Nassau, Bahamas (SportsNetwork.com) - The fifth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and Butler Bulldogs will get things started in the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the two teams square off in first-round action at the Imperial Arena in the Bahamas on Wednesday afternoon.
The winner of this game will move on in the championship bracket and take on either Oklahoma or UCLA in quarterfinal action on Thanksgiving.
Roy Williams' squad has some youth but is chock-full of talent. The team has lived up to the hype thus far with three wins in as many games to start the season. All three were routs, including Saturday's 90-72 whipping of Davidson.
Chris Holtmann's Bulldogs are also sporting a flawless 3-0 record thus far and all three have been lopsided affairs. The team was last in action on Saturday, where it posted an 80-39 drubbing of Loyola Maryland.
This is the fifth all-time meeting between these two teams. The series was knotted up at 2-2, with Butler's 82-71 victory in the 2012 Maui Invitational.
If Butler continues to play as it has thus far, a Top-25 ranking is certainly not far behind. The Bulldogs have excelled at both ends of the floor this season. Offensively, the team has shot the lights out, converting 56.0 percent from the field, including 48.9 percent from behind the arc to tally an impressive 83.0 ppg. Opponents have struggled to keep pace, averaging a meager 48.0 ppg this season. Scoring depth is there with four players currently averaging double figures, starting with Kellen Dunham's 19.0 ppg. Kelan Martin does his work coming off the bench and ranks second on the team with 11.7 ppg. Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Chrabascz round out the top scoring threats with 10.7 and 10.0 ppg, respectively.
The Bulldogs simply blew the doors off Loyola Maryland over the weekend, shooting 53.6 percent from the floor en route to a 41-point victory. The usually explosive Dunham took a backseat to Martin, who netted 23 points in just 18 minutes of work. Dunham still tacked on 13 points in the win, while Jones finished with 10.
North Carolina's +26.0 scoring margin is evidence that the team also knows how to dominate foes at both ends of the floor. The Tar Heels are averaging just under 90 points per game this season (89.7), thanks to 47.8 percent efficiency from the field. Big man Kennedy Meeks has been unstoppable in the paint. He is shooting 63.3 percent from the floor and is averaging a double-double with team-highs of 16.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Brice Johnson (.621) and Justin Jackson (.630) are also converting at a high level, averaging 14.7 and 13.3 ppg, respectively. Marcus Paige has started slow at 12.0 ppg, but remains one of the main cogs in the UNC arsenal.
The Tar Heels took a 12-point lead into intermission against Davidson (46-34) and kept the Wildcats at arm's length en route to the big win in Charlotte. Meeks delivered on 9-of-13 shots from the floor and recorded a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Jackson poured in 18 points, while Paige and J.P. Tokoto tacked on 13 and 10 points, respectively.