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UNC vs. Tennessee Preview

Rick Barnes returns to the Smith Center in a different shade of orange on Sunday as his Tennessee Volunteers arrive for a matchup with No. 7 North Carolina. The game tips at 5:00 p.m.

North Carolina (8-1) vs. Tennessee (4-3)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Sunday, 5 p.m.
ESPN (Roxy Bernstein, Jay Bilas)


"We're going to compete. We're ready and we just have to have a good practice and be prepared to get down there. I think we'll be ready for them." – Tennessee coach Rick Barnes on North Carolina

“In my opinion we weren’t ready to play. I mean, they doubled us in the post, we practiced on that, we’ve seen it since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen it from a couple of other teams.” – head coach Roy Williams on UNC’s performance against Davidson


Disturbing Trend: Even after securing back-to-back wins following their first loss of the season against Indiana last week, Roy Williams has been less than pleased with his Tar Heels since returning from Hawaii. He was visibly upset during and after his team’s performance against Davidson on Wednesday, an 83-74 victory. The main reason for frustration may have come from the lack of production without injured guard Joel Berry, but Williams hinted that it was merely a lack of effort and focus from his team that angered him most. Against Davidson, it took the second unit coming off the bench to spark the Tar Heels after the starting five fell flat in the first five minutes. UNC will look to get back to its early season ways against a young Volunteers squad.

Tennessee Spotlight: The Volunteers were predicted to finish near the bottom of the SEC entering the season due to a lackluster 2015-16 campaign (15-19, 6-12 SEC) and an exodus of talent. In his second season in Knoxville, head coach Rick Barnes has one of the youngest teams he’s ever coached, and it’s showing in the Vols’ play. Tennessee comes to Chapel Hill on Sunday with a 4-3 record and a three-game win streak after starting the season 1-3 following the Maui Invitational. The Volunteers only returned two starters from last season, center Kyle Alexander and forward Admiral Schofield, and neither of them are currently in Barnes’s starting lineup.

New Faces: The Volunteers are working with a starting lineup consisting of three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior. The standout so far among the young core has been freshman Grant Williams. The 6-foot-5 forward is averaging nine points while also grabbing five rebounds per game. At 234 pounds, Williams is able to use his big body to make up for his lack of height in the paint. Senior guard Robert Hubbs III is the Vols’ leading scorer (13.9 ppg), but is also the only real veteran on the team. He’s one of two seniors on the team and the only one consistently in Barnes’s rotation.

Matchup to Watch: While the Tar Heels, who are ranked second nationally in rebounding, should handle the smaller Vols on the boards, the most interesting matchup will take place in the backcourt. Guards Nate Britt and Kenny Williams are both coming off unproductive offensive performances against Davidson, which was UNC’s first game without Joel Berry. Britt went 0-8 from the field, while Williams noticeably cooled down after his 19-point performance against Radford. With Berry doubtful for Sunday’s game, expect Britt and Williams to be the backcourt pair once again. Britt will need to utilize his experience against a very inexperienced Tennessee side and exploit freshman guard Jordan Bowden. Williams will likely be guarded by Shembari Phillips, a player who was exposed in losses to Wisconsin and Oregon.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Volunteers, 101-87, in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 24, 2006. Tyler Hansbrough led UNC with 27 points and nine rebounds, while Brandan Wright added 19 points and eight rebounds.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 8-1.

Projected UNC Starters:
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 6.1 ppg, 2.9 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 13.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 16.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 7.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Projected Tennessee Starters:
3 Robert Hubbs (6-5, 207, Sr.) – 13.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg
23 Jordan Bowden (6-3, 180, Fr.) – 8.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg
2 Grant Williams (6-5, 234, Fr.) - 9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
25 Shembari Phillips (6-3, 192, So.) – 10.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
10 John Fulkerson (6-7, 203, Fr.) – 5.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg

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