North Carolina was given a modest number 8 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament by the Selection Committee on Sunday evening and an early round matchup against the Villanova Wildcats. UNC’s seeding has drawn a lot of criticism from fans who felt that Roy Williams and his squad deserved better after the way they closed out their season winning 8 of their last 10 and making a run all the way into the ACC Tournament final.
Regardless of whether the seeding was just or not, the Tar Heels can only focus on what they can control and that is their play against Villanova on Friday evening. Nova plays similarly to the Tar Heels because they play a four guard lineup. The Wildcats start four guys that measure 6-6 or less, including star wing man JayVaughn Pinkston, and one big man, Mouphtaou Yarou, at 6-10 which means that they spread the floor the way UNC does. In the ACC, the Heels are very used to being undersized on the floor with PJ Hairston guarding guys that are 6-8 or 6-9 and James Michael McAdoo guarding 6-11 big men or even taller. It’ll be interesting to see how UNC attacks playing a team with such a similar playing style. Miami went small against the Heels in the ACC Championship game which was when they began to pull away from the Tar Heels en route to their first ever ACC title.
One thing that Villanova does extremely well is get to the free throw line. The Wildcats lead the nation in both free throw attempts (870) and free throws made (626) which totals up the team average at just below 72% on the season. If Nova plays aggressive and is somehow able to get key players for Carolina in early foul trouble, then they could put themselves in a good spot to win. North Carolina doesn’t have many options that they turn to off the bench, outside of Leslie McDonald, very often especially down low. Carolina can’t afford to find themselves in a position where they are playing catch up with players on the floor that aren’t as offensively capable if guys get in foul trouble.
One thing that the Wildcats are prone to doing is turning the ball over which plays right into the Tar Heels’ hands. Villanova has logged 517 turnovers on the year which is the 12th most nationally. Teams like UNC who thrive on getting out into transition can really make a team like Villanova pay if they can play good smart defense. The Wildcats don’t score a ton of points (67.8 ppg) even though they have proven to be a capable three point shooting team. If UNC can force turnovers out of the gate a jump out to a double digit lead with some hot shooting, then Villanova will have to play completely out of their comfort zone and be forced into a shootout with the Heels. If it comes to that, I like UNC’s chances.
A lot of UNC fans have their eye on that potential rematch against Kansas in the second round, but Villanova is nowhere close to being a doormat team and must be treated with respect. Nova has picked up wins versus top teams like Louisville, Georgetown and Syracuse which means they can play with anybody when they are on their game. I like UNC to win the game, but it will be a dog fight because both teams stack up well against one another. Game time is at 7:20 PM EST on Friday, March, 22 on TNT.