Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
8 p.m., R/JP (Bob Rathbun, Mike Gminski)
"North Carolina is a young team this year but they are very, very talented. I've been really impressed with their speed and athleticism. And of course they're well-coach by Roy Williams. They're still learning but they're very explosive and can do a lot of things well. ... We're going to have to be at our best to have a chance to play with North Carolina. We've been making some progress since the start of the year but we still have some work to do. Hopefully, the fact we've played at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and N.C. State will help us at Chapel Hill." -- Head coach Eddie Biedenbach
Season To Date: Whether it's viewed as courageous or foolish, the Bulldogs have not shied away from playing a tough schedule. Case in point, last season's team finished with an 11-17 record, but placed third in the conference with an 8-8 Big South record. This year, four ACC teams -- all road games -- are on the schedule. UNC Asheville has been routed by Georgia Tech and NC State, but was competitive and kept it close for much of the game in its loss at Winston-Salem. With the return of all five starters, UNCA was picked to finish third again in the Big South, but two of those five starters are now sidelined (see below), which has led to a difficult start. Losses to Western Carolina, UNC-Wilmington and Division II's Lenoir-Rhyne have put the Bulldogs in a 2-6 hole, with its only wins coming against Furman and Brevard of the NAIA.
The Barber: You can't miss Joseph Barber. The 6-9, 235-pound senior post player is UNCA's best shooter -- and he sports bleached blond hair (which has earned him "All Hair" first team honors from ESPN.com). Barber, who redshirted last season with a knee injury, leads the Bulldogs in scoring (14.9 ppg), field goal percentage (63.2%) and three-point percentage (40.7%). The media guide touts him as an "excellent" rebounder, but he's fourth on the team at 4.8 boards per game and had rebound totals of three, four and five in the games against ACC teams this season.
Versatile: With the absence of its starting point guard (see below), Oliver Holmes has attempted to fill the assist void. The 6-6 senior -- who has played four different positions during his career at UNCA -- leads the team with 3.9 assists per game. The Wilmington, N.C. native has also been the team's best defender, with 2.9 steals per game, including seven steals against UNC-Wilmington last week. He's also a terrific free throw shooter (88.5%).
Misfiring: Other than Barber, the Bulldogs are simply a poor shooting team. Even with their leader scorer's percentages (63.2% FG, 40.7% 3pt) included, they are shooting 42.0 percent from the field and 29.9 percent on three pointers. The team's worst shooting performances came against Georgia Tech (32.6% FG, 7.1% 3pt) and UNC-Wilmington (31.6% FG, 20.0% 3pt).
Missing Piece: K.J. Garland was the team's starting point guard and playmaker last year (10.2 ppg, 4.4 apg), but the junior has yet to appear in a game this season. He suffered an ankle injury in the preseason and the initial diagnosis in October of 4-6 weeks has proven to be inaccurate. Without Garland, ballhandling has been a problem, as the Bulldogs are committing more than 16 turnovers per game.
Suspension: Promising 6-10, 235-pound sophomore center Brett Warner started the first six games of the season and was averaging 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds until he was suspended indefinitely for "a violation of school and athletic department policies."
Series History: UNC Asheville is 0-2 in the all-time series history with the Tar Heels. The two schools played a home-and-home series during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. On Dec. 31, 1994, Carolina beat the Bulldogs 95-77 as Rasheed Wallace scored 22 points, Jerry Stackhouse scored 21 and Donald Williams had 19. Jeff McInnis chipped in with 15 points and 10 assists. The next season, on Dec. 28, 1995, the Tar Heels won 66-49 in Asheville. McInnis led the Tar Heels with 13 points and six assists, while Antawn Jamison had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Serge Zwikker had 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots for UNC, which trailed by a point early in the second half before rallying. (Provided by UNC Athletic Communications)
Background Location: Asheville, N.C. Enrollment: 3,500 Conference: Big South Nickname: Bulldogs Colors: Royal Blue & White Head Coach: Eddie Biedenbach Record at UNCA: 124-144
Projected Starters: 3 Omar Collington (6-1, 195, Sr.) – 8.4 ppg 22 Oliver Holmes (6-6, 205, Sr.) – 6.9 ppg, 3.9 apg 44 Joey Harrell (6-7, 215, Jr.) – 6.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg 21 Chad Mohn (6-8, 225, Sr.) – 9.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg 42 Joseph Barber (6-9, 235, Sr.) - 14.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg Key Reserves: 20 Reid Augst (6-6, 190, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg 11 Michael Ellis (6-5, 195, Fr.) - 5.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg 4 Garrett Moles (6-7, 200, So.) – 2.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Mohn ... Holmes
Harrell ... Ellis
Biedenbach ... Moles