Game Preview: Gardner-Webb & Florida Atlantic
And with that, the season begins tonight in Chapel Hill. After an abbreviated preseason where we only saw the Heels play in one exhibition (they opted into a closed, unscored scrimmage against Georgetown in lieu of a second) the team opens the 2012-2013 campaign against the Big South’s Gardner-Webb in Chapel Hill Friday before playing the first round game of the Maui Invitational against Florida Atlantic Sunday, also in Chapel Hill.
About the only thing we know about the 2012-2013 season is that we’re going to have a lot of questions about the squad that may not get answered right away. Who’s the fifth starter behind Marcus Paige, Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo? What can we expect from a group of freshmen? What’s the front court going to look like? On and on and on. If you want to know more about this, listen to our podcast, we talk about it. A lot.
But now we take a look at the weekend’s games.
- A lot of people, including The Rafters, has said this team could be a lot like the David Noel-led, Hansbrough-as-a-freshman team in 2005-2006. Guess what? North Carolina played Gardner-Webb in the first game of that season and eked out a 3-point victory on a last-second Noel 3. That UNC team went on to finish a surprising second in the ACC. If we want this team to have a similar trajectory, there are worse outcomes from tonight than a closer-than-wanted win.
- Another fun tidbit, backup PG Luke Davis sat out last year after transferring from…Gardner-Webb. The sophomore was voted onto the Big South All-Freshman team after a season where he started 30 games, ranked third in the league in assists and set a school record for assists by a freshman. He averaged a shade over 7 points for the year.
- The Bulldogs are led by a guard-heavy lineup. Senior Tashan Newsome led last year’s team with 12.3 ppg and is joined by returning PG Tyler Strange and sophomore gunner Max Landis (9.5 ppg). Gardner-Webb will be bolstered by 6′ transfer Jarvis Davis who should make an immediate impact. We’ll see how well that perimeter D and Dexter’s knee hold up against a team that will be looking to shoot from outside – the same thing every team likes to historically exploit against UNC.
- We won’t get to find out much about UNC’s front court this game. G-W has two players over 6’6″ on its roster and they return only 8 combined ppg. If nothing else this may be a big confidence booster for Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson.
- This is the second time UNC has faced FAU, the only other meeting coming during the ’06-’07 season, also in Chapel Hill, and ending in a biscuit-inducing 105-52 Tar Heels victory. It doesn’t bode well for the Owls as last year’s team finished 7-9 in the conference and is coming into this year with seven freshman comprising most of the roster. Then again, maybe the new blood will help.
- You may recognize FAU’s coach. Former St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis now roams the sideline for the Sun Belt team. That’s all we have to say about that.
- As you would expect from a mid-major, FAU is led by a senior guard, Greg Gantt. Standing at 6’2″, Gantt led the team last year with over 14 ppg while passing the 1,000 point scored mark for his career. The Owls return only one more of its top seven scorers from ’11-’12 in Pablo Bertone (7.3 ppg).
- FAU has a little more help in the front court than the vertically challenged Bulldogs but still lacks in experience down low. The cast on the blocks, including a seven footer, is predominately freshmen and projects. The tall guy, Dragan Sekelja, sat out last season after transferring from Baylor where he did nothing.
The talent may be a bit better than Gardner-Webb, but with a group of freshmen far less-heralded than UNC’s own crop making up this team, don’t expect an upset. Do expect turnovers.
Prediction: UNC 94, FAU 60