Previewing Texas

North Carolina's non-conference schedule is loaded with a handful of high caliber matchups, but this Saturday is arguably the toughest of them all. The Tar Heels tip-off in Cowboys Stadium against No. 2 Texas at 2 p.m. on ESPN.

North Carolina (8-2) vs. Texas (9-0)
Arlington, Texas -- Cowboys Stadium
2 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Doris Burke)

Quotables

"I always think of Michael Jordan because he's the greatest. They've always been an elite program and it's exciting to play them. I can't even remember the last time Texas played North Carolina." – Texas guard Avery Bradley

"It will be a concern. It will be a learning experience for them for sure. You don't want to see them get overly amped up. ... I hope they concentrate and try not to get caught up in the emotion." – Texas coach Rick Barnes on his team playing at Cowboys Stadium

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: No. 2 Texas enters Saturday's contest with a 9-0 record. The Horns defeated Iowa (85-60) and Pittsburgh (78-62) in the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in November before toppling USC 69-50 in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series two weeks ago. Rick Barnes' squad has won all nine games by 15 points or more for the first time in school history. Five of those victories have been by 30 points or more.

Another Versatile Post Player: Longhorns forward Damion James is hoping to fluster North Carolina in a similar manner to what Syracuse's Wes Johnson and Kentucky's Patrick Patterson did – provide a viable post option that has the ability to score from outside of the paint. The senior is a four-year player that has started 115 out of a possible 117 career games. James currently leads the team in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg) while knocking down 54 percent (47-of-87) of his field goal attempts, including 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from behind the 3-point arc. He became only the third Longhorn to ever post 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds last month, and his current totals sit at 1,445 points and 1,059 rebounds.

One Lost, One Gained: Sophomore guard Varez Ward ruptured his right quadriceps tendon during pre-game warmups last month against Pittsburgh and will miss the remainder of the season after starting the first three games of the season, averaging 6.7 points and 3.0 rebounds. On the flip side, Florida transfer Jai Lucas will finally be eligible to begin his career as a Longhorn on Saturday against North Carolina. The junior guard earned SEC All-Freshman team honors while starting all 36 games for the Gators in 2007-08, averaging 8.5 points per contest.

Quality Depth: Five Longhorns are scoring in double figures this season and nine players are averaging at least 12.0 minutes per game. Lucas' addition will provide Barnes with another weapon in his talented arsenal.

Defensive Efficiency: Texas has limited its first nine opponents to 53.8 points per game on a combined 31.6 field goal percentage (177-of-561), including a 22.0 percent mark (37-of-168) from long range.

Making History: Saturday's contest marks the first basketball game to be played at the new Cowboys Stadium, with a potential capacity of 46,753. The court will be placed at the center of the stadium with a temporary floor seating system installed that is similar to the NCAA's traditional Final Four setup.

Last Meeting: No. 12 Texas posted a 78-75 win over North Carolina in the 2004 NCAA Second Round in Denver on Mar. 20. Rashad McCants led UNC with 27 points behind five 3-pointers.

Series History: The series between North Carolina and Texas is tied at 2-2. The Tar Heels won the first two meetings, a 104-68 win on Dec. 5, 1992, in the Diet Pepsi Tournament of Champions in Charlotte and a 96-92 victory in Chapel Hill on Nov. 26, 1994.

Projected Starters:
4 Dogus Balbay (6-1, 175, Jr.) - 4.6 ppg, 5.2 apg
0 Avery Bradley (6-2, 180, Fr.) – 11.0 ppg, 2.2 apg
24 Justin Mason (6-2, 195, Sr.) – 2.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg
5 Damion James (6-7, 225, Sr.) – 15.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg
34 Dexter Pittman (6-10, 290, Sr.) – 13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg

Top Reserves:
50 J'Covan Brown (6-1, 185, Fr.) – 12.1 ppg, 2.3 apg
23 Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 226, Fr.) – 10.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
1 Gary Johnson (6-6, 238, Jr.) – 6.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg
20 Alexis Wangmene (6-7, 241, So.) – 4.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg
10 Jai Lucas (5-10, 150, Jr.) – First game

UT Info
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James ... Pittman


Balbay ... Brown


Hamilton ... Bradley

(Photos by Getty Images)


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