Williams stressed that his players put as much importance on the game as the Hokies do.
“Our ‘want to’ has to be as big as their ‘want to,” Williams said during a press conference from the Smith Center on Thursday.
The game will mark the Tar Heels’ first appearance in Blacksburg since 1975. Carolina is 14-6 in its last 20 openers.
Williams said having to start the ACC season earlier and earlier each year is par for the course of league expansion.
“Conferences are getting so large that you have to start early,” Williams said. This one is falling at a bad time because of exams. But as long as everybody has to do it, it’s OK.”
The Tar Heels have had less practice time than usual this week due to finals. The team was off on Monday, only shot around on Tuesday, practiced on Wednesday, was off Thursday, and will return to full practice Friday and Saturday.
Raymond Felton continues to recover from a sprained left wrist he suffered against Tennessee on Nov. 23. He is expected to continue to play with a heavy wrapping for at least the next several weeks.
Felton’s injury didn’t feel any better after Reyshawn Terry reached in and struck the sore wrist during Wednesday’s practice.
“You’re not supposed to reach in and foul anybody, but especially not a guy with a bad wrist,” Williams said.
Carolina will try and extend its current winning streak to eight games, and will also attempt to score 90-plus points for the third straight game. UNC is the top scoring team in the ACC at 89.9 points per game. To put it in a historical perspective, you have to go back to the 1990-91 squad, which finished the season at 87.6, to find a Tar Heels team even close to the current pace.
UNC’s increased offensive output – and its improved defensive production – is directly related to this year’s added depth.
“I don’t want it to be, ‘if you beat Raymond, or if you beat Sean, or if you beat Rashad, then you can beat us,’” Williams said. “Depth has helped us a great deal.”
Still, Williams cautioned that this team “still has a long ways to go.” And he remains reluctant to compare its ability to score with any of his great teams of the past – either at Kansas or Carolina. However, he does admit the potential is there for this year’s squad to become a great scoring team.
“With Raymond Felton, if I had guys that would run like [former KU player] Kirk Hinrich, we would need a new scoreboard.”
When asked if he meant to say “could,” instead; Williams said, “No, I meant ‘would.’”
Finally, Williams said he expected UNC wide receiver Jesse Holley to join the team sometime between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6. But he said he would first consult John Bunting “to make sure that was OK.”