Scipio and Peter Bean have a solid preview on the ball game here, but I see things a tad bit differently. Perhaps I'm a homer. Ha!
Anyway, regardless, I wanted to post some quick thoughts on the Carolina vs. Texas tilt tomorrow afternoon because a) I had some quick thoughts and b) I felt guilty for lack of contribution.
I’ve watched a good bit of ACC hoops this season and obviously every Texas game so I think I have a pretty good handle on this one. First and foremost, I’d like everyone to get the USC game out of their heads. That performance was an anomaly for both squads. Texas didn’t come to play in the first 10 minutes and USC was out of their mind from the field which helped bury the Horns early. The Horns looked flat and the Eastern European big for USC channeled his inner Drazen Petrovic. Change either one of those circumstances and that’s a different game.
The good news we can take from that loss comes in the form of tempo. When Texas pressured and looked to run, they closed the gap which will prove to be instructive for tomorrow’s match. UNC has to play that type of tempo to have any kind of success offensively against relatively athletic teams. The Tar Heels’ guard play is abject dog shit so they're at the mercy of how fast the opposing guards want to play, plus playing a faster tempo is ingrained in Roy Williams DNA—he of the famous secondary break. It’s a tempo that Texas fans should welcome because it allows the Horns to keep their best defensive lineup on the floor without giving up too much on the offensive end.
I’m guessing we’ll play at the same pace Illinois invited us to play at--if only Bruce Weber had a do-over says Illini fan. That pace will allow us to play big minutes with Balbay, Joseph, Hamilton, Thompson, and Wang/Hill without fear of offensive stagnation...think 90 feet of open floor pandamonium. Hell, if Rick gets a wild hair watching things get really frenetic, don’t be surprised to see him roll the dice with Johnson at the four and Thompson at the five. Carolina doesn’t have the identity, patience, guard play, or leadership to take advantage of this Texas lineup in a fast paced game meaning we may be able to get away with Joseph, Brown/Balbay, Hamilton, Johnson, and Thompson for stretches.
I'm betting on the come that UNC won’t be able to help themselves on the pace front mainly because they're outgunned in the backcourt and generally batshit crazy when challenged by athletes who aren't fresh off the AAU circuit like UK.
As far as the pitfalls for Texas, if they get dragged into a halfcourt to halfcourt bare-knuckle deal it will get interesting. But again, I’ve watched Carolina and when it comes to running, they’re like a lab waiting to play fetch. Texas just has to throw them a bone by pressuring and running a little, which is something Coach Barnes has been trying to do with the lads for the last two weeks.
My prediction is centered on the following. Texas has better guards, so we should be able to control pace and keep Zeller and Henson under control which heaps a ton of pressure upon true freshman Harrison Barnes. Barnes has shown that he struggles to handle the pressure of being the bell-cow, so that’s right where we want him. Strickland and Drew are horrid, and the better guard tandem Bullock and Marshall don’t get many minutes for whatever reason.
And for those reasons I like the Horns 82 to 76 Horns.