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UNC vs. Tulane Preview

No. 6 North Carolina opens its 2016-17 basketball season with a trip to New Orleans to play Tulane. Tip-off at the Smoothie King Center is set for 9 p.m. EST on Friday.

North Carolina (0-0) vs. Tulane (0-0)
New Orleans, La. – Smoothie King Center
Friday, 9 p.m. EST
ESPNU (Rich Hollenberg, Cory Alexander)


“They’re a very talented team, so we’ll have to be very focused and apply all of the things we’re hoping to teach here all in Game 1. There won’t be a whole lot of margin of error.” – Tulane head coach Mike Dunleavy

“It’s a great way to start the season off. What better way can you ask for than to play UNC in the first game?” – Tulane guard Malik Morgan


UNC Adjusting to Life Without Pinson: The Tar Heels open the 2016-17 season without its preseason projected starting lineup for the second year in a row. This time it’s Theo Pinson missing from action for 8-to-12 weeks after breaking his foot during practice three weeks ago. Senior guard Nate Britt is expected to slide into the two-spot alongside point guard Joel Berry. Arguably the biggest question mark for UNC, however, comes on the interior. Senior center Kennedy Meeks has been inconsistent throughout his time in Chapel Hill, while senior power forward Isaiah Hicks is entering the starting lineup as a staple for the first time in his career. How that duo adjusts without Brice Johnson’s presence will determine UNC’s level of success this season.

Tulane Spotlight: The Green Wave return four starters from a squad that finished 12-21 (3-15 AAC) in 2015-16. Longtime NBA head coach Mike Dunleavy, who took over the program in March, has his work cut out for him with a team picked 11th in the American Athletic Conference. Tulane lost leading scorer Louis Dabney to graduation and must find adequate scoring options after averaging 66 points per game and shooting 39.8 percent from the floor last season.

Morgan Provides Senior Touch: Malik Morgan is Tulane’s top returning scorer (12.2 ppg), 3-point shooter (34.5) and assist man (2.3). The 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior guard did post a negative assist-turnover ratio last season, although he was effective on the glass, pulling down 5.1 rebounds per game. Morgan played his first two years of college ball at LSU, where he started 20 games. He scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds and six assists in Tulane’s exhibition win over Loyola New Orleans.

Matchup to Watch: Dunleavy started a four-guard lineup in Tulane’s lone exhibition game last week, and if that plan of action remains in place, 6-foot-7 wing Cameron Reynolds will be matched up with Hicks. Reynolds shot 28 percent from 3-point range last season, so Hicks likely won’t be forced to extend too far out onto the perimeter, which is where cheap fouls have plagued him in the past. A zone defense would be a likely option for the Green Wave to defend UNC’s bigs, although 6-foot-11, 250-pound center Ryan Smith will have his hands full.

Last Meeting: UNC defeated Tulane, 96-72, at the Smith Center on Dec. 16, 2015. The Tar Heels scored 36 field goals on a season-high 30 assists. Brice Johnson posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Green Wave, 14-1.

Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 12.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg (2015-16)
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 12.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) - 5.4 ppg, 1.7 apg

Projected Tulane Starters:
13 Malik Morgan (6-4, 205, Sr.) – 12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg (2015-16)
5 Cameron Reynolds (6-7, 215, Jr.) - 6.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
35 Melvin Frazier (6-5, 200, So.) - 5.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
15 Ryan Smith (6-11, 250, Sr.) – 2.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg
14 Colin Slater (6-0, 185, Fr.) – N/A

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