The Huskies are red-hot, winners of a nation's best 11-straight games.
"For this early in the season to have them playing together as a team at that high of a level on both ends of the court, makes me think this is one of the strongest teams I have seen in the last eight to twelve years," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
UConn (14-1) has excellent size and depth across the front line with consensus preseason NCAA Player of the Year and current Big East Player of the Week 6-10 Emeka Okafor, to go with up and coming 6-11 freshman reserve Charlie Villanueva. Junior guard Ben Gordan has scored 25 points five times this season, and is shooting nearly 50-percent from both inside and outside of the arc in his last four games.
"Right now [Okafor] is the best big man in college basketball," Sean May said. "He has always been a great shot blocker. His presence alone sometimes intimidates players and that gives him a little advantage going into the game. I think the past few years he has really worked on his game and come on as a complete player."
Last season, unranked Carolina (10-3) won a thriller, 68-65, over then-sixth-ranked UConn at home when Jawad Williams hit the go-ahead jumper with :56.9 remaining in the game and Rashad McCants hit two late free throws. Prior to Williams' big shot, Okafor's dunk had given the Huskies their first lead of the game with 1:16 to play.
In that game and without an injured Sean May, the UNC defense held Gordon to 5-of-19 shooting (0-8 3-pointers) and held Okafor to 13 points and seven rebounds – both below his season averages.
But this year's Huskies have a little more to prove having been tabbed my most as the country's best ever since the season started. And don't think they have forgotten last season's loss at the Smith Center.
During the second half of UConn's 94-70 win over Georgetown Wednesday night, coach Jim Calhoun asked his team a question: "Is this how you want to practice for 20 minutes heading into Carolina? Is that how we're going to play?"
Jawad Williams, who has suffered multiple injuries about the head this year, played at Maryland but was ineffective. His will be game time decision for today.
"He has got to be effective," Roy Williams said. "He doesn't miss too many two-footers and the other night he missed two of them. The mask is a problem for him and it takes awhile to get used to it. So we just got to wait and see. We didn't practice yesterday, they had the day off."
Carolina leads the all-time series against Connecticut, 3-1, including a 75-64 victory in the 1998 NCAA East Regional Final in Greensboro to advance its second-straight Final Four.