No. 5 North Carolina (3-0) begins its great Pacific adventure on Friday night – or early Saturday morning, east coast time – at Hawaii (2-1). There is some history there for the Tar Heels, though none of it too recent. UNC last played at Hawaii in 1994, when Jerry Stackhouse scored 21 points to lead UNC to an 88-74 victory.
Some things to watch between the Tar Heels and Rainbow Warriors on Friday:
1. How the Tar Heels deal with the travel and potential fatigue.
By game time, at least, UNC should be good to go. The Tar Heels did leave for Hawaii on Wednesday, after all. Nonetheless, it was a 10-hour flight there, and UNC will be playing – according to its normal clock – in the middle of the night. The Tar Heels won their first three games by an average 28.7 points but they were so sloppy in the second half against Long Beach State on Tuesday that coach Roy Williams broke a clipboard. He’ll demand a sharper performance from the start against Hawaii.
2. How UNC exploits its size advantage on the interior.
Hawaii won 28 games last season and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. This Rainbow Warriors team, though, is not that one. Hawaii had to replace four starters, including the 6-foot-11 Stefan Jankovic, who was the Big West Conference Player of the Year. Without Jankovic, Hawaii doesn’t have a player taller than 6-8 in its starting lineup. With Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley, the Tar Heels have a considerable size advantage they should be able to take advantage of.
3. Can Joel Berry keep it going?
It has been an impressive three-game run to start the season for Berry, who is averaging 21.3 points. The longer Berry keeps playing at such a high level, the more the expected norm it will become, which is a good thing for the Tar Heels. There were questions about how UNC’s backcourt would fare with the departure of Marcus Paige. So far, Berry, the junior point guard, has answered all of them and then some.