Greensboro Coliseum, N.C.
9 p.m., ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale)
"If you're not ready for the Carolina game, you shouldn't put on an Illinois jersey." -- Deron Williams
"We can't go up against North Carolina overconfident. But we'll go in there confident that we can beat them." -- Dee Brown
"Their starting five is probably as good as any, but hopefully we can wear them down with our depth, or get them in foul trouble and make them go to their bench. That will be a key." -- Bruce Weber
"We've got to play our best basketball game of the season or we've got no chance." -- Roy Williams
"With [Deron] Williams and Dee Brown, that is about as quick and heady as you can get. If they're not the best backcourt tandem in the country, they're right up there." -- Roy Williams
Probable Starting Lineup: Dee Brown (6-0, G, So.) – 19.0 ppg, 4.3 apg Deron Williams (6-3, G, So.) – 14.3 ppg, 6.0 apg Roger Powell (6-4, F, Sr.) – 16.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg James Augustine (6-10, F, So.) – 10.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg Nick Smith (7-2, C, Jr.) – 8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg Key Reserves: Luther Head (6-3, G, Jr.) – 9.0 ppg Warren Carter (6-9, F, Fr.) – 6.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg Brian Randle (6-8, F, Fr.) – 6.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg Jack Ingram (6-10, C, Jr.) – 4.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg Aaron Spears (6-9, C, Fr.) – 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg
* Last Year's Meeting: On Dec. 3, 2002 at Assembly Hall, the Tar Heels trailed by only four at halftime, but were blown out in the second half for a 92-65 final score. While Dee Brown bested Raymond Felton (forcing 8 Felton turnovers to his zero), Brian Cook owned the paint (22 pts, 8 reb) and Sean Harrington hit six three-pointers (20 pts). Luckily for the Heels, both Cook and Harrington graduated.
* The Nation's Top Backcourt?: It's a starting backcourt duo that would (and probably does) make Roy Williams jealous. Dee Brown is joined by Deron Williams - two sophomore point guards who bring different skills to the table. Brown is the lightening-quick scorer-distributor, while Williams will pass-first, but can do damage from long range and has the size (6-3, 210) to take it strong to the hoop.
* Powell's Emergence: Junior forward Roger Powell came on strong at the end of last season and has continued that rise to stardom this year. He recorded his first career double-double (16 pts, 10 reb) against Mercer and followed that up with another double-double against Temple (19 pts, 10 reb). He may play small forward, but he leads the team in offensive rebounds and has the top field goal percentage of the starting five.
* Preseason Suspensions: Junior guard Luther Head and redshirt-freshman center Aaron Spears appeared rusty in their first game of the season against Temple. Both were suspended for some early matchups due to a violation of team rules. Head is a high-riser how is a true wing guard, playing behind Illinois' two starting points. Spears redshirted his freshman season after a knee injury and was highly regarded in the high school ranks.
* First Year at the Helm: Roy Williams' move from Kansas to North Carolina last spring led to Bill Self leaving Illinois for Kansas and in turn brought Bruce Weber to Illinois. Weber, 46, was an assistant coach under Gene Keady at Purdue for 18 years before taking the head job at Southern Illinois for five seasons, compiling a 52-15 record over his final two seasons there.
* Challenge History: While UNC is 0-4, Illinois is 1-3 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, with two losses to Duke and one to Maryland before last season's defeat of UNC.
Deron Williams ... Dee Brown
Roger Powell ... James Augustine
Bruce Weber ... Luther Head