The number 8 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels take on the Badgers of Wisconsin Friday night in a winner takes all 8th seed versus 9th seed matchup that could go either way. Entering the matchup, the Badgers finished their Big-10 tournament run against Iowa, a foe the Heels faced during the ACC/Big-10 challenge to begin the season. Just like the Heels, the Badgers made it competitive late, but ultimately fell to the Hawkeyes 62-57.
Cut the Small Talk
We know the Heels make their living on the interior with the NCAA’s best offensive rebounding percentage, leading to second chance opportunities. The last time the Heels put up those type of numbers, they cut down the nets. Quite frankly, this game will depend on the freshman vs. the seniors. Can Caleb Love orchestrate an efficient offense without making too many unforced turnovers? This includes playing within a rhythm, taking shots within the flow of the offense, not gunning shots, or being forced to do too much within a single possession. Wisconsin is led by senior guard D’mitrik Trice, who leads the team averaging 13 points per game with 4 assists, shooting 41 percent from the field, including 38 percent from deep. Back-court running mate R.J. Davis seems to have taken the turn over the last several games for the Heels which they’ll certainly need. In the ACC Tournament, prior to the Florida State game, Davis was shooting above 50 percent from the field, including 40 percent from deep and had just 2 turnovers against the Hokies & Irish. Consistency and poise is what will determine if the Heels advance past Wisconsin. Is this moment too big for the freshman?
Balance & Attack
It’s no secret here. The Heels will go inside early and often. Why fix what’s not broken? The ability to control the boards, finding their sharp-shooter in Kerwin Walton (who needs no breathing room to get his release off), and the recent emergence of freshman Walker Kessler, have been keys to UNC’s success. Both teams are similar in regards to playing their bench, with both going 9-deep and every player logging 10 minutes or more game time action.
The Badgers are led by a committee of 5 seniors, who according to ESPN, account for 76 percent of the teams scoring. Wisconsin tends to slow the pace of play, like Virginia, which attributes to their 13.6 turnover ratio, which is 2nd in all of Division 1 basketball. You can expect Roy Williams to turn up the heat on the defensive end, creating turnovers with full-court & half court 2-2-1 traps. The Heels will need to be patient on each possession. The Badgers will run a pack-lined defense, forcing the Heels to create shots by moving the ball, and finding their marksman Walton off the double high ball screens.
How to Watch
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Jamie Erdahl)
Stream: NCAA March Madness Live
Radio: Tar Heel Sports Properties (Jones Angell, Eric Montross, Adam Lucas)