North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Texas Longhorns Hoops: Preview & Open Thread

Grant Halverson

A marquee matchup without marquee teams.

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The Texas Longhorns (6-4) play their marquee home game of the year, facing the North Carolina Tar Heels (8-2) at Erwin Center tonight. True to a football school, the Athletics Department is having trouble selling out the game.

The Tar Heels lost four starters off last year's Elite 8 squad and have started slow out of the gate. They lost to Butler in the Maui Invitational (yes, the same one where Texas lost to Chaminade), got blown out at Indiana, and are coming off an uninspired six-point win at home to the Pirates of East Carolina.

UNC is led by sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo (15.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) and junior wing Reggie Bullock (12.2 PPG), the team's two leading scorers. McAdoo has taken over the alpha dog role to mixed results. Still, he's projected to be a lottery pick in next year's draft.

Wing play is a strength for the Tar Heels. Starting alongside Bullock is 2-guard Dexter Strickland, who returns from a torn ACL that ended his junior year. Strickland is an elite defender and the team's leading assist man at 5.0 APG. He's a slasher/passer, but his backups, junior Leslie McDonald (46.7% 3-Pt%) and sophomore P.J. Hairston (11.7 PPG), can shoot the rock. Rounding out the crew is high-flying freshman J.P. Tokoto, who could get spot minutes tonight.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the lineup has questions at point and in the paint. Freshman Marcus Paige starts at point guard, but splits time running the offense with Strickland. Par for the course for a freshman 1, Paige has been solid at times, spotty in others. The five spot has been a turnstile. Freshman Brice Johnson drew the latest start, but sophomore Desmond Hubert and freshman Joel James could also get playing time.

North Carolina's statistical profile doesn't show any elite characteristics, yet reads like a typical Roy Williams team. The Heels will run at every opportunity and look to score quickly. On defense, they tend to win matchups through superior athleticism as opposed to exceptional scheme.

In a presser yesterday, Rick Barnes confirmed that Jaylen Bond will continue to sit against both UNC and Michigan St as he recovers from an injured foot. There's also been--shocker!--no word on Myck Kabongo's status.

It's a winnable game for the Longhorns, with Ken Pomeroy predicting a 69-68 squeaker of a victory. OK, then. Hook 'em as best you can, gents.

LINEUP

PROJECTED STARTERS

Texas: G - Javan Felix (#3 - Fr.) | G - Julien Lewis (#14 - So.) | G - Sheldon McClellan (#1 - So.) | F - Jonathan Holmes (#10 - So.) | C - Cameron Ridley (#55 - Fr.)

UNC: G - Marcus Paige (#5 - Fr.) | G - Dexter Strickland (#1 - Sr.) | F - Reggie Bullock (#35 - Jr.) | F - James Michael McAdoo (#43 - So.) | F - Brice Johnson (#4 - Fr.)

BENCH

Texas: G - DeMarcus Holland (#2 - Fr.) | F - Ioannis Papapetrou (#33 - Fr.) | F - Connor Lammert (#21 - Fr.) | C - Prince Ibeh (#44 - Fr.)

UNC: G - Luke Davis (#4 - So.) | G - Leslie McDonald (#2 - Jr.) | G - P.J. Hairston (#15 - So.) | F - J.P. Tokoto (#25 - Fr.) | F - Jackson Simmons (#21 - So.) | F - Desmond Hubert (#14 - So.) | F - Joel James (#0 - Fr.)

INJURIES/ISSUES

Texas: F - Jaylen Bond (Out - Foot) | G - Myck Kabongo (Up in the Air - NCAA Eligibility)

UNC: N/A

TEXASSPORTS.COM MEDIA/NOTES

TEXAS (6-4) vs. No. 23/19 North Carolina (8-2)
Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2012 • 8 p.m. CT
Erwin Center


TV: ESPN2
John Saunders (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (analyst), Kaylee Hartung (reporter).
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network
Craig Way (play-by-play); Eddie Oran (analyst).
Satellite Radio: XM 202 / Sirius 216
Streaming Audio: TexasSports.com
Live Stats: GameTracker

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