49ers, 11th-ranked Tar Heels are both finding their way with four new starters going into tonight's game at the Walter Pyramid.
James Michael McAdoo, a distant relative of former NBA great Bob McAdoo, leads No. 11 North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina and Long Beach State are similar in men's basketball in that both teams lost four starters to graduation. Not that there isn't a significant difference - the Tar Heels' foursome were among the top 17 picks in the 2012 NBA draft.
What it does mean is the respective teams are still trying to figure things out and they will take another step in that direction tonight at 8:10 when they square off at Walter Pyramid (on ESPNU).
Long Beach (1-1) is 0-2 all-time against No. 11 North Carolina (2-0), with narrow losses the past two seasons at Chapel Hill. This will be the Tar Heels' first game at the Pyramid. An overflow crowd of more than 6,000 is expected.
The North Carolina player everyone is talking about is sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, a reserve last season. McAdoo, who is 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, has averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in victories over Gardner-Webb and Florida Atlantic.
"Last year he really struggled for about the first 20 games of the season," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "He was a highly touted freshman, but the game was just a little bit overwhelming to him. He lost a little bit of his confidence and a little bit of of his focus.
"He turned it around and started playing better and at the end of the year we lost John Henson to an injury in the first round of the ACC Tournament. James Michael came in and played really well in the three games there and continued to playwell in the four games we played in the NCAA Tournament. He really should be congratulated for getting his season turned around when everybody was saying so many negative things, that he was overrated."
McAdoo is a distant relative of former Lakers and Tar Heels star Bob McAdoo.
"I have a lot of respect for a player like McAdoo who was in the shadows of a lot of guys and obviously he's a tremendous player and he's proving that now," 49ers coach Dan Monson said.
Long Beach State's lone returning starter is senior James Ennis, a 6-7 swingman. He is a concern to Williams.
"Normally, when you play against Dan's team you have to be able to do a good job offensively," Williams said. "They play a half-court trap. I remember last year Ennis was just such a threat and disrupts people from the top of that little zone trap."
The 49ers led the Tar Heels 45-40 at halftime last year, North Carolina winning 84-78.
It's difficult to go off anything from last season, however, with so many new faces. In North Carolina's case, that's so many young faces - four freshmen and five sophomores.
"I'm really having fun coaching a team that is fun to be around and they're trying very hard," Williams said. "But right now we'll struggle a while until we have some success and get a little better work habits and build a little bit better habits on everything we're doing."
The 49ers are hurting - literally. Freshman guard Branford Jones is out indefinitely with a broken fibula. Junior guard Jerramy King is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Monson said that drops his team to one true active point guard, sophomore Mike Caffey. That's not to mention that Division I transfers guard Keala King and forward Tony Freeland can't play until Dec.18 unless their hardship-waiver requests are granted.
Nuts and bolts-wise, Monson mapped out what he expects from the Tar Heels.
"They're going to get up in the lane and pressure you on defense and then they're really going to run and they'll be the best offensive rebounding team we're going to face all year," he said. "And that's been a challenge for this basketball team. ... We know they're as new as we are, maybe even newer, so the `We're new' is not an excuse. We're at home and we have this opportunity."
NOTES: Ennis leads the 49ers in scoring with a 16-point average. But he also has 12 turnovers. "Yeah, I think I'm trying to do too much too fast," Ennis said. "Like coach says, slow down and just do what the offense gives me." ... With added seating a sellout tonight will be 6,054. As of Thursday afternoon, 376 tickets remained.