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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tar Heels even more loaded than last season

    Asked if playing No. 4 North Carolina was the biggest home game senior Mustafa Shakur has ever played, the point guard paused for a moment, thinking.

    “”It might be,”” he said. “”I didn’t even think about it.””

    Shakur has thought about the match up between two of the nation’s premier programs, which have met only six times in history. He just hasn’t had time to consider the significance quite yet.

    “”I’ve thought about the Carolina game but I haven’t thought about, like ‘This is the biggest team we’ve played since I’ve been here,'”” Shakur said.

    While you can’t blame Shakur for being occupied by thoughts regarding his own team, North Carolina’s status this season is certainly noticeable.

    The Tar Heels rank first in the nation in rebound margin (10.8), second in scoring offense (87.5), second in assists per game 19.7), second in field goal percentage (50.4 percent), and third in scoring margin (21.8).

    In last year’s 86-69 win over Arizona, national Freshman of the Year Tyler Hansbrough had 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Tar Heels out-rebounded Arizona by eight and had 11 more assists.

    “”Hansbrough is a beast down low,”” said UA freshman Jordan Hill, who may see time guarding North Carolina’s leading scorer.

    The problem for Arizona is that North Carolina is actually better this year. The Tar Heels lost only one significant player, David Noel, and added arguably the top recruiting class in the nation. (Ohio State and Greg Oden would likely have a say in that matter.)

    Three of the five freshmen in that class took Chapel Hill by storm, forcing themselves into North Carolina head coach Roy Williams’ starting lineup.

    Brandan Wright, a 6-foot-9 forward with a long wingspan, is the best NBA draft prospect of the bunch. Wright is second on the team to Hansbrough in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (6.4) and his athleticism and left-handed stroke resemble former ACC star Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech.

    “”Both of their inside guys, one is a horse (Hansbrough) and the other is a flat-out athlete,”” UA head coach Lute Olson said.

    Hansbrough and Wright make up a front line the Wildcats haven’t seen and may never see again unless the NCAA tournament brings a rematch.

    “”I don’t think we’ve faced anybody with those credentials,”” Olson said of the duo.

    Six-foot-8 forward Reyshawn Terry is one of two scholarship seniors on the underclassmen dominated squad and brings the intangibles, UA guard Jawann McClellan said.

    “”My opinion, Terry is the key to their team,”” said McClellan who was recruited by Williams but did not play last year because of a wrist injury. “”He doesn’t get a lot of respect and publicity but I mean if they didn’t have him – he does all the little things for them.””

    Freshman point guard Tywon Lawson may be little at 5-foot-11, but he does the big things. Lawson averages 5.1 assists per game and is tied for fourth on the team in scoring with Terry at 9 points per game.

    His backcourt mate, Wayne Ellington is the Tar Heels shooter with a 40 percent 3-point clip.

    The three freshman have something in common with UA freshman Chase Budinger. They all played with or against Budinger in a various high school all-star games.

    “”They’re very athletic, they all have different aspects of their game, they’re very, very talented,”” Budinger said.

    In addition to being talented, North Carolina also gets plenty of rest. The Tar Heels have 10 guys who play 10 minutes or more and no one who plays 30 minutes a game.

    The depth allows Williams to play a full court game with the knowledge that his players will be fresh in crunch time.

    “”They press a lot; they trap,”” Olson said. “”They give you a lot of different looks.””

    McClellan has heard all the talk about Carolina’s depth, their freshmen and Hansbrough. He knows the Tar Heels have a lot of firepower.

    But one place he won’t be looking is at North Carolina’s uniforms.

    “”We can’t let what they have on their chests affect us,”” McClellan said. “”We have Arizona running across our chests as well. We have to come out there and play with a swagger like we did (Wednesday in the team’s 71-47 win over ASU).

    “”We can’t worry about what kind of team (people have) been hyping them up”” to be.

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