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UNC Basketball vs. Stanford: Game preview

It’s a family reunion in Palo Alto as the Tar Heels take on former assistant Jerod Haase.

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Hope you have your coffee ready as tonight, the UNC Tar Heels basketball team head to Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, California to play the 3-1 Stanford Cardinal. The game tips off at 11:30 PM on the east, as Coach Roy Williams gets his team adjusted to the Pacific Time Zone prior to the PK80 that tips off on Thanksgiving. Carolina looks to stay perfect on the season, while Stanford hopes to build momentum before they head to the PK80 themselves.

Stanford

Coach Haase is in his second season at Stanford, and there really isn’t a surprise in how he’s building the program: inside out. While seven players have started for Haase so far, three have taken the floor each time, two big men and a guard. If it worked for Roy...

The big men, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey lead the team in minutes and will present a problem for Carolina, as both run around six-foot-eight and 245 pounds. Travis is averaging 21.3 a game so far, and Humphrey is their beast on the boards with 12.3 per game and 39 total defensive boards so far. Both are four-year players, Travis a fourth-year junior and Humphrey is a senior, and that experience will pose a real challenge for Carolina’s young bigs like it did against Bucknell.

Isaac White is the other player who has started all four games, but he hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard. Only averaging 11 per game, he has shot 42% from behind the arc. The Australian Freshman will be the one most likely to take the shot from there, as the team as a whole is only shooting 33% from 3 and 44% overall. Haase has been using an eight man rotation, seven players averaging 20 per game.

One stat that has to drive Coach Haase crazy is the team’s assist to turnovers ratio. 54 assists to 50 turnovers. Freshman Daejon Davis and redshirt junior Robert Cartwright lead the team with 14 total, meaning you’re only looking at at a little over three per game. That’s murder for the inside-out game. Davis is also the team leader in turnovers with 12.

North Carolina

The good news for Coach Roy Williams is that he now knows who he has to suit up and play for the rest of the non-conference season. The bad news is that he’ll be down an important piece in one Cameron Johnson. Joel Berry II did return on Wednesday night, and while he drained his first shot, a three pointer, the combination of rust and desire to make an impact kept his shot from going in the rest of the night.

Luke Maye has exceeded almost all expectations so far, as he’s turned into the team’s leading scorerer and is averaging a double-double so far in the two games. He’ll have another tall task guarding the inside against Stanford’s height, but on the other side of the court, it sets up to be a replay of Bucknell as Maye will force Stanford the towers to stretch.

This will be good news for the trio of young big men. After Garrison Brooks had an impressive first game, Sterling Manley appeared to come out of nowhere against the Bison to put up 16 points and grab 13 boards in the win. They’ll get another test tonight against expereienced big men, and ones familiar with the system they are in.

Kenny Williams has to be salivating at being able to play defense against a team that has the propensity to turn the ball over so much, and Stanford really doesn’t have an answer for Theo Pinson, with his height and driving ability. That said, with a really tough stretch coming up for Carolina, look for Roy to continue playing with lineups, trying to figure out what mix of youth and experience will work.

This will only be Carolina’s third game of the season but tonight starts perhaps the most difficult stretch of the season: four games this week, fly back to Chapel Hill to face Michigan, play at Davidson two days later, host Tulane two days after that, and Western Carolina three days later before the exam break. Experience will be earned quickly.

What to Expect

On paper, this should be a win for Carolina, but there are a lot of odd factors here that could sneak up on the Heels:

  • This former assistant already beat them once as the head coach of UAB in 2013.
  • They’re playing in an unfamiliar and hostile road venue.
  • They’re playing in a different time zone prior to a three-day tournament that is stacked with good teams.

Fans that have followed this team for a while know that prior Heels teams have lost these types of games before. Stanford also hasn’t had to travel away from home so far, and has two more games under their belt.

If the game goes as expected, look for Carolina’s perimeter guys to do everything they can to deny entry passes to Stanford’s twin towers, and force an up and down game. Stanford doesn’t have as deep a rotation, and Roy will look to take the crowd out of the game early. Based on his prior two games, Maye has a real chance to go off for 20 again, as the Cardinal really don’t have an answer for his set of skills, and if Joel has more of a typical Joel Berry game, it’ll be tough for Stanford to keep up.

Another prediction-since they are playing a former assistant, expect to see that Spider-Man meme on Twitter at some point.