North Carolina(0-0) vs Gardner Webb(0-0), 7:00 PM, Fox Sports South
If it seems like basketball season managed to sneak up on you that is what an early start to the season plus a fairly entertaining game last game versus NC State will do. It is also what happens when the hype machine is left turned off for most of the summer. Needless to say there are more questions than positive expectations and since no one is certain what to expect from this team, it tempers the anticipation some.
The foremost question to be answered in the opening game is the starting lineup, which as of yesterday, was not nailed down. In the exhibition UNC started Marcus Paige, Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, James Michael McAdoo and Desmond Hubert. The presence of Hubert was not a surprise but Strickland being in the lineup certainly was considering the senior shooting guard is probably not quite 100% after his ACL tear at the end of January. Still, Roy Williams obviously feels Strickland starting at the wing guard slot is important to the team and it will do doubt be a point of contention if there are any sort of offensive struggles.
Williams indicated on Thursday that the starting lineup was in flux because he has not been able to decide who will start at center. As noted above, Hubert started there against Shaw but there was plenty of evidence of the team being more effective with Joel James and Brice Johnson paired with McAdoo on the block. Since we are not privy to practice and considering Williams' preference for players who execute and play defense according to his standard it is possible Hubert is there again. It is also possible, Williams will want to shelter James and Johnson through the early part of the season. At any rate, it is November which means Williams is going to go ten deep on the bench and do hockey style line changes.
As for who and what to watch. The play of Paige at point guard is the most obvious as is seeing who emerges as the top three offensive options. McAdoo is expected to be one and Bullock is a candidate for the second. How much of an impression will P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald make coming off the bench? Also, how much of the old Dexter Strickland will we see in terms of taking the ball coast-to-coast and getting into the lane.In short, there is a lot to see and figure out and while no one should be buying stock in this game as a harbinger of things to come, it is fun to start forming opinions based on live action.
UNC 81 Gardner Webb 65