Luke Maye needs to become more of a factor as the only returning post player for defending national champion North Carolina and, if the season opener is any indication, the 6-8 junior will be just fine. Maye looks to follow up an impressive double-double performance with another strong effort when the ninth-ranked Tar Heels host experienced Bucknell on Wednesday night.
Maye, who scored 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds in the 86-69 victory over Northern Iowa on Friday, told reporters he worked in the offseason at becoming a more well-rounded player in the post after three productive big men departed. “I knew Tyler Hansbrough wanted to be a great player, and was going to work, work, work, work,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters. “And you hope that with everybody. But I think Luke has fulfilled my expectation for how badly he wants to be a good player, and then some. His desire is just off the charts.” The Tar Heels are expected to be without top returning scorer Joel Berry II (hand) for the second straight game while Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson (neck) sat out the opener and is day-to-day. North Carolina should get a good challenge from Bucknell, which dropped a one-point decision to Monmouth and fell 101-73 at Arkansas the opening weekend but has several key players back from an NCAA Tournament team.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT BUCKNELL (0-2): The Bison returned their top nine scorers from the team that lost 86-80 to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Forward Zach Thomas, who had 13 points in that game, is off to a strong start in his senior campaign - averaging 27.5 points on 19-of-36 shooting (10-of-18 from 3-point range) and 13 rebounds in the first two contests. Senior center Nana Foulland averaged 16 points on the opening weekend while 5-11 senior guard Stephen Brown scored 12 per contest and dished out 15 total assists.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-0): Williams told reporters after the season opener in which the Tar Heels shot 50 percent from the field and turned the ball over just seven times: “A lot of things to like, and a lot of things to work on. So, a coach’s dream.” Two freshmen big men had strong debuts against North Iowa, including 6-9 Garrison Brooks (14 points, six rebounds) and 6-11 Sterling Manley (nine points, eight boards). Versatile senior swingman Theo Pinson had a rough shooting night (1-for-6), but dished out five assists while filling Berry’s role.
1. North Carolina sophomore G Seventh Woods, who averaged 1.5 points last season, scored nine and had two steals in 18 minutes Friday.
2. Bucknell junior G Kimbal Mackenzie, who scored 23 in the NCAA contest last season, is 1-for-13 in the first two games of 2017-18.
3. The Tar Heels drained 18-of-21 from the free-throw line and 6-of-18 from behind the 3-point arc in the opener.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 87, Bucknell 62