N.C.-Asheville-North Carolina Preview
North Carolina seemed poised to regain its spot among college basketball's elite programs after a disappointing 2009-10. Following back-to-back losses, the Tar Heels are now trying to prove that season was a fluke.
Having slipped from No. 8 to No. 25 in the AP poll, North Carolina stumbles home to face UNC-Asheville on Tuesday night after going 1-2 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.
The Tar Heels (2-2) never led in the second half of a 72-67 loss to Minnesota on Friday, then heard chants of "Overrated!" during a 72-65 defeat to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Harrison Barnes, the first freshman AP Preseason All-America selection, shot 0 for 12 and had six points against the Golden Gophers. He followed that up with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting versus the Commodores.
Junior guard Larry Drew has more turnovers (eight) than made field goals (four) in the four games.
Still, forward Tyler Zeller, who led North Carolina with 20 points, believes the Tar Heels are much improved over last season's 20-17 squad. That was the first North Carolina team to miss the NCAA tournament since 2002-03.
"I believe it's better than last year," Zeller said. "It's something we've got to be able to change. I think we always wanted to win last year. I don't know if we were the smartest team at the end of the games last year. I think we're a lot smarter this year."
North Carolina hasn't has two losses this early in the season since 2001-02, when it suffered its second defeat Nov. 20.
"I don't like being here in the scenario, to say the least, after losing two nights in a row, but it's what it is," coach Roy Williams said.
UNC-Asheville is well aware that the Tar Heels hope to begin a turnaround at its expense.
"We're going to have our hands full with an extremely talented North Carolina team Tuesday night," coach Eddie Biedenbach told the school's official website. "My guess is they won't be in the best of moods when we play them. North Carolina is a very good team that lost to two really good teams in Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Our guys are going to have to play at our highest level to stay in the game with them."
That may be difficult, as the Bulldogs have lost all six matchups. The teams last met Nov. 30, 2008, when North Carolina handed Asheville the second-worst defeat in school history, 116-48 in Chapel Hill.
The Bulldogs have defeated a major conference opponent this season, knocking off Auburn 70-69 in overtime Nov. 12.
UNC-Asheville is coming off a 116-58 victory over NAIA foe Virginia Intermont on Saturday. Junior guard Matt Dickey leads the team with 20.0 points per game while sophomore center D.J. Cunningham averages 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.