When Maryland takes the floor in Chapel Hill tonight, it will be facing a North Carolina Tar Heel team that is unlike most Dean Smith outfits.
The current Tar Heels don't have great guards and their strength is inside, with freshman Sam Perkins and James Worthy, and on the perimeter with Al Wood. They have also been stubbing their toes lately, having lost two in a row, to Minnesota and Kansas, both on the road.
Tonight's game will be the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for the Tar Heels, who are 9-3 overall. Maryland is 10-1, 2-0 in the conference. The game will be televised on a delayed basis by WDCA-TV-20 at 11. It will be broadcast live by WMAL-AM-630 at 7:30.
"This will be a big test for us," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell. "It'll tell us what kind of team we have. North Carolina is tough."
Wood says Carolina badly needs a victory.
"Maryland is the team to beat in the conference because they beat everybody last year and they have all of their players back," he said. "We haven't been playing or practicing well lately, and we need to get things going the right way. This is a real big game for us, but it's a big game for them, too."
Wood, the second-leading Tar Heel scorer, with a 15.6 average, will be matched against Maryland's Albert King.
"No doubt, he's a great player," said Wood. "I have to make him work hard for everything he gets. If he gets loose and scores 30 points, we're in trouble. I'm sure he's thinking the same thing about me, too."
King is Maryland's leading scorer, with an 18.8 average. Right behind him is center Buck Williams, averaging 18.7 and shooting 71 percent from the back field.
"Albert and Buck are their keys, but Albert may be more of a key because he could have an offnight if his jump shot isn't going in," Wood said. "Buck isn't going to have an offnight. He's going to get his points and his rebounds no matter what you do against him. He's so strong inside and only takes shots he knows he's going to make, so you can't stop him."
North Carolina shot less than 40 percent in its last two games.
"We're getting the shots we want, but they just aren't going in," Wood said. "I'm a big part of our offense and I haven't been shooting well, either. I think that will change when we play Maryland."
Because they're so much stronger inside than in the past, the Tar Heels plan to challenge the Terrapins.
"On paper, at least, the place to beat them is inside," Wood said. "But they're a lot stronger than they look."
The 6-10 Perkins is North Carolina's leading scorer, with a 15.9 average, and the powerful Worthy is averaging 14.6 points.
Also in double figures for the Terps are Greg Manning, 15.1, and Ernest Graham, 14.1.
Maryland had lost nine straight to North Carolina until it beat the Tar Heels twice last season, by six points in Chapel Hill and by one at College Park.
"I don't think they'll be any more fired up just because we beat them twice last year," Driesell said. "We still owe them several, anyway."