Chapel Hill, NC (Sports Network) - The 11th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels welcome the Florida Atlantic Owls to Chapel Hill this afternoon, for first- round action of the 2012 Maui Invitational from the Smith Center.
Roy Williams' squad is comprised of a lot of new parts with the departure of four starters (all first-round NBA picks) from last year, but the team certainly looked the same in its season-opener on Friday, making light work of Gardner-Webb, 76-59. UNC will embark on a five-game road trip following this contest, with true road games at Long Beach State and at top-ranked Indiana sandwiched around a trio of games in Maui to conclude this event.
Mike Jarvis' Owls are set to tip off another season in the Sun Belt Conference, after a disappointing 2011-12 that saw the team finish 11-19 overall and a mere 7-9 in league play, good for just eighth place in the SBC.
This is just the second meeting between these two teams. North Carolina easily won the only other matchup in 2006, 105-52.
The Owls struggled down the stretch last year, and a tough early schedule to begin this year won't help much. A slow start is expected, although senior guard Greg Gantt could have something to say about that. Gantt (14.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), who is second in school-history in scoring, will need to get a considerable amount of help from his supporting cast, though. Pablo Bertone (7.3 ppg) will see more court time with the departure of Raymond Taylor. Bertone played in 30 games last season and averaged 19.6 minutes per contest. In terms of frontcourt, the Owls don't have a lot of proven commodities. Jordan McCoy is the lead returning rebounder (4.4 pg) and is projected to come off the bench. Kelvin Penn (2.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg) will get plenty of minutes and led the team in blocks a year ago. There is a great deal of optimism surrounding the arrival of 5-10 freshman guard Stefan Moody. The Florida native comes in as the first Parade All-American in school history.
With the mass exodus from Chapel Hill to the NBA following last season, a lot is expected of sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo. The 6-9 youngster certainly delivered in the opener against Gardner-Webb, setting career-highs with 26 points and 14 rebounds. McAdoo was 10-of-20 from the floor and of his 14 rebounds, eight came on the offensive glass. Still, there was plenty of areas that UNC will need to tighten up, including a miserable 1-of-12 from behind the arc and just 9-of-19 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Dexter Strickland was the only other Tar Heel to notch double figures in the win, with 13 points. Coach Williams was able to get everyone involved in the action, as 16 players actually got on the court.
McAdoo won't have to do alone this season, as the cupboard is still well- stocked in Chapel Hill. The play of freshman point guard Marcus Paige (6-0, 157) is key. The 6-0 youngster will receiver backcourt help from the likes of Strickland, Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston. Reggie Bullock will provide depth in the frontcourt alongside McAdoo.