"We realize it's going to be a very difficult task," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I'm not looking forward to it, because it's not going to be something that we enjoy."
But this is not the same team that lost by 40 points in its first game at the Comcast Center, although ACC Player of the Week Sean May, and reserve freshmen Reyshawn Terry and Justin Bohlander are the only additions to the UNC roster.
Maryland has yet to face May, who is averaging 25.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in his last two outings.
Oh yeah, and this year the Tar Heels ‘got Roy' – the owner of the highest winning percentage (428-103, .806) among active NCAA coaches.
"It should be a great game, they certainly played well against Georgia Tech," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "It will be a good test for our young guys to see where we are with our team. It begins a tough stretch for us, but I learned a long time ago to just focus on the next game.
The Tar Heels (10-2, 1-1 ACC) lead the all-time series with the Terrapins (9-3, 0-1 ACC), 108-52, including last year's 84-72 ACC quarterfinal upset of the Terps.
"It remains to be seen [how good we are]," Gary Williams said. "We've beaten a No. 1 and a No. 15, but we've also lost some games we shouldn't have. That's been the characteristic of our team – inconsistency, after having been pretty consistent around here for the last few years."
In the Terps' last two games they rolled over Mount St. Mary's and UMES, following a 79-75 loss at Florida State on Dec. 28. However, Maryland has not played since Jan. 6.
"I told Gary that he's cheating because he's got eight days to prepare for us, and I don't have enough time to watch tape on them," Roy Williams said.
Raymond Felton is coming off his best offensive performance of the season with 25 points against the Yellow Jackets. He also had nine assists in that game. Felton will provide a stiff challenge for fellow sophomore John Gilchrist, who is averaging 13.7 points and 5.3 assists per game.
"John got some experience last year behind Steve Blake, and now he's our point guard," Gary Williams said. "He's done a good job for us. He's a different type of player than Steve Blake, but he's good enough. Now we'll see if he can be a point guard against the really good point guards like Felton."
So what concerns Roy Williams the most about the coming trip to College Park?
"How good Gary Williams prepares his teams, the tradition they have, the feeling that they've gotten over the last couple of years that they are going to win all of their games – that's the first thing," he said. "I have the greatest respect for Gary Williams that you can have. If I remember right, he is the one that has a national championship ring there. I helped him get it, since they beat [Kansas] in the semifinals."
Maryland has won its last three ACC home openers, including a 112-79 victory over UNC in January 2002.
The ACC remains the top-ranked conference in both the RPI Report and Sagarin Computer poll, with all nine teams ranked in the top 60 and seven in the top 40. ACC teams are 84-14 in non-conference games, 7-6 versus ranked opponents and 2-0 against top-ranked teams.
"I didn't think the ACC was as strong as the Big 12 last season, but as soon as I got down here I heard that of the 45 starters from last year, 35 were back…and of the 20 top scorers, 19 were back; I knew at that time the ACC was going to be much better," Roy Williams said. "What the ACC has done in the pre-conference schedule has just been mind boggling."
"You're going to lose some in our league this year, but that doesn't mean you're not playing well," Gary Williams added. "I think Georgia Tech played pretty well and still lost the game, and I think you're going to see that throughout the league this year."