North Carolina coach Roy Williams admitted recently that he probably made the schedule a bit more challenging than he should have early in the season, but the 11th-ranked Tar Heels are gaining from the experience. North Carolina faces another tough test before conference play with its sixth game in 11 days Sunday afternoon when improving Tulane visits the Dean Smith Center.
The Tar Heels played three games in four days at the PK80 Invitational in Portland last week and take on the Green Wave after knocking off Michigan 86-71 on Wednesday and outlasting Davidson 85-75 on Friday. “You don’t want to schedule bad teams early in the season,” North Carolina’s senior guard Joel Berry II, who is the only player among last season’s top five scorers to return, told reporters after Friday’s win. “You want to see where you’re at as a team.” Tulane has won six of its first seven games, already matching last season’s victory total, with its lone loss coming last Sunday at Georgia State - the Green Wave’s only true road game thus far. Coach Mike Dunleavy’s team makes almost 40 percent of its 3-point attempts and returns the two top scorers from 2016-17 - junior Melvin Frazier and senior Cameron Reynolds.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT TULANE (6-1): Reynolds matched his career high with seven 3-pointers en route to a season-high 28 points in Wednesday’s 81-65 victory over Alcorn State, raising his scoring average to 16.9. Frazier scored just 11 on Wednesday, but leads the team at 18.9 points per contest - adding 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals and shooting a robust 63.8 percent from the field. Vanderbilt transfer Samir Sehic, a sophomore forward, chips in 13.6 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game while sophomore guard Ray Ona Embo from France has made 17-of-32 from behind the arc - averaging 10.6 points overall.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (7-1): Junior forward Luke Maye, who averaged 5.5 points last season, has scored at least 20 in six of eight games in the early going and recorded his fourth double-double against Davidson. “He’s become a star overnight,” Tar Heels senior forward Theo Pinson told reporters. “The dude is letting the game come to him and not forcing anything. He’s just going out there and playing basketball.” Maye tops the team at 20.6 points per game while Berry (17.0) and junior guard Kenny Williams (13.5 points, 17-of-33 from behind the arc) are also contributing.
1. Reynolds (1,021) became the 36th player in Tulane history to reach 1,000 points with his performance on Wednesday.
2. The Tar Heels defeated the Green Wave in each of the last two seasons, averaging 95.5 points in the process.
3. Berry has drained 191 from 3-point range in his career and needs three to pass Dante Calabria for eighth on the school’s all-time list.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 86, Tulane 68