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November 26, 2012

Five Things to Watch: UNC at IU

Two historic college basketball programs will collide Tuesday night when Indiana hosts North Carolina at Assembly Hall.

The game will serve as a marquee match-up during the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge has become an early season staple. The ACC won the first 10 challenges in the series but has seen the Big Ten win the last three.

The North Carolina-Indiana game should be a pivotal game as the ACC attempts to break its losing streak and bring the Commissioner's Cup back to Greensboro, North Carolina.

Here are five things to watch for when the action tips off.


BATTLE OF THE BIG MEN


Cody Zeller, younger brother of former Tar Heel Tyler Zeller, will go head-to-head with James Michael McAdoo.

Zeller and McAdoo are both being touted as lottery picks in next year's NBA draft, with Zeller getting heavy consideration as a possible top overall pick.

McAdoo came on strong at the end of last season when he was asked to carry a heavier load when John Henson went down with an injury.

McAdoo really came into his own during that stretch with many of his best games coming against top competition at the most crucial time of the season.

Zeller is a preseason All-American who is being watched closely as a national player of the year candidate while number one Indiana chases the loftiest expectations its program has seen in a while.

The battle down low between these two high profile players will be watched by many, including NBA scouts when deciding which big is right for their selection at the top of the draft.

Which guy shows up in prime time Tuesday night and takes it to the other?


WHAT WILL UNC LINEUP LOOK LIKE?


Roy Williams switched things up after his team's loss to Butler during the Maui Invitational.

Brice Johnson replaced Desmond Hubert in the line-up after the Tar Heels first loss of the season and Johnson responded by scoring 18 points.

Albeit it was against Chaminade, but UNC played with an increased energy level, overall sense of urgency and hit from outside consistently during its 112-70 victory over the Silverswords.

However, in its previous outing the day before North Carolina was outmuscled by Butler down low, getting out-rebounded 36-27. In year's past one of the Tar Heels strength has been inside where they have consistently enjoyed a size and length advantage.

That's not the case this season where Joel James is still developing and Kennedy Meeks is a season away from joining the team.

While they may soon enjoy that advantage again, this year's squad will rely on their perimeter scoring and three-point shooting perhaps a little more than Coach Williams usually likes.

As the season goes along expect gunners Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston to continue hoisting shots as the North Carolina front-court finds cohesion and consistency.

Will Johnson be in the starting line-up again against Indiana or will Williams turn to another player to insert in the starting line-up?


P.J. HAIRSTON


Hairston could end up being the most valuable player on this North Carolina team, if not the most versatile, by season's end.

So far Hairston has provided a scoring spark off the bench, scoring 43 points as a super substitute during the Maui Invitational.

He could see a starting spot in the future as Williams figures out what kind of line-up best suites this team's skill set.

But that won't be on Tuesday night, as UNC confirmed Monday evening that Hairston didn't travel with the team to Indiana, which of course means he won't play.

How the Tar Heels perform against Indiana without Hairston will be interesting. His absence takes away a key weapon off the bench for the Tar Heels---a streaky shooter who is committed to playing defense.

Without Hairston, UNC will likely look more to Bullock, Leslie McDonald, and perhaps J.P. Tokoto against the Hoosiers.


POINT GUARD PLAY


Marcus Paige has been up and down this season as the Tar Heels' rookie point man.

He's a freshman, so some of that inconsistency should be expected. But his last five games have seen a yo-yo scoring trend.

Two points against Florida Atlantic, then 15 against Long Beach State, followed by two points against Mississippi State, then 13 points against Butler and then six points against Chaminade would suggest Paige is due for a breakout points performance against Indiana.

North Carolina's other primary ball handler, Dexter Strickland, has gone three straight games without a turnover.

Strickland isn't a prototype as a point guard, but his senior leadership and experience are things to consider as North Carolina goes up against an Indiana team that will hound the young Paige all game long.


IU ROOKIES STILL INELIGIBLE


Indiana will be without freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Jurkin and Perea were suspended by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits while playing AAU basketball.

There suspension will keep them out of action until Dec. 15, meaning they will miss the North Carolina game.

The Hoosiers have moved forward without the talented pair, cruising to an early 6-0 record as the nation's No. 1 team. They were impressive this past week in Brooklyn, taking down Georgetown by 10 points without Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea, but UNC might be able to challenge the Hoosiers in ways the Hoyas were not.

Needless to say, it's going to be an intriguing showdown when the Tar Heels and Hoosiers tip off in prime time Tuesday evening in Bloomington.






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