UNC-Appalachian State: What to watch

December, 17, 2011
12/17/11
9:00
AM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- After a long week of exams for the Tar Heels -- practice was actually pushed back a half-hour Friday, because 11 players had one more test -- No. 5/6 North Carolina returns to the court after a six-day break to face Appalachian State tonight.

It marks the first of three games in five days for UNC, a stretch that poses some challenges considering the team hasn’t been able to work out much together for the past week because of finals. It won't get much time to work out in the coming days, either.

“You can’t practice the day of the game, and you can’t practice them for four hours the day between the games if you’re going to play three times in five days,’’ UNC coach Roy Williams said. “So this is not a great practice scenario. It’s survive, try to get a little bit better; survive, get a little bit better. It’s not like it’s going to be when we get back [from the holiday break] and we have three or four days and a game, then two or three days and a game.”

A few things to watch tonight:

JASON CAPEL’S RETURN

Capel was a four-year starter for the Tar Heels from 1998-2002, and two-time All-ACC selection, before playing professionally overseas. After a couple years in the broadcast booth, he went into the family business (coaching), and is in his second year as Appalachian State’s head coach.

Earlier this week, Capel said he was looking forward to competing in the Smith Center, again. Meanwhile, Williams said the return of a former UNC player -- even one coaching from the opposite bench -- is always special.

“Once you’re a Tar Heel, you always are, and you’re part family, so it’s always neat to look down there and see those guys on the other end,’’ Williams said. “… Jason is a youngster that I always thought had tremendous savvy; coaching family, brother, father, that kind of deal. Probably mom is the best coach in the family, to take care of all three of those knuckleheads. But that part is a neat deal for us.”

REBOUNDING

The tall Tar Heels were expected to dominate the boards this season, but so far they have been out-rebounded in five of their 10 games.

And the Mountaineers will pose another test, as Andre Williamson (7.6 rebounds per game), Isaac Butts (6.7) and Omar Carter (6.1) all rank in the top 10 in rebounding in the Southern Conference.

POINT GUARD KENDALL MARSHALL

How many assists will the sophomore, who leads the nation in that category with 10.6 per game, rack up this time around? With so many games in such a short span, Williams may need to limit his minutes, meaning breaking Ed Cota’s record for assists in game (18) may have to continue to wait. But the pass-first ballhandler also continues to work on his shot. Will this be the game where it starts to consistently fall?

Robbi Pickeral can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Twitter: bylinerp.

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