Wednesday's Preview: Texas at #6 North Carolina

    
December 21st, 2011
Rick Barnes' Texas (9-2) Longhorns have gotten off to a solid start despite heavy personnel losses from last year's NCAA Tournament team, but outside of a neutral-court win over NC State there aren't any decisions that jump off the page. Can't credit Santa with this pre-Christmas "gift" but they've got a great opportunity to pick up a quality win as they visit #6 North Carolina (10-2). One key for Texas' prospects this season is the play of freshman point guard Myck Kabongo (10.8 ppg, 6.0 apg), and the Canadian has shown signs by the game that he'll be alright.

But in sophomore Kendall Marshall (10.2 apg, 4.1 A/T ratio) he'll take on one of the elite distributors in the game. Marshall has more than a few weapons at his disposal, but the fact that he's so good at finding teammates in the best position for them to be successful is a big reason why he's so highly regarded. But he can be had on the defensive end of the floor, and with J'Covan Brown (19.3 ppg, 4.3 apg) likely to draw the attention of North Carolina's best perimeter defender in Dexter Strickland maybe Kabongo can take advantage of this.

The key for Brown in his development is that he's become more of a team guy for Texas, most notably eliminating the immaturity that took away from his game during his early days in the program. They've needed him to become more of a leader and the junior has taken steps in that direction. Also of importance for Texas on the perimeter is Sheldon McClellan (11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg), who could get the call in defending UNC wing Harrison Barnes (16.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg). McClellan will need to make Barnes dribble for his shots as opposed to working off the catch or one dribble. It's been well-documented that his efficiency drops a great deal when required to work more for his own shot.

The interior play is where Texas will need to step up in order to knock off the Tar Heels, who grabbed 72 rebounds in their win over Nicholls State on Monday (Texas is far superior to Nicholls State, however). John Henson (14.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.4 bpg) and Tyler Zeller (14.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) lead the way for a deep UNC front line, and the Heels' rebounding margin of plus-8.7 is better than the Longhorns' plus-5.6. However both teams have been good at hitting the offensive glass, with Texas corralling 41.9% of their misses while North Carolina has an offensive rebounding percentage of 39.6%.

Alexis Wangmene, Jonathan Holmes and Clint Chapman average a combined 16.3 rebounds per game, and with the scoring options that Texas has Chapman and Wangmene are needed more for defensive and rebounding purposes (Holmes ranks fourth on the team in scoring). Freshman Jaylen Bond (5.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) has improved his play of late and that will need to continue if Texas is to win. North Carolina will also throw a few perimeter weapons at Texas off the bench, with P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock being two of the better shooters in the ACC while James Michael McAdoo is another interior presence off the bench. Whether or not Texas can hang around could depend on what the likes of Bond and Sterling Gibbs do, and they've got the talent needed to do so.

Another big game on the schedule for Wednesday is Seton Hall visiting Dayton, a team that's put together two drastically different products on the floor this season. At times Archie Miller's Flyers have the look of a team that can beat almost anyone, and they're just as capable of looking like they can lose to anyone as well. Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope have been more than capable leaders for Kevin Willard's Pirates, and a road win here would be quite the boost for their NCAA Tournament profile.

Duquesne visits George Mason in what could be a wild affair, with Ron Everhart's team enjoying a fast pace and being adept at forcing turnovers and Paul Hewitt's Patriots play interesting games as well. The matchup between T.J. McConnell and Bryon Allen could determine the outcome, especially if Allen gets out of control running the show for George Mason. Iona visits William & Mary and Belmont visits Austin Peay in games where the home teams may give more of a fight than their records would indicate, and Oklahoma State takes on Alabama in Birmingham. If the Cowboys are reckless with the basketball as they were on Saturday against New Mexico, look out for another episode of the "Tony Mitchell Show".

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM Texas at (6) North Carolina (ESPN)
8:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at (22) Murray State

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Hiwassee College at Chattanooga
6:00 PM Fresno State at Arizona State
7:00 PM North Florida at Florida A&M
7:00 PM Charleston Southern at Stetson
7:00 PM Sacred Heart at Boston College
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Vermont at Fairleigh Dickinson
7:00 PM West Virginia Tech at Marshall
7:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Maine
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Army
7:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Akron
7:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Cincinnati
7:00 PM Seton Hall at Dayton
7:00 PM Duquesne at George Mason
7:00 PM Wofford at High Point
7:00 PM Hartford at Marist
7:00 PM Loyola Marymount at Morgan State
7:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at South Carolina (ESPN3)
7:00 PM UTPA at St. John's (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Coppin State at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM Iona at William & Mary
7:05 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Indiana State
7:30 PM Cornell at Penn State (BTN)
7:30 PM Kent State vs. Texas-Arlington*
7:30 PM North Carolina Central vs. Stephen F. Austin*
8:00 PM Lipscomb at Iowa State
8:00 PM South Carolina State at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Peru State at South Dakota
8:00 PM Lafayette at Vanderbilt (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Rogers State at Houston
8:00 PM Alabama A&M at Tennessee State
8:05 PM UCF at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:05 PM Oregon State at Chicago State
8:05 PM Central Arkansas at Drake
8:05 PM Santa Clara at Houston Baptist
8:30 PM Cal Poly at DePaul
8:30 PM Belmont at Austin Peay
9:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
9:00 PM McNeese State at New Mexico State
9:00 PM Oklahoma State vs. Alabama (ESPN)*
10:00 PM Prairie View A&M at Oregon
10:05 PM Saint Peter's at Utah State
10:10 PM Virginia at Seattle (Root NW)