Reno, Nev. - Lawlor Events Center (11,536)
10:05 p.m. (EST), ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, Steve Lavin)
"He said, 'This may be the best Carolina team they've ever had.' I said, 'Matt, you played with Michael Jordan. I don't know if this is what I really want to hear right now.'" – Nevada head coach Mark Fox, relaying to the Reno Gazette-Journal a conversation he had last month with former UNC head coach and player Matt Doherty
"We're playing the greatest team in college basketball, maybe one of the greatest teams in our players' lifetime, to be honest with you. This is a terrific basketball team with a great coach, great players at every position, depth. You name it, they have it." – Fox
Season to Date: Nevada enters Wednesday's contest with a 7-5 record. The Wolf Pack returned two starters from last year's 21-12 squad, and was picked to win the Western Athletic Conference this season by the league's coaches and media. Nevada has won five of its last seven games, with the losses coming against UNLV (64-57) and California (75-66).
Sophomore Sensation: Point guard Armon Johnson earned distinction as the WAC's Preseason Player of the Year, and the sophomore has lived up to that billing, averaging 15.0 points and 4.4 assists per contest. Thanks to a 33-point performance against California on Dec. 20, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder is averaging 18.6 points over his last seven outings. He ranks second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.21, 53 assists and 24 turnovers).
McDonald's All-American Living Up to Hype: Freshman Luke Babbitt has been strong out of the gate for his hometown program, leading the team in rebounding (7.2) and checking in at second in scoring (14.9). The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder has been in double figures for scoring in all but one contest this year, including a 16-point performance last Saturday against Idaho State.
Local Connection: The Wolf Pack roster features one player from the state of North Carolina in Charlotte native and sophomore forward Malik Cooke. An all-state and all-conference selection in each of final two seasons at Christ School in Arden, N.C., the 6-foot-6, 205-pounder led his team to 3A state championships in 2005 and 2007. Cooke turned in a career-high 15 points in Saturday's win over Idaho State, and is currently averaging 9.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Generous Charity at the Stripe: Nevada currently leads the WAC and ranks 21st nationally in free throw percentage this season, knocking down 74.1 percent of its attempts from the line (217-293). The Wolf Pack connected on 48-of-55 (87.3) from the free-throw line in back to back wins over Sonoma State and Southern Illinois on Dec. 9 and Dec. 14, respectively.
Defensive Intensity: During its last four home games at the Lawlor Events Center, Nevada has held its opponents to just 52.0 points per game, including 18.0 field goals per game, a 32.3 shooting percentage from the floor (72-223) and a 23.2 shooting percentage from three-point land (13-56). The Wolf Pack rank second in the WAC in field goal percentage defense (40.5) and third in scoring defense (62.7).
Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated Nevada, 106-70, on Dec. 27, 2007, in the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Tyler Hansbrough scored a game-high 26 points and Ty Lawson posted his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 assists, but most North Carolina fans remember the game as the one in which guard Bobby Frasor tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the second half of the game, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.
Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Nevada, 3-0. Last season's meeting was the first between the two schools since Feb. 21, 1989. The Tar Heels last won in Nevada, 115-91, on Dec. 30, 1987.
Background Location: Reno, Nev. Enrollment: 17,000 Conference: Western Athletic Nickname: Wolf Pack Colors: Navy, Blue & Silver Head Coach: Mark Fox Record at UN: 109-35 Last Year: 22-12 (12-4)
Projected Starters: 23 Armon Johnson (6-3, 195, So.) – 15.0 ppg, 4.4 apg 1 Lyndale Burleson (6-3, 190, Sr.) – 4.3 ppg 15 Malik Cooke (6-6, 205, So.) - 9.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg 5 Luke Babbitt (6-9, 225, Fr.) – 14.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg 44 Dario Hunt (6-8, 230, Fr.) - 3.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg Key Reserves: 3 Joey Shaw (6-6, 205, Jr.) – 8.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg 0 Brandon Fields (6-4, 185, Jr.) – 8.4 ppg 20 Ray Kraemer (6-4, 200, Jr.) – 3.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg