A new season brings a clean slate for Matt Doherty and the Tar Heels.
"It's a new year and our guys are excited -- especially our freshmen," Doherty said. "Our guys are just excited to play."
After last season's nightmare-like start, is Carolina ready for Penn State on Monday night?
"I hope we're prepared," Doherty said. "You're never as prepared at the start of the season as you'd like to be. I wish we had another month to prepare, but we don't -- so I think we'll show up and play.
"Penn State is a Big Ten team. Penn State beat us two years ago. Penn State will have our full attention."
PSU head coach Jerry Dunn, in his eighth season, suffered through a difficult campaign a year ago. After leading the team to the Sweet 16 (including a win over UNC) in 2001, the Nittany Lions lost four starters and dropped to the basement of the Big Ten in 2002. While PSU likely won't move out of the conference's lower tier this season, they figure after last year it can't get any worse.
"We're headed in the right direction," Dunn said. "Obviously we had a tough year last year, but you're going to have those years."
The Lions are led this year by the experienced backcourt of 6-1 guards Brandon Watkins and Sharif Chambliss. Watkins is a speedy floor general and will usually be the only senior on the court for PSU, while Chambliss is the three-point specialist, as he led the Big Ten in that department last year shooting at a 42-percent clip.
Another name to watch on the PSU roster is junior swingman Jamaal Tate, who struggled last year but is expected to be a major contributor this season.
"He had a disappointing year last year ... but he came into the spring with a different mindset," Dunn said. "If he's back on track mentally he can be effective."
Penn State won one of their two exhibition games this month, losing, 86-77, to the same EA Sports SE All-Stars that UNC defeated and then beating a Team Nike squad, 79-76. The top scorers were Tate (20.0) Chambliss (19.0) and Watkins (20), who only played in the second game. The Lions combined to shoot an impressive 52 percent from beyond the arc in the two games.
Background Location: State College, Pa. Enrollment: 41,050 Conference: Big Ten Nickname: Nittany Lions Colors: Blue and White Head Coach: Jerry Dunn Record at PSU: 110-100 Last year Record: 7-21 Conference record: 3-13, 11th Postseason: NONE Key personnel losses: Tyler Smith – 12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg Daren Tielsch – 4.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg Probable Starting Lineup: Brandon Watkins (6-1, G, Sr.) – 13.3 ppg, 4.1 apg Sharif Chambliss (6-1, G, Jr.) – 14.6 ppg Jamaal Tate (6-5, G, Jr.) – 6.5 ppg Ndu Egekeze (6-6, F, Jr.) – 2.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg Jan Jagla (7-0, F, So.) – 7.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg Key Reserves: Kevin Fellows (6-10, C, So.) – 1.0 ppg, 1.5 apg B.J. Vossekuil (6-9, F, Sr.) – 1.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg Jason McDougald (6-9, F, So.) – 0.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg DeForrest Riley (6-6, F, Fr.) – First seasonPhoto Gallery
(Photos by the AP.)