Tar Heels open ACC play against Eagles

Published January 07, 2012

| Sports Network

ACC action is on tap in Chapel Hill this ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and Boston College opener for both programs.

Roy Williams' Tar Heels are the favorite in the ACC and have certainly looked the part during non-league play, winning 13-of-15 games, with the two losses coming on the road against UNLV and Kentucky. Since the loss to the Wildcats, UNC has reeled off seven straight wins, including a 102-65 rout of Monmouth on New Year's Day. That win was a Smith Center record 26th straight victory.

Steve Donahue's second season in Chestnut Hill hasn't followed the same path as last year's 21-win campaign. The Eagles have struggled to stay competitive thus far and are already four games under .500 with just five victories on the year. Three of the five wins came in succession in mid-December, but the team has dropped two straight since, including a heart-wrenching 78-72 double- overtime affair against Rhode Island on Monday.

North Carolina holds an 8-5 advantage in this short-lived series, with the Tar Heels winning the last two meetings and six of the last eight overall.

Boston College is saddled with a -6.5 scoring margin, an obvious reason for the team's subpar record thus far. Offensive consistency has been a concern in the first half of the season for an extremely young squad, with the Eagles averaging just 61.8 ppg on a pedestrian .414 shooting. The team is led at the offensive end by a freshman in Patrick Heckmann. The 6-5 youngster is the only Eagle currently averaging double figures at 11.3 ppg. Three others are just under the mark, with Matt Humphrey, Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford adding 9.6, 9.4 and 9.3 ppg, respectively. Also a freshman, Anderson posted career- highs with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but his third double-double of the year wasn't enough in a marathon loss to Rhode Island. Fellow freshmen Clifford and Lonnie Jackson posted 12 points apiece, while Jordan Daniels and Heckmann both finished with 11.

The Tar Heels have their own talented youth, but this is a squad with a great balance of veterans and youngsters and the result is one of the nation's elite programs. UNC is averaging a hefty 88.1 ppg, but it hasn't taken away from solid defensive play, as the team limits foes to just 66.9 ppg and has held them well under 40 percent shooting (.376). Sophomore Harrison Barnes will be a lottery pick when he decides to move on to the NBA, but for now he is creating all kinds of matchup problems for the opposition, averaging 17.1 ppg with the ability to score both inside and out. John Henson provides superior play in the low post, averaging a double-double with 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Senior Tyler Zeller completes a potent frontcourt with 13.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Guards Dexter Strickland (7.9 ppg) and Kendall Marshall (5.3 ppg) fill out the starting five. Marshall is one of the nation's premier distributors, averaging an even 10.0 assists per game. In the rout of Monmouth last week, Henson led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds. Barnes poured in 20 points, followed by strong bench support by P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock at 16 and 11 points, respectively.

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