By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat November 22, 1996
There is no better way to make a young team mature than throw the players on the court against Dean Smith and the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels.
At least that's what the UA coaching staff is hoping.
When No. 19 Arizona (0-0) squares off with North Carolina (0-0) tonight in Springfield, Mass., it will take the floor without one of its returning starters from last season. The academic suspension of junior guard Miles Simon also causes the Wildcats to face the Tar Heels without their top returning scorer and rebounder.
"I'm not concerned about maybe starting two freshmen because of the type of players Eugene (Edgerson) and Mike (Bibby) are," UA coach Lute Olson said. "The one thing that might hurt us with a young team is North Carolina's ability to change defenses on the fly."
While Arizona is looking at this game in a positive light, some players feel the Wildcats might have been better off beginning the season with an easier team.
"I, personally, would rather start out with a cupcake team," Edgerson said. "But I never shy from competition."
The Tar Heels, however, might also be missing two of their own players in this weekend's game. Senior center Serge Zwikker (7-foot-2, 265 pounds) rolled an ankle in Sunday's exhibition game against Court Authority and is expected to play sparingly. Junior forward/center Makhtar Ndiaye (6-9, 245), who sat out last season after transferring from the University of Michigan, might be forced to sit out this game due to eligibility questions. UNC Athletic Director John Swofford said Ndiaye is being investigated in relation to an existing relationship he established with a family he lived with in the summer of 1993.
With the potential loss of two veteran performers, North Carolina will turn to a pair of sophomore forwards in 6-5 Vince Carter and 6-8 Antawn Jamison. Last season, Jamison was the team's leading scorer at 15.1 points per game and rebounder at 9.7 a game. In the team's match against Court Authority, Carter scored 17 points, with Jamison adding 17 and 10 rebounds.
"The key for us in stopping North Carolina will be how we perform against those two guys," Olson said. "From the tapes we've seen, they seem to be the go-to guys."
While the Tar Heels are experienced in the frontcourt, the workload of the two guard positions will be handled by players with little college experience. The starting backcourt will comprise junior Shammond Williams and freshman Ed Cota, neither of whom have started in a collegiate game.
"We will have a three-man rotation with Sherman Williams, Ed Cota and Vince Carter helping out a bit," UNC coach Dean Smith said. "And while we may not have the experience there, I think that position is the surest part of our puzzle."
Arizona will rely on the experience of junior forward Michael Dickerson. In the exhibition game against the Melbourne Magic, Dickerson scored a game-high 30 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
"I think everybody's excited about this game because we feel we are ready," Dickerson said. "I think the key for us will be getting rebounds and running our transition game."
Sophomore guard Jason Terry will also be expected to pick up his play in Simon's absence. Terry was Arizona's defensive spark against the Magic, finishing with five steals while holding Melbourne's No. 2 guard to just 10 points.
The Wildcats will also look for good performances from sophomore center Donnell Harris and freshmen Bibby and Edgerson. So far this season, Harris has shown a fire that has been lacking in recent years. In his two exhibition games, he has combined for 46 points and 29 rebounds. Bibby has shown the ability to successfully lead the team, whereas Edgerson has notched a double-double in the two games thus far.
"I watched Arizona's NCAA game against Kansas and compared that to who they play this season," Smith said. "And I think they are much more athletic this season, especially in transition. I am very concerned about our ability to control the tempo."
With this game consisting of two teams with 21 underclassmen, both coaches are worried about their team's ability to play a full game without the mental lapses that commonly coincide with young players.
"I am just concerned that some of our young guys don't try and do too much, and then make some mistakes," Smith said. "I have talked with Antawn about just playing his game and not trying to win the game himself."