March is right around the corner, and UNC has got its dancing shoes on. The best part of all? Roy’s Boys do extremely well against top teams. Let’s take a look at the projected number one seeds to see how the Tar Heels match up against each one.
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Pound-for-pound, this team scares me the most. Florida sits at 26-2 and a national ranking of first in the country. They havve only lost twice early in the season to #20 Wisconsin and #12 Connecticut, by a combined measly seven points. The Gators have beaten some quality competition in #13 Kansas, #15 Memphis, and #14 Kentucky. Most importantly, they win the games they’re supposed to win.
So, how do the Tar Heels match up? This is a tough one. UF’s point guard, Scottie Wilbekin, is dangerous for Chapel Hill. He’s averaging 13.5 points per game and is the general on the floor. He’s in on nearly every possession, so there’s a chance he could tie up UNC’s Marcus Paige on the defensive side of the floor. If Wilbekin tires out MP, it could spell trouble for Chapel Hill.
The upside for the Tar Heels in this matchup is how the stats don’t favor Florida. Their statistical claim to fame is being 102nd in the nation in rebounding at 36 a game. Other than that, they sit at 200th in the Points For category, 153rd in the Assists category, and 111th in Field Goal Percentage.
#2) Wichita State
This team is officially 30-0. The last three teams to do that were UNLV, Indiana State, and Indiana. Those magically starts ended in a NCAA title, loss in a championship, and loss in a Final Four. The Shockers are no Cinderella, either. They were in the Final Four last season and have plans of going further this year.
Chapel Hill must keep the size advantage. Sure, we should take opportunity to push the ball on breakout opportunities, but the foundation UNC should rely on is pounding the rock in the paint. James Michael McAdoo and Kennedy Meeks should be the focus of the X’s and O’s for Roy. UNC should bully the mid-major down low for the best results.
The Wildcats are a bit of an enigma. Yes, they sit at 25-2 and dominate the glass (yanking down an average of 39 rebounds per game, 20th in the nation), but they haven’t played anyone but Duke. Seriously, no one. They beat #6 Duke early in the season, respectably. Arizona has not played a single ranked team since November 29th. I know they say the Pac-12 is a weak basketball conference, but this is ridiculous. They’re a big fish in a tiny, tiny pond.
So how does UNC match up? Nick Johnson is their big scorer, averaging 16 points an outing. If Chapel Hill puts the lengthy and athletic Tokoto on him, it could minimize the damage Johnson can inflict. The Tar Heels absolutely must win the rebound battle.
The ACC counterpart is a strong 26-2 (cue charging call at Duke) and has quality wins over #18 Baylor, #8 Villanova, #22 Pitt, #17 Duke, and #25 Pitt again. They sat at #1 in the nation before dropping an overtime head-scratcher to Boston College and to Duke in Cameron, thanks to their sixth man. Syracuse is a dangerous team.
The Orangemen have a strong senior forward in C.J. Fair, who averages 16.5 points and 6 rebounds a game. He’s the man to stop. Chapel Hill needs throw different looks at C.J., with defensive assignments falling to McAdoo and Meeks. Between UNC bigs’ athleticism and size, Fair should have difficulty owning the paint. The Tar Heels have to neutralize him. But if they can stop Fair, UNC has a solid shot at toppling the Orangemen.