The Long Beach State 49ers continue the nation’s most absurd non-conference schedule tomorrow night when they visit No. 6 North Carolina. The Tar Heels are the fourth of five ranked teams on LBSU’s slate before it begins Big West play on Jan. 2.
Dean Smith Center
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Long Beach: Stretch Internet Radio (via longbeachstate.com)
North Carolina: 1360 WCHL-AM
North Carolina -16.5, according to CBS Sports. The Tar Heels are a terrific team, but they would have had a tough time covering a 10-point spread in this matchup, let alone one this big.
North Carolina G P.J. Hairston (ankle, wrist), no official status, but likely to play
North Carolina G Leslie McDonald (knee), out
What’s At Stake?
Another upset loss outside of the ACC would put a dent in the Tar Heels’ chances for a No.1 seed in March Madness. Long Beach State, which has already upset Pitt, would love to help its own seeding prospects with another Top 25 scalp.
What They’re Saying
The 49ers know that playing a strong schedule doesn’t mean much if you don’t win. Coach Dan Monson told CBS Sports, “Our goal this year is to not just go play in these games, but win and compete.”
Roy Williams, meanwhile, sees the game—and his team’s current homestand—as a chance to bounce back from a pair of early-season losses. “We’ve got to try to get better…Let’s use this to help our team,” he said to CBS.
Long Beach State Player to Watch
6’8” senior T.J. Robinson scored a career-high 31 points against UNC last season. The 49ers’ leading rebounder at 10.8 boards a game, he’ll need another huge effort against the mammoth Tar Heel front line.
North Carolina Player to Watch
PF John Henson has been North Carolina’s most effective interior scorer on the season, and he’s the biggest advantage the Tar Heels have in this matchup. The 49ers’ backcourt is first-rate, but they don’t have the length to bang with the 6’11” Henson.
Long Beach State PG Casper Ware vs. North Carolina SG Dexter Strickland. The Tar Heels have had success this season using Strickland on opponents’ top scoring guards, and for the 49ers, that’s Ware (17 points per game). If Strickland can stop Ware’s penetration, he’s not a strong enough three-point shooter to respond.
The 49ers will put up a great fight, and the same high-speed offense that upset Pitt will score plenty of points on UNC. Even so, this is Chapel Hill, and the Tar Heels’ superiority in size and depth will win out in the end.