UNC vs. IU

Wednesday night the 4-1 North Carolina Tar Heels make their way into Assembly Hall to take on the 2-0 Indiana Hoosiers in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Indiana has opened its season 2-0 after close wins over both Western Illinois and Indiana State.

The Tar Heels enter the game on a four game winning streak and with a Maui Championship in their possession. The Heels however lost their season opener to Santa Clara before getting their act together.

Indiana holds a 2-1 record in the Challenge, with wins over Maryland and North Carolina; the Hoosiers did however lost last year to Wake Forest in an embarrassing defeat. Indiana leads the all-time series 7-4, and has captured the last two games. North Carolina however come into the game ranked ninth, and is expected by many to compete for a national championship.

The Heels return all five starters from last years team, however Melvin Scott is not expected to start much this year. North Carolina accomplished an amazing feat last year when Rashad McCants lead the ACC in scoring, Sean May lead the ACC in rebounding, and Raymond Felton lead the ACC in assists. All return for UNC, and they have added a critical ingredient that they have been missing for the last several years: depth. UNC has nine players who will play significant time for them, which fits perfectly into coach Roy Williams scheme. Williams like to run run run. His teams will put up the points quickly and wear down a team that lacks depth. This doesn't bode too well for Indiana. The Hoosiers have been working on getting more offensive points with their transition game, however they will have to show that their transition defense has vastly improved over last year as well. UNC will get out and move the ball quickly, if the defense can not catch up, it will be another high scoring night for an offense that averages 89.8 points per game. The Tar Heels are very good at getting other teams to play their fast paced game, and the Hoosiers will have to fight to stay in a half court game. The problem for the Hoosiers though, is that UNC could be strong in the half court as well.

Sean May, native of Bloomington, could easily be the ACC player of the year. If North Carolina is forced into a half court game, May could play a huge role in the paint. He has a big body that is much better conditioned than last year, and is a truly pure rebounder. May also has the added incentive of showing the hometown Hoosier fans that they really missed out on him. If Indiana can effectively double team and shut down May, then they still have to deal with Rashad McCants who averaged 20 points last year. Marvin Williams is an excellent freshman who will see more time as the year moves along. He could be the best forward in the country in a few years, and will be learning form some of the best. Jawad Williams also returns as an inside threat for UNC after averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds last year.

With all that power in the UNC lineup, one might wonder how the Hoosiers could win the game. Despite all their talent, UNC doesn't always play the smartest basketball in the world. McCants is almost as volatile as Ron Artest, but doesn't play any defense. Whoever he will be guarding in the game must take advantage of his lack of defense and try to score at will against him. If McCants gets into foul trouble, the Heels lose a major scoring threat. The whole team also sometimes goes through mental lapses and forgets to play defense. If Indiana can manage to slow down the UNC attack and take advantage of their poor defense, then they can keep the game close. If the game is close late in the game, IU will have the advantage of the crowd, and anything can happen.

Junior forward Sean Kline and senior guard Ryan Tapak are both on the walking wounded list for Indiana. Both should play on Wednesday, however they both could see less minutes. Indiana will try to use Mike Roberts more in guarding Sean May, which could be a big problem for Indiana. Don't be too surprised is James Hardy sees some more time trying to guard McCants as well. Indiana will have to play their best game in order to beat UNC and notch an win for the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have not come out strong yet during this season, and will have to gel fast. If things start slowly for Indiana the story line of this game could quickly turn into which sideline former Hoosier star Scott May is sitting on.

Gametime is set for 9:00pm, and will be televised on ESPN. You can also listen n the statewide Indiana Radio Network.

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