently make shots behind the three-point line. The Tar Heels showed prowess at Tulane, hitting 9-of-20 from behind the arc. Justin Jackson and Joel Berry led the way connecting on four threes apiece.
Jackson’s ability to hit the three ball has been the difference between him being a good collegiate player and a great one. Hopefully, the stroke he showed in New Orleans is one that will carry throughout the the rest of the season. Berry was the Tar Heels’ best three-point shooter last season, connecting on 38% of his shots from long range.
Nate Britt and Kenny Williams are two players that have the potential to help out in that aspect as well as freshman wing Brandon Robinson, who made the other three-point shot on the night at Tulane.
UNC’s ability or inability to hit three-pointers will once again dictate how high this team’s ceiling will be and how they will be defending throughout the season.
How does Kenny Williams respond?
When Theo Pinson went down with a foot injury, much was made about who would take over his assumed role in the Carolina starting five. The answer Friday night in New Orleans was six-foot-four sophomore Kenny Williams, who earned the start presumably over senior guard Nate Britt after receiving a lot of buzz in preseason camp. The hype didn’t translate against Tulane, as Williams shot 1-for-5 from the field scoring only two points to go along with five rebounds in his first career start.
After de-committing from VCU, Williams came to Chapel Hill with the reputation of a shooter. Roy Williams has yet to reap the benefits of Williams’ late recruitment in that aspect, but the sophomore seemed to have confidence shooting the ball from a distance Friday night.
It will be interesting to see how Williams performs on Sunday. A strong game could go a long way towards his maturation as a Tar Heel and the team’s chances of success while Pinson is sidelined.
How do the Tar Heels match the Mocs’ intensity?
In his first year at the helm, Matt McCall led the Mocs to a 29-6 record, running through the Southern Conference on their way to the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. The Mocs return four of five starters from last year’s team and six seniors total. That experience showed Friday night when Chattanooga dominated Tennessee 82-69, marking the second straight year the program started off the season with a win over an SEC team.
There should be no doubt that McCall’s team will be able to handle the sights of the Dean Dome and will bring plenty of energy Sunday afternoon. The Tar Heels have been more than prone to slow starts in the past under Roy, but they will need to avoid one on Sunday if they don’t want the final minutes of the contest to turn into a dogfight.