The UNC men’s basketball team needs to avoid looking ahead to this weekend’s CBS Sports Classic matchup with UCLA as the host Furman, a mid-major who comes into the matchup shooting 30 three-point attempts a game (10th most in Division 1).
As a team, Furman hits nearly 40 percent from downtown. Coming into Tuesday night will be the first time since the start of the 2019-20 season where the Heels enter a contest on a 4-game winning streak…quite astonishing for a UNC team.
Yes, the Heels won by a 17-point margin versus Elon, but don’t let the final score be any indictment of how the game went. Elon battled back and forth, until late in the second half where UNC’s depth was just too much to impose.
A stat to watch out is the turnover margin where the Heels committed 16 Saturday night, something Hubert Davis has reiterated on UNC’s backcourt having to improve on.
The sophomore has been in an infamous “sophomore slump” his last several games and hasn’t hit a three-point shot since the loss to Purdue. Is it psychological with Walton? The guard as been shy to even attempt a three and has been the focal point of defensive scouting reports as coach Hubert Davis alluded recently.
“For us to be the team we need to be, we need Kerwin to be the best that he can be”
How good has UNC been without Kerwin knocking down the trifecta? As a team, the Heels still rank in the top-five nationally in team three-point percentage (3rd).
Furman only has two players over 6’8″ who get valuable minutes, so the Heels need to feed the ball to Armando Bacot and Brady Manek in the interior. Foul trouble limited Bacot’s minutes Saturday, so playing disciplined and sound team ball will help the All-American eat in the paint.
Teams have been stacking the interior which has freed up the Heels on the perimeter, specifically Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia who both thrive from outside. Brady, who is shooting nearly 50% from the field and 36% from deep, is a known marksman who transferred from Oklahoma.
Arguably the most consistent player on the roster is Dawson Garcia, who gives UNC an inside/outside threat and is knocking down 50% of his three-point attempts.
On November 12th Furman upset the Cardinals of Louisville in a 80-72 overtime thriller. Since then they have only faced one Power Five foe. Expect the Heels to run early and often – feeding the paint where they have a decisive size advantage. The key will be, as it always is with the Heels, can they get out and guard the three point line?
Someone’s Got Some Explaining to Do
When was the last time a UNC team knocked off( at the time) a ranked Michigan squad, while being on a four game winning steak and still not be ranked in the AP Poll? UNC received 85 votes, which was the second most for a team to enter the top 25. One would have to assume with a win Saturday versus the Bruins, who rank 4th in the country, the Heels would certainly crack the top 20…at least.