This coming Sunday, the Tennessee Volunteers will face off against the North Carolina Tar Heels in Thompson-Boling Arena. This is a monumental competition for the Vols considering that the likes of North Carolina do not come to Knoxville very often. Normally, the only elite and historic college basketball program Tennessee plays each year is Kentucky, so this is a fantastic opportunity for the Volunteers to put the college basketball world on notice.
Last year, Tennessee squared off against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill and lost by only two points. The Vols were even leading by fifteen points at one point in the game and unfortunately let this lead slip away. This same North Carolina team would go on to win the National Championship for the sixth time in program history. One could argue Tennessee has a better team than last year as they are currently 8-1 and ranked 20th. They have a win over 17th ranked Purdue and nearly defeated the number one team in the country, the Villanova Wildcats. Other significant wins for the Vols so far include wins over North Carolina State and Georgia Tech.
North Carolina is also having a great year so far as they are ranked number seven in the country with a 9-1 record. Their only loss of the season was at the hands of number two Michigan State.
Who to Watch
For the Tar Heels, two players to look out for include Luke Maye and Joel Berry II. These are two veteran players for North Carolina as Maye is a Junior Forward and Berry is the starting Senior Point Guard for the defending national champions. Maye is leading the team in points per game with 19.9 closely followed by Berry with 16.0. These two are no strangers to pressure situations in big games as Maye hit the game-winning shot against Kentucky in the Elite Eight in 2017 to propel UNC to the Final Four. On the other hand, Berry is a senior which is a rare sight for elite programs in this age as the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, etc. usually recycle highly recruited freshman talent each year.
Berry has been in Chapel Hill for four years now and won a championship as the starting point guard last year. Look for Maye and Berry to utilize their leadership and talents to aim to impel the Tar Heels to a win on Sunday.
Tennessee’s best two players are apparent when one watches the Vols. Forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are leading the Vols in their best season since 2010-11.
Rick Barnes on Tennessee basketball being ranked for the first time since 2010: "Where we are, we’ve done some good things. But if that looks big to us, we won’t be there very long."
— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) December 8, 2017
Grant Williams had a breakout freshman season for Tennessee last year and is leading the Vols in scoring right now with 16.1 points per game. Coach Barnes will incorporate Williams into the game plan to defeat North Carolina on Sunday, as he should.
— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) December 9, 2017
Admiral Schofield is a fantastic leader for the Vols as he is somewhat of a grinder for the team. When watching this group, Schofield seems to always carry out the dirty work whether that is diving for loose balls or scrapping with anyone for a crucial rebound. It also helps that Schofield is second on the team in scoring with 11.9 points per game. Tennessee will need a solid effort from Williams and Schofield to complete an upset in Knoxville Sunday. The game is set to tip at 3 PM Eastern.
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