Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/22/11

With little turnaround top ranked North Carolina (3-0) takes on its next opponent at the Dean Dome in Tennessee State (2-2) as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. The game tips off at 7:30 pm EST and can be seen on ESPN3 (online), and hopefully the attendance will be a bit more than what I saw in the home opener in Sunday’s home opener. Both squads, who have never played one another, return their starting line-up from a year ago, and unlike Mississippi Valley State tonight’s opponent does has some size up front. Even more interesting is that Tenn St. is coming off a surprise upset against South Carolina and momentum is always major factor early in the season. For head coach Roy Williams and his team there are pressing matters to fix, such as shooting, from both outside the arc and the charity stripe.

In the first three game UNC is 11 for 38 from three point line after going 5 for 19 on Sunday. That is 28.9% shooting and is just not going to cut it for a team looking at keeping their top ranking, winning their conference and wanting to cut down the nets in the NCAA Tournament. Just as bad is how the Heels are shooting from the free throw line, as the team is shooting 62.9% (56 of 89) overall after 120 minutes into the season. In this game, where the Tigers do have some size in the front court, reminders of the first game of the season where Michigan State took it to Carolina on the offensive board do come to mind. All of this, with the addition of a quick turnaround and the possibility that the team might be thinking about traveling to the West Coast once again, could make it so that this game is a lot harder than it should be. During practice coach Williams said this to his team regarding their shooting…

“[Monday], I had two coaches out recruiting, and I had one of the kids say something about it,’’ he said. “And I said, yeah, one of the coaches was going down to Charlotte to see a kid who’s eligible to play in January and is supposedly a great 3-point shooter. And everyone just looked at me, and John said, ‘Really?’ And I said ‘No … but I want somebody to start making some dadgum shots.’’’

Maybe I am being a bit too harsh on the team, as we all know that the coach Williams’ squad do not start up quickly, but on the other hand free throws should not be a problem for a team that has so much talent coming back. One thing that has not been a problem is the scoring from the front line, as John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes are all playing well, and the work of Kendall Marshall dishing out the ball to his team mates. Dexter Strickland is doing well in his role and even the freshmen coming off the bench have been giving contribution. The talent is there, the players are all available, including senior reserve Justin Watts who was hit in the eye in Sunday’s game, and the goals that have been set are achievable, the only thing that needs to happen is that the team keeps working hard on all the aspects of their game. Hopefully, just like the game against the Delta Devils on Sunday, this team will be able to let the bench get their playing time, something that the head coach was happy about doing…

“For Kendall to play 25 minutes and be the most minutes on the team, we like that part of it,” UNC coach Roy Williams said Sunday. “Hopefully, we’ll be fresh and have a great practice tomorrow, too.”

In the end this game like the last two is a lot more about what North Carolina will do than what their opponents will. Yes, it’s a scare game, as Tennessee State won their game against South Carolina because the Gamecocks didn’t shoot well from, you guessed it, the free throw line and behind the arc. On the other hand there is no way you can compare the talent that the two Carolinas have on each roster, and as such I do not see an upset tonight. The line given by the insiders in Vegas has UNC as a 27.5 points favorite, and while I do not see the Heels winning by that much, I do see this game being a pretty good win by the home team, and once again we will be able to see the blue team come off the bench at the end of the game.

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