About the Bulldogs
Head coach Ron Lievense is in his 22nd season in Wilson. Lievense has more than 450 college wins to his name and he has led the Bulldogs to six conference titles, seven NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2007 Division II national championship.
Last year, Barton went 20-10 overall with a 14-6 record in Conference Carolinas. The Bulldogs played an exhibition against NC State to open the season, falling 112-60. They closed the season by winning four of their final six games, ending with a loss to Limestone in the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
Barton returns nine players from last year's team including three regular starters. But like the Tar Heels, they are young in the post.
Players to watch
Sophomore guard Michael Boykin was the Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year in 2016-17. The Bulldogs’ leading returning scorer, he averaged 13.1 points per game a year ago .
Forward Isaiah Buck-Lowman is a sophomore. He started 22 of the team’s 30 games last year and averaged 11 points.
Junior guard Matt Woods is a distributor for the Bulldogs. He started all 30 games and averaged 3.0 assists per outing.
Woods and Felton on call
Look, all due respect to Barton, this is not going to be a close game. There is only so much to be learned from an exhibition game against a Division II team. But Roy Williams is going to be watching his young point guards in the absence of floor leader Joel Berry II. Seventh Woods is a sophomore who grew up a lot over the course of the 16-17 season, and we’ve heard a lot of good things about his off-season development. Coaches often say that a player makes his greatest leap from year one to year two, and so now is the time to see how Woods puts that into practice. Jalek Felton, meanwhile, is the hot freshman ready to come in and contribute right away. He’s a scorer, so the growth for him will come in learning how to fit his game into the Tar Heel offense. Berry’s injury is not a season-killer by any means; it will be fun to watch the young point guards.
Youth in the Post
All indications are that Garrison Brooks is the most advanced of the young Tar Heel big men, the most ready to contribute right away. It’s likely he gets the start tonight, but Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley will see plenty of time as well. How will the post rotation shake out? Who will Williams be able to rely upon in the rough-and-tumble ACC? That question won’t be fully answered tonight by any means, but it will be good to see the young bucks in action.
Tonight marks the return to action of junior guard Kenny Williams. Before his leg injury in January, Williams had carved out a place in the rotation as the starting two-guard. Williams is a shooter and perhaps Carolina’s best perimeter defender. He wore a suit, not a uniform, for the national championship run, so it’s a good bet that he’s ready to take the floor tonight.
Garrison Brooks photo by Gaby Palacio