This game is the latest in a long string of former Roy Williams or UNC assistants/players who have made it into the head coaching ranks coming to Chapel Hill for a game. UAB is under the direction of first year head coach Jerod Haase who, until this season, had been an assistant under Williams for 13 years. This marks the first of these games that involves a coach who was an assistant at UNC coming back to play the Tar Heels.
I suppose it could be argued that UAB is catching UNC at a good time given the progress so far this season. The Heels are coming off a 24-point loss on the road at Indiana and have two players banged up. P.J. Hairston did not play earlier in the week due to a sprained knee and his status for this game is yet to be determined. Reggie Bullock suffer bruises to the fingers on his right hand when Cody Zeller stepped on it during a scramble on the floor for a loose ball. Officially his status is TBD but Bullock told the N&O's Andrew Carter he would play.
Needless to say, UNC needs to respond to the debacle on Tuesday with a solid, no questions win against a UAB team ranked 144th in KenPom. If Hairston is a scratch and Bullock limited, it will make the task tougher since UAB is not a complete pushover. Besides that, this game kicks off a month long stretch that is crucial to where this team goes the rest of the season. UNC only plays six games in December and three in the next two week. The exam schedule plays a role here but with the end of classes and fewer games on the docket this will be a period where the team can practice and develop. Once exams are over, the focus is entirely on basketball which coincides with two tough games against Texas on the road and UNLV at home. UNC's path over the next month ending with UNLV coming to Chapel Hill will provide the best insights into where this team might be headed, assuming everyone is healthy.
That path starts with UAB where UNC will have to deal with junior forward Jordan Swing averaging 14.1 ppg and hitting 45% of his threes. The Blazers' leading rebounder is 6-5 Rod Rucker which essentially says UAB lacks the size UNC has on the interior. As a point of development, this might actually be a good thing. One of UNC's major failings so far this season has been inadequate rebounding and not because other teams were necessarily bigger or stronger. It is true Indiana's size was formidable but what killed he Tar Heels in that game was allowing smaller players to grab boards because the box outs were horrible. Against Indiana 6-0 Jordan Hulls and 5-11 Yogi Ferrell combined for 12 rebounds. This game should be presented as a challenge to the UNC players when it comes to asserting their size and ensuring smaller players don't worm their way in for rebounds.
UNC responded to the loss versus Butler with a blowout of Chaminade. I would expect much the same here playing at home except UAB will be a much tougher opponent than the SIlverswords were.
UNC 85 UAB 62
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