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January 31, 2012

Wake Forest vs. No. 5 North Carolina: Preview

Wake Forest vs. No. 5 North Carolina
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Venue: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Tip-off: Tuesday at 9:00 PM ET
TV/Internet: ESPNU
Current records:
Wake Forest: 11-10, 2-5 ACC (Lost to Clemson 71-60).
No. 5 North Carolina: 18-3, 5-1 ACC (Defeated Georgia Tech 93-81).

Series history: The Tar Heels have an all-time series lead of 153-65. Carolina has won two in a row, including last season's single meeting 78-64.

Deacons Illustrated breaks down the matchups by position:

Forward - Nikita Mescheriakov, WF -vs.- John Henson, UNC. Known for his smile and shot-blocking ability Henson has added to his repertoire since arriving to Chapel Hill, including over 30 pounds, a much improved offensive game and rebounding. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year has recorded eight double-doubles this season, and averages an ACC best 3.3 blocks per game.

Mescheriakov has been up and down the last four games. He scored 13 points against Florida State and 12 points at Duke, but only six points apiece in trips to Clemson and Boston College. The shorter Mescheriakov may struggle significantly with Henson's length. Edge: UNC.

Forward - Travis McKie, WF -vs.- Harrison Barnes, UNC. After his worst game as a Demon Deacon against Florida State (three points on 1-13 FG and 1-2 FT) McKie rebounded nicely at Clemson with 13 points and 12 boards. However, the "Black Falcon" is flying in.

Barnes ranks second in the ACC in scoring with 17.5 point per game. He has scored at least 20 points in five of the last 10 games, including his 23-point performance against the Yellow Jackets Sunday. Edge: UNC

Center - Ty Walker, WF -vs.- Tyler Zeller, UNC. Walker has not been much of a threat offensively (five points per game), but is in Henson's neighborhood when it comes to blocking shots (three blocks per game).

He faces a tall order in his 7-foot counterpart Zeller, who has recorded a double-double in four of Carolina's six conference games. Zeller also runs the court better than any big man in the country, as a key part to the Tar Heels fast-break attack. Walker better be ready for a full sprint marathon. Edge: UNC

Guard - C.J. Harris, WF -vs.- Reggie Bullock, UNC. Harris had a slow start to ACC play, but has increased his scoring output from 11 to 17.5 a contest the last four games. He has also seen more time at point guard since the Deacs moved into the conference season.

Bullock has thrived in his new starting role since he replaced Dexter Strickland, who is out the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Strickland was North Carolina's best on-the-ball defender and backup point guard, but at 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds Bullock brings added size and offense. He scored 11 points in both of his starts. His length may deny Harris touches, and affect his ability to get shots off. However, the Winston-Salem native has managed to overcome the opposition's defensive challenge night in and night out to rank third in the ACC in scoring (17.3 points per game). Edge: WF

Guard - Tony Chennault, WF -vs.- Kendall Marshall, UNC. Where does one start in this comparison? Well the ball is the butter and Marshall is the knife that spreads it around. Hence Marshall has been affectionately dubbed "Butter" by the Carolina Faithful. He tops the ACC and is second nationally with 9.7 assists per game. He does not have the foot-speed Tywon Lawson and Raymond Felton ran Roy Williams' fast-break offense with, but his court-vision enables him to orchestrate it with the deftest of skill.

Chennault is not nearly the passer Marshall is, but has dished out 21 assists to 12 turnovers versus conference competition. Marshall will look to push the tempo, but Chennault cannot afford to let that affect his composure or decision-making. Edge: UNC

Bench - Carson Desrosiers could not pick a better game to rise to the occasion for. Wake will not face a more talented frontline than the Tar Heels this season. He has proven he can produce at a high level, but not consistently.

The Demon Deacons will also need freshman Chase Fischer to find his touch early and stay hot. He has been a streaky 33.7-percent from downtown this season. Daniel Green will certainly get to see the floor, but it will not be for long if he struggles with Carolina's bigs on the boards. The only ways Anthony Fields touches the court outside of pre-game and halftime warmups is if the Deacs suffer an onslaught of injuries, foul trouble or if the game is a blowout.

Injuries have dwindled Carolina's main rotation down to seven players, and has left no room for error when it comes to protecting Marshall. If push comes to shove the Heels can go 10 deep.

Freshmen James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston both have promising upsides, but the quality of their performances has declined since ACC play began. However, McAdoo broke his bad streak Sunday against Ga. Tech when he scored nine points and pulled down six rebounds, while Hairston added a solid eight points.

Look for Desmond Hubert, Justin Watts and Stilman White to also get into the mix. Edge: UNC

Coach - Jeff Bzdelik, WF -vs.- Roy Williams, UNC. It does not take much brainpower to figure out the difference between these two coaches… correct, the The Hall of Fame. Williams was in a similar situation last season that Bzdelik is in now, except his pool of talent was much deeper and most of it returned this season, which should make Ol' Roy's job an easy one.

However, Williams has struggled with getting his team to play up to its potential every game, especially in disappointing losses at Florida State and UNLV, while Bzdelik continues to find a way to get the Deacs to play hard despite this season's adversity.

When it comes to x's and o's both coaches have been around long enough to see them all, so no new tricks for these old dogs. Edge: UNC


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