UNC Basketball: NCAA Tournament Opening Round Preview Tar Heels vs Vermont

After the play in game the North Carolina Tar Heels opponent was determined and Vermont will face off with Carolina in the opening round of the big dance.  In the history of the NCAA Tournament never has a #16 seed defeated a #1 seed.  Vermont defeated Lamar 63-58 in one of four play in games.

Photo Credit: US Presswire

This will be a match up of David vs Goliath and it really doesn’t matter whether or not junior forward John Henson plays or not.  While it would be nice for Henson to get a little run in before the games get serious, it won’t matter either way against Vermont.

Getting to know Vermont: The Vermont Catamounts (whatever that means) finished second in the America East conference with a 23-11 overall, 13-3 conference record this season.  They have made just four appearances in the NCAA Tournament in their 32 year history winning one game and have a 1-4 overall tournament record.  Their last appearance was the 09-10 season where they were promptly sent home by Syracuse in a 23 point loss.

For comparisons sake, think of Vermont as a poor man’s Virginia.  A pretty good defensive team that leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end of the court.  Averaging  just 67.2 points per game, on 44.3% shooting, with 13.3 assists per night none of the Catamounts averages rank better than 119th on offensive.  Defensively they were able to contain their opponents to an avg of just 60.5 ppg  25th in the nation, on less than 10 assists per night, ranking 18th in the nation.  Vermont hasn’t faced or defeated any teams of significance and the game against UNC will be their first match up with a powerhouse this season.  With a strength of schedule rating of 278th in the nation, don’t be surprised if Vermont gets overwhelmed early and shows they have no business on the same court as the Tar Heels.

What to Expect: For reasons I listed above, expect Roy Williams to be very careful with John Henson’s playing time even if he is 100%.  If he does go I expect freshman James Michael McAdoo to split minutes with him at the very least.  Most likely scenario if Henson does play is for him to play most of his minutes in the first half.  Once the game is out of reach for Vermont, expect Henson to take a seat on the bench for the rest of the game.

I expect the Heels to come out and crush Vermont the way everyone expects them to.  This is a game you can sit back, relax and debate the rest of the bracket.  UNC will win this game by at least 25 points and should win by an even larger margin.  With or without Henson, Vermont doesn’t stand a chance at stopping the Heels from dominating the glass.  That will open up the offense and allow Kendall Marshall and company to get out and run early and often.  I expect a huge game from Tyler Zeller who should have a field day in transition.  Vermont does not have the athletes, especially amongst it’s big men to run with Carolina.  The nations best big man at running the floor will clean up in the tourney’s opener.

Keys for UNC: Even if the majority of the team struggles, the Tar Heels are just too good in this to waste time talking about keys to victory.  The key in this one will be watching how John Henson plays with that injured left wrist (if he plays at all).  The other key for UNC is for them to jump out and extend the lead early and put this one in the books.  Two things are accomplished by the Heels knocking out Vermont early.  The starters, especially Henson, can get an extended rest which could be vital down the stretch of the tourney.  And the reserves, mainly, Stillman White, James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston will get extended playing time.  The Heels need more production from their bench, especially McAdoo and Hairston.  Some extra playing time in the opening round against a far less superior opponent could prove invaluable for the Heels title hopes.

Final Score and Player of the game predictions: In a blowout UNC crushes Vermont 101-60.  Player of the game, Kendall Marshall with 14 points, 15 assists as he continues his evolution of a dual threat, scoring and passing point guard.


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