First look: North Carolina Tar Heels

  • 03/22/2016 10:37 am in

Indiana will face North Carolina in the NCAA tournament East Regional semifinal on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We’ll have our in-depth What To Expect preview later in the week, but here’s a first look at the top-seeded Tar Heels.

North Carolina already has two national championships under Roy Williams and many believe this could be the year the Tar Heels capture a third under his leadership.

The ACC regular season and tournament champions, North Carolina is playing arguably its best stretch of basketball of the season at just the right time. After a tough first half against Florida Gulf Coast, the Tar Heels came alive to win their first round game comfortably, 83-67. That performance was followed up by a blowout win over Providence, 85-66, in the second round in Raleigh.

When looking at its resume, there aren’t many holes for North Carolina. Each of its six losses have come by six or fewer points and five came in true road games. In neutral site games, North Carolina is 9-0 this season with two of those wins coming over Virginia and Notre Dame, both Sweet Sixteen teams.

The Tar Heels finished the regular season 25-6 and with a very good win over Maryland at home early in the season in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The two common opponents for Indiana and North Carolina are the Terps, the Fighting Irish, Northwestern and Wake Forest. Indiana went 3-2 against those teams (loss to Wake in Maui and at Duke) while North Carolina went 5-2, losing to the Fighting Irish in South Bend and to Duke at home.

With a top ten offense and defense nationally according to KenPom, the challenges North Carolina presents are significant.

“In our mind, the best transition in our league is Iowa and Michigan,” Tom Crean said on Monday. “I know ours is good, but I always think Iowa and Michigan. And a lot of times, Michigan State’s transition especially when they run after a made basket.

“North Carolina is at another level from that because they have so many forwards that can run. They’re five to six deep at the four and five positions and they can all get out and run. There’s a quickness level there. We can’t get caught up in matchups in this game, we’ve got to get caught up in making sure that the ball is in front of us.”

There are several things that stand out when looking at North Carolina’s profile on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Heels play one of the nation’s fastest tempos, but take care of the ball. Only 47 teams in the country average more possessions per game than North Carolina, yet the Tar Heels rank 25th in the country at taking care of the ball (15.4 turnover percent). That’s significantly better than Indiana, which ranks 273rd in the country at turnover percentage at 19.6. Indiana, of course, had a similar disadvantage on paper against Kentucky entering that matchup in the round of 32, but flipped the script and took care of the ball while turning the Wildcats over thanks to six offensive fouls drawn.

Both teams are elite on the offensive glass with North Carolina ranking fourth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (39.9) and Indiana not far behind at 15th nationally (37.1 percent). North Carolina is somewhat vulnerable on the defensive glass and if Indiana isn’t hitting perimeter shots, second chance points are likely to loom large.

North Carolina’s fifth ranked offense is built on taking care of the ball, hitting the offensive boards and finishing 2s at an elite level (53.8 percent). The Heels aren’t a great 3-point shooting team as they’re hitting just 31.4 percent of their shots from distance, which ranks 308th in the country.

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Defensively, North Carolina is very good at defending the paint and around the basket, but it does struggle to guard the 3-point line, ranking just 223rd in the country in 3-point field goal percentage defense.

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We’ll dig into the remainder of the roster much more later in the week in What To Expect as North Carolina is a deep and talented group, but the matchup that will probably loom largest is Brice Johnson.

The 6-foot-10 senior currently ranks second in KenPom’s player of the year rankings. He’s finishing close to 62 percent of his 2s, hitting 77.8 percent of his free throws and is one of the 15 best defensive rebounders in the country.

Johnson leads the Tar Heels in scoring (16.8 points per game) and rebounding (10.5). And with help alongside him in Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, Johnson can afford to be aggressive at all times.

The line for Friday’s game opened at North Carolina by six late Saturday night after the Tar Heels beat Providence has moved down to 5.5 in the days since. KenPom likes the Heels by five in his projections and gives the Hoosiers a 34 percent chance to pull the upset. FiveThirtyEight is less bullish on IU as its odds currently give the Hoosiers just a 22 percent chance to advance to the regional final on Sunday.

(Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

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  • Mr. Mitchell

    Some how some way. We should find a way to win this game. We got the COY on our sidelines. NZ bring that D again. Good Troy showing. Keep our BIGs out of foul trouble. Pssss.. OG

  • Eljay

    …and had a key—and unbelievable—block against Duke’ s center in that great 2002 run.

    And just as with NC this year, we were told we had little chance of beating that Duke team.

    Probably the only time more fans in Rupp were cheering for IU than it’s opponent. (Thank you Christian Laetner! LOL)

  • Mr. Mitchell

    Shirt color? hat or no hat?….lol

  • IUowns

    The guy said after 5 mins the Kentucky game got over that “I should be ready to go” It’s now or never. He can rest all he wants after a week.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Stinky…..toiletmakers…….Peeyoo……pur-don’t……pur doosh….cretins from west Lafayette……sheep falkers……any name will do.

  • Oh, I don’t doubt that RJ is a warrior and would play all 40 minutes if he could. But with an injury like that, one wrong cut or landing and that’s it. In the UK game, he just came down wrong after a layup and was knocked out of the game.

  • vicbert caladipo

    CH is going to be the most important player in this game. If he plays like he did against UK this game is a toss up. If he has a bad game, I think we lose. If he plays like UK and can hit a 3 or 2 I think we will win. I don’t have the stats(help Calbert…BL) but it seems to me that our 3 point shooting went bad about the same time CH hurt his wrist. He is going to have to D up Johnson until OG comes in and if he can hold Johnson in check that should knock nc’s mojo down and they’ll be scrambling. On O he could stretch them out even more by knocking down an early 3. The question is…how well is wrist?

  • Missing Moye

    I won’t be surprised if coach starts Max over Colin for this game. Max has started 5 games this season: games 2-4 of the season, then @ Michigan State, and vs. Purdue. The last two seemed to be match up starts to deal with size, and I could see it this game also instead of having CH guarding someone much bigger than him.

    Given CH’s wrist issue, the ability of Max to knock down the outside shot and pull bigs out of the paint, and Max’s ability to rebound and defend the post, it seems to me that this is a good time to start him and let him log some extra minutes.

    I absolutely love CH’s game, I just am not sure where he fits in for this matchup, especially if he isn’t able to shoot the ball right and knock down open jumpers.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    I’m not talking about changing anything, I’m saying if TB does well in this game his NBA stock will go up, if does poorly it will go down, which may determine if he stays another year.
    Why do you think I wanted to change anything?

  • vicbert caladipo

    I get what you’re saying, but I don’t want to tinker with success. I love Max and OG off the bench. Seems almost every game they come off the bench and give us a shot in the arm. I am not as confident if we start slow and then bring CH off the bench we get that same charge. Play our game…let them figure us out. Do the same things. I just hope he plays the same all around floor game, but can hit some timely threes. If there was ever a game all year where we really need the three it’s this one. CH hitting a couple will infect the others.

  • Jeremy

    Troy makes me nervous when he brings the ball up. I hope RJ is back he is a calming influence. Go IU hit the 3 ball.

  • Missing Moye

    I get that too. I’m content either way. It worked well against Purdue, and it seems to make sense on the surface, but I agree that CH brings a lot of intangibles to the game and maybe it’s the old “if it ain’t broke…” idea that you mentioned. It still won’t surprise me at all if CTC starts MB instead and limits CH’s minutes to 15 or so for this one.

    As a side note, I was looking at player stats and was a bit surprised to see that MB is shooting about 8% higher from 3-pt range than CH is on the year. If you told me before the year that MB was going to shoot the 3-ball better than Yogi or Nick (from a % standpoint) I would have thought you were nuts.

  • BL

    Per Coach in presser, RJ iffy. Jm getting better and practiced; took stitches to his head. Damn!

  • vicbert caladipo

    Max has really improved his shooting. Couple that with him having a big trying to guard him out there, a recipe for success. Max definitely has done more on the offensive end than Collin, but CH brings intangibles to the game. You don’t see him stuffing a stat sheet, but he does a little of everything. We are going to need that and then some from CH to advance. I expect the usual suspects to keep doing what they’re doing and the key to victory is can RJ give us that help defense and can Collin knock down a few shots. Almost a week to get healthy. We have to fire on all cylinders.

  • vicbert caladipo

    I see one of the headlines on the premium forum is Draft Express. Since I am not on the PF, I decided to do a little investigating. The sight said it was updated 3/22 and you would not believe only ONE Hoosier was in the first 60. It’s not who you’d guess. Yogi Ferrell #55. No TB. No TW. Not sure where Draft Express ranks in the hierarchy of mock drafts, but I checked a few others and none had TW in rounds one and two and one had Yogi and TB has dropped from as high as 15 down to 23 best to a few not even having him picked. Crazy thing is the 7 foot freshman from UK who stunk against us as well as many other teams is still projected in the top 10. The only players who benefited in the last month are Davis-MSU, Valentine-MSU, Ingram-Puke and Buddy Hield. Sounds like we may have a seriously deep team next year, if these mock drafts are correct

  • Tony Neel

    I think you mean frontcourt. UK probably has the best backcourt in the nation.

  • Jonny McClain

    so apparently you know what is best.. or is it the coaches?

  • ohheelyeah

    “run NC ragged!”

    lol

  • Eastwood88_2

    Setting up an upset. Hoosiers will hit 14 threes. Write it down. Can’t believe we are going all the way.

  • dwdkc

    Lots of these sites make guesses as to who is coming out; if they don’t have TB it is because they are assuming he comes out next year. The consensus on TB seems to be mid to late first round postlottery if he comes out; a little higher if he waits until next year. And OG is now starting to show up too as a great 3 and D developmental prospect.

  • dwdkc

    Paige and Berry don’t shoot better than Thompson (Hill doesn’t even try). IU will probably double down aggressively and take some chances with NC’s guards getting some decent looks. Really hope they don’t get hot.

  • dwdkc

    True. I expect their big lineup to struggle against us. NC has been going small a lot more with good results lately, so I would expect this to happen. The problem is they have so much talent they have the options to adjust. We just simply have to play better.

  • dwdkc

    Yes but they had Uwe Blab!

  • dwdkc

    Shsssh don’t tell Troy. He is a little too fearless as it is, at least early in the game. I think Troy will get to the rim on these guys however.

  • Where did i say I know what is best? I think i was pretty clear that the coaches would study the film and know what will work best. What is your problem, you can’t read?

  • Hey, not sure why or how that comment got inserted here.. I was writing it in response to the zone vs m2m discussion below.. I agree with your wonderment. it doesn’t belong there.

  • RDD#76

    Very true recruting rankings are really judgemental as some kids stay the same and never improve and others get better every year. Both JM and OG look like they can improve their game year to year like Colin has done. CTC and staff seem to be real strong in that aspect of coaching and watching UK last weekend a couple of their 5 stars have gotten no better.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    Got ya!

  • Sorry, but that post wasn’t supposed to be at that location.. I’m not really sure how it got there.. It was supposed to be in response to some of these comments relating to , ‘we should start the game in a zone defense’.. Again, I really do not know, why that post ended up there.

  • I hope you’re right. I was listening to Mike and Mike this morning, they had Jay Williams on. Of course they were all picking UNC.. That program is awful sometimes. I notice they didn’t invite CTC on their show.. They’ve had just about every coach but him on.. well not quite, but you’d think since we upset KY, they have him on.

  • Jonny McClain

    ‘You guys promoting the zone have no idea what you’re talking about’ – can you not read? You’re thoughts about the zone are no more relevant that the OP