What to Expect: North Carolina

  • 11/30/2016 8:34 am in

Indiana will be looking for another resume-building win on Wednesday night when the Hoosiers host No. 3 North Carolina at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Tar Heels are 7-0 this season and won the Maui Invitational last week.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN at approximately 9:15 p.m. ET with Dave O’Brien, Dick Vitale and Allison Williams on the call:

Indiana can’t erase the sting of last Tuesday’s loss to Fort Wayne at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, but the Hoosiers can go a long way in solidifying their non-conference resume on Wednesday.

With a neutral court win against Kansas already on the books, a win over North Carolina would give Indiana another win that will stand out come March. Like the Jayhawks, the Tar Heels look like a team that will contend for a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

But as good as Tom Crean-coached teams have been at home against Associated Press top 5 teams (6-1 since the 2011-12 season), North Carolina comes to Bloomington with plenty of confidence. The Tar Heels just cruised to the Maui Invitational title by easily dispatching of Chaminade, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin. North Carolina has yet to play a game closer than 15 points. And with an experienced group of returnees that went to last year’s Final Four, UNC isn’t a group that will be easily rattled.

This will be, undoubtedly, one of the best atmospheres of the season in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

After three low-major opponents to open the home slate, the Indiana faithful are itching to see a high level opponent on Branch McCracken Court. In addition to the marquee matchup, there will be plenty of other festivities to energize the building. The 1981 National Championship team will be honored at halftime. Chicago Cub and IU baseball hero Kyle Schwarber is the honorary captain. And James Cornelison will sing the National Anthem. In late November, it doesn’t get better than this in college basketball.

MEET THE TAR HEELS

The Tar Heels lost two of their top three scorers from last year’s national runner-up team, but there’s been no drop off because everyone else of note is back.

North Carolina has a balanced offense through seven games with five guys averaging in double figures. The backcourt is captained by junior point guard Joel Berry, who has been as good as any backcourt player in the country so far. Berry’s 17.1 points per game leads the team and he’s shooting 47.1 percent on 3s. When Berry isn’t knocking down 3s or finishing 2s (67.7 percent), he’s getting to the line where he’s 28 of 30 this season.

Senior Nate Britt starts alongside Berry and is averaging 6.3 points per game on just 40 percent shooting from the field. His playing time is pretty evenly split with sophomore Kenny Williams, who is making 44.4 percent of his 3s off the bench.

The backcourt rotation is rounded out by a pair of freshmen in Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson. The 6-foot-2 Woods is an explosive athlete, but is just 2 of 11 from the field. The 6-foot-5 Robinson has also struggled from the field as he’s just 8 of 22 this season. Junior Theo Pinson, an elite defender, has yet to play this season as he rehabs from a foot injury.

As strong as North Carolina’s backcourt is with Berry, the frontcourt is what sets this team apart. Junior wing Justin Jackson is a tough matchup at 6-foot-8 and is the team’s second leading scorer at 15.4 points per game. Jackson can knock down the 3 if left open, but is very good at getting into the lane. He’s making close to 57 percent of his 2s.

In the post, the Tar Heels have no shortage of options. Senior Kennedy Meeks has steadily improved throughout his career and is currently the nation’s second best offensive rebounder according to Ken Pomeroy. Meeks hasn’t been an elite finisher so far this season (51.3 percent), but is averaging a double-double (13.7 points, 10.7 rebounds).

If Meeks wasn’t enough to worry about, Indiana will also have to contend with senior Isaiah Hicks, one of the nation’s most efficient bigs. The 6-foot-9 Hicks made 61.4 percent of his 2s last season and is at 66.2 percent this season through seven games.

Freshman Tony Bradley, who is 6-foot-11, is coming off the bench and is the team’s fourth leading scorer at 10.7 points per game. Bradley currently owns the nation’s best offensive rebounding percentage (24.4) according to Ken Pomeroy.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

The biggest question for Indiana in this game is pretty simple: How are the Hoosiers going to keep the Tar Heels out of the paint?

North Carolina emphasizes getting the ball inside and is getting just 22 percent of its points off of 3-pointers. Nationally, the average right now is 30 percent. Not only is Indiana going to need a strong game out of Thomas Bryant, this is a contest where OG Anunoby, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis are all going to need to contribute defensively and on the boards.

Both teams are among the nation’s elite on the offensive boards, but Indiana has been the better defensive rebounding team so far. Opponents are rebounding just 22.5 percent of their missed shots against the Hoosiers, while North Carolina is allowing opponents to grab 29.1 percent of their misses.

Turnovers also loom large for Indiana as North Carolina will turn careless mistakes into dunks on the other end of the floor. If Indiana is going to push the tempo like it typically does, it must outperform what we’ve seen so far this season in terms of turnovers.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

Pomeroy likes North Carolina by three, Sagarin likes the Heels by 4.5 and the Vegas line favors UNC by four after opening at 4.5. Indiana has a 20-game winning streak at Assembly Hall and a solid start would go a long way in getting the crowd even more into the game.

To win, Indiana is going to need to defend without fouling in the post, limit second chance points and probably knock in double digit 3s. North Carolina is not going to deviate from its game plan, which is to get the ball into the paint for a high percentage look and then crash the glass relentlessly.

The health of James Blackmon Jr. has been a major topic of discussion after he missed Sunday’s game against Mississippi Valley State, but the junior guard appears on track to play tonight. Indiana needs Blackmon Jr. to be the player he was against Kansas in the Armed Forces Classic rather than the guy who struggled against Fort Wayne last week.

Last year’s loss at Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge was a humbling experience for Indiana, but ultimately proved to be a turning point as the Hoosiers ripped off 13 straight wins afterward. North Carolina has been one of the nation’s most impressive teams through the first three weeks of the season and has a legitimate case to be called the best team in the land right now. Like the Kansas game, this will be another measuring stick type contest for the Hoosiers as they build toward the start of Big Ten play in just four weeks.

(Photo credit: Darryl Oumi/Getty Images North America)



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  • 14thandWoodlawn

    Guys like Newkirk, Jones, and DG are the difference in this game. Big plays and no mistakes by the role guys is a formula that beat KU.

  • Hoosierkamp

    Really hope Thomas plays stronger than he has been. Need him to be the best big tonight.

  • IUowns

    Will be a fun game, the hall will surely be rocking! UNC is an experienced team, maybe not super deep but they start 4 (and sometimes 5) upperclassmen in Berry, Jackson, Hicks and Meeks, with Senior guard Nate Britt getting the start according to the match up. I really believe that we can win, Assembly Hall’s magic should help but we must contain their front line on the boards and not foul excessively. Obviously need monster games from OG, Bryant but the key is Morgan, and Davis playing well against Bradley and Hicks. Put RoJo on Berry, if you don’t remember RJ didnt play last year other wise we probably wouldn’t have let Paige blow 3’s like he did. These are different teams and lets hope for different results. Lets GO HOOSIERS!! This what you came to Indiana for, give it all you have on the court!

  • Lance76

    Totally agree with RoJo on Berry and pressure Britt to beat us.I expect to see man to man and switch to zone if they are driving the paint and not hitting their 3″s. We match up to them well and I expect the crowd will be charged.

    The charge/block call seems different between games I have seen this year. As long as the zebras are consistent, I am happy. Anybody know who the zebras are tonight?

  • pcantidote

    Seventh Woods? Somewhere George Costanza is furious.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i just wanna see em fight hard tonight. i gotta admit, their effort in ft wayne really took the wind outta my sails. they looked like they had no idea what they were doing on offense, trying to force things that simply weren’t there.

    don’t y’all think it’s sort of become a staple of a CTC offense? that when it’s firing on all cylinders it’s a beautiful thing? when it ain’t, it looks about as organized as a monkey poo fight at the zoo?

  • We need a performance like he played against UK last year. Don’t lay it in, just dunk it. And first, control the rebound, THEN worry about who you’re going to pass it to.

  • My proposed starting lineup for tonight if JBJ is 100%: RJ, JBJ, JM, OG, TB.
    My proposed starting lineup for tonight if JBJ isn’t at 100%: RJ. CJ. JM. OG. TB.

    We’ll need height and good perimeter defense, which could mean that JBJ doesn’t play as much as he otherwise might. If he can’t keep up on defense, then CJ should get tons of minutes. JN should backup RJ.

  • Hoosierkamp

    100%. That TB will own this game

  • Hoosier Hall

    I’m hoping for another one of those crazy Maryland type games where we just can’t do anything wrong and hit 15+ threes. That’s always fun. Remember the Zeisloft save and assist to Juwan Morgan last year? Who could forget 2015 when we welcomed the Terps to Assembly Hall with 15/22 from downtown? Hopefully that’s what we get tonight and UNC can’t even catch their breath.

  • pcantidote

    Yep. The UNC 2012 game would work too.

  • pcantidote

    I still say the whole team had the stomach bug at Ft. Wayne. It’s never just one person that catches it. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Go Hoosiers.

  • When teams play up-line and tight like IPFW did, why no back cuts? That was the strenght of TW last year, got to make the opponent pay for the overplay.

  • HAVOC

    I agree with everyone’s comments here. We’ve got great match ups with ANYBODY. We proved that against one of the best teams in the nation. UNC has not played anybody even close to the caliber of Kansas, IMO. Yes, they’ve played good teams, but not great teams like Kansas. Obviously Wisky was their toughest task, and they are a little suspect considering they got stomped by Creighton; albeit it was an away game for them, it still was a 12 point loss in a game they were surely favored.

    I also like that our boys have seen the two extremes of officiating- The Kansas game being called extremely tight with touch fouls; and the IPFW game, where the officials swallowed their whistles while we were getting hacked left and right. So yea, I think those two games probably gave them an idea of how to adapt to the officiating earlier in future games.

  • You don’t even need to go that far. Let’s face it: this is a different team with OG in the game. It was the same last year. Team defense alone is a different thing when OG is playing. I hate to think we’re so reliant on one player, but OG just makes everything easier for everyone else–especially making up for the deficiencies of a not-so-great defensive player like JBJ (or NZ last year). OG can also bring the same explosiveness as TW on offense without the out-of-control aspect (although OG needs to improve his ball handling a bit).

  • ForeverIU

    I think the home court advantage will be particularly important for this team. Our new players (CuJo, Devonte, Zach, De’Ron, Freddie) will be on fire and eager to impress. I’m predicting a great performance for CuJo. We win 85-82.

  • IU_Nation

    Defense, defense, defense. This is the key tonight. If we can get stops consistently we have a great shot to beat what I think is the best team in the country right now. We will score, but can we get stops? I think that will go a long way in determining how well IU performs tonight. Based on the way IU/UNC has been playing lately, I’m going to have to go with UNC 86 IU 79. It will be close until they hit FTs to ice it. I hope I am wrong, though. Go Hoosiers!

  • IU_Nation

    I agree with putting RJ on Berry. The question is of JM and OG which will guard Jackson and which will guard Hicks? I think both of them can do the job on either Jackson/Hicks but as of now I want OG on Jackson because to me it looks like JM is struggling to contain guys on the perimeter. Hicks is a little bit of a better matchup for him because he works down low in the post

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i agree, we eke out a W in that one if OG is healthy

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i’m buying it! haha

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    nice to hear that jordan tucker’s gonna be in the house. he would be a great addition to next year’s class

  • Bruce Clark

    Agree on the lineups but thinking that McSwain and Green with their strength could be the wildcards tonight. Cujo with his height and speed should see a lot of playing time tonight. Go IU!

  • DG will get some time in spurts, I think, and bring some nice defensive intensity. His shooting has been streaky, though. Unfortunately, I think McFly still has a ways to go before he can contribute in a game like this–he brings rebounding, but he doesn’t control the ball well on offense and could be a turnover machine against the likes of UNC. Not sure yet about his defense–his intensity is good, but his fundamentals need work.

    Geez, is it 6pm yet? (PST, of course)

  • I’m with you on CuJo. He’s ready to break out (gave a hint against KU, of course) and I think the kid thrives on the biggest stages. TB will be fired up, hopefully not TOO fired up. I do hope it doesn’t come down to a last shot, not sure my poor old heart can take it.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I wasn’t going to make a prediction but since you started it… IU wins 91 to 84. Both teams will run and crash the boards so there should be a lot of scoring. Our advantage will be not only our 3 point shooting but defending against the 3. UNC will make only 6 or less from outside while we hit 12 or more.

  • BL4IU

    Understand your reservations on McFly but I thought he showed real progress in the last game. Really strong rebounder and finished nicely at the rim on all three attempts. He’s figuring out his way to contribute at the D1 level. No problem playing him spot minutes tonight. Needs continuing opportunities to develop and I’d have a big smile on my face if he got in Jackson’s grill for a few minutes.

  • Fifer39

    I’m betting JN starts in place of JBJ or CJ in each of your scenarios. The key is going to be the in-game adjustments though rather than the starting line-ups and while UNC have undoubted talent I don’t think they have our depth in terms of the options that we do. Where does the leadership need to come from tonight? TC.

  • Fifer39

    My favourite game in recent years!

  • millzy32

    Creighton was favored in the Wisconsin game by the way you can look it up. It was at Creighton and they area tough out.

  • millzy32

    That would take an actual adjustment. This team has a game plan and sticks to it whether it’s working or not.

  • ForeverIU

    I was tempted to go higher, but UNC averages 93 points a game, and I think we can only beat them if we keep them at the low 80s.

  • Shades of UNLV in ’87? 🙂 Absolutely nothing similar here except the idea that we only win if we keep the score (relatively) low, but I was reminded of that game nonetheless. Of course, we won that game 94-93, IIRC, because Knight flipped the script and ran the whole game. With this team, if we can control turnovers, I’d challenge any team to run with us–it’s possible that UNC is taking the approach that to win they’ll need to keep the score low.

  • Okay, I’ll take it. I didn’t concentrate on McFly too much the last game, and of course it was impossible to freaking rewind and review the stupid ESPN3 broadcast.

  • Bruce Clark

    Agree with the comments on McSwain. This year it’s our depth that is a distinct advantage over most teams: I see McSwain coming in to spell some starters and bang bodies. Next year will be a great year for McSwain but for now, with still learning the D1 game, limits him.

    Gotta’ say that I really like the team chemistry right now.

  • I like the team chemistry except for one aspect: there’s nobody yet who’s shown that ice-cold killer edge to take over in a tough game. I’ve seen most of that from CuJo, and I’m really hoping for a breakout performance from him tonight.

  • BL4IU

    Guess JBJ’s Kansas effort didn’t count 🙂

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    Agreed MC. TB needs to concentrate on being a big man and not a 3 point shooter. I believe whenever a big hits a couple of 3’s, he loses his toughness and inside mental edge. Sometimes hitting a 3 can be a curse. I mean, that Ft. Wayne big completely stuffed TB a couple of times. Go Hoosiers!

  • ForeverIU

    I don’t want to know what UNC is thinking, LOL. Totally dehumanize the enemy!

  • HAVOC

    Boyo, you’re a few fruit loops short of a bowl. How ironic that you tell me to do my research when I KNOW what the point spread was since it initially came out… and it NEVER CHANGED. I don’t know what your malfunction is, but you CLEARLY don’t know what you’re talking about, guy.

    The point spread varied in Las Vegas and Internet gaming. But one thing is FOR SURE: the LOWEST spread Wisconsin had was (-1.5), while the best line for Creighton was (+1.5). Although, MOST lines were Wisconsin (-2.0), Creighton (+2.0).

    Please take your own advice and do some research before you start spewing stupidity again.

  • TomJameson

    Defense and taking care of the ball. I think turnovers are a problem. It’s gone on long enough with no improvements and it could easily lose us this game. I think it can improve, but haven’t seen it yet. Hope to see that tonight, because we won’t win this game if we give up 19 or more possessions.

  • HAVOC

    PS, I never said they weren’t a tough team. Good Lord.

  • HAVOC

    I hear ya there, man! I’m praying! We GOTTA get him AND THE WIN against UNC. He’ll take big minutes immediately. Our Class is OK, but this is Indiana!!!.. I just don’t get it 🙁

  • millzy32

    You are correct the line was Wisconsin -1.5 pretty much across the board at game time my bad from going by memory and guessing a little (I knew it was pretty much close either way but sorry you were right). You’re also a little liberal with the word “Stomped” as it was a 12 point loss on the road in one of the larger and highly attended arena’s in College BBall. Creighton is the only game in town in Omaha and they get great attendance and are tough to play at home.

  • JerryYeagley23

    All the forums I read talk about DG, McSwain and DD being the “wildcards” tonight for us, but apparently we haven’t been paying attention. Crean is going to continue to trot his walk-on project out there for 10 minutes a game. Someone who does just enough to support people saying his hustle and intensity gave us energy, when in all reality that individual is a walk-on for a reason and lacks the fundamental skill and athleticism to ever do more than “not hurt us.” I still have no idea why we are the only blueblood who feels it necessary to play a walk-on significant minutes every year. McRoberts, Ryan Burton all the way back to Eric Suhr. My goodness, develop your scholarship athletes. I cringe everytime one of these guys makes a hustle play, because I know they’re now going to show up in clutch minutes of a game. Maybe it’s just me. IDK.

  • HAVOC

    OK buddy, Wisky didn’t get “stomped”, but they got beat pretty good. Again, they were favored, AND they have beat the hell out of some decent teams. I’m sure they’ll grow and show up come tournament time like they usually do. IU probably would have lost too… who knows. We got beat by a much weaker team, right? But I think that was more of a lackadaisical effort on our team’s part. No team effort whatsoever. Anyway, who cares? I’m ready to watch our HOOSIER HYSTERIA GO DOWN TONIGHT IN THE HALL!!! I LITERALLY had a dream that we’ll win by DOUBLE DIGITS 😀

  • HAVOC

    … I know, I know… I’m NUTS to even dream some crazy stuff like that LOL. But I did dream it- I believe the final score was 88-77 IU WINS!!!

  • Fifer39

    Have you ever thought that seeing a walk-on getting minutes, and understanding why they’re getting them, could well be an important part of a scholarship athlete’s ‘development’?

  • SCHoosier

    Fouls on the bigs and who gets them will be a deciding factor..along with TO’s

  • millzy32

    You should bet the money line then. I’m seeing +190 or so right now. Basically double your money on a Hoosier win.

  • cbags05

    If OG…and others….had what i’ve had…they are still sick. And like OG, i thought i could go out and play and looked like an old dog.