Mar 3, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Eric Atkins (0) shoots the last shot attempt of the game as North Carolina Tar Heels forward James Michael McAdoo (43) and guard Marcus Paige (5) defend. The Tar Heels defeated the Fighting Irish 63-61 at Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina v. Pittsburgh: Game Preview

Feb 20, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) and forward James Michael McAdoo (43) react in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 20, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) and forward James Michael McAdoo (43) react in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina will play its first game of the ACC tournament on Friday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Panthers, who beat Wake Forest to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament. UNC and Pitt have already faced off once this year, when the Heels took down the Panthers 75-71 in a thriller in Chapel Hill. That game was almost exactly one month ago, on February 15th, but it seems like a lot longer than that since these two teams have faced off.

While Carolina has stumbled into the finish of ACC play leading up to the tournament, Pitt is just 4-4 (including the ACC tourney) since February 12th, but the Panthers looked really good against WF yesterday. These two teams meet with much more on the line today at 2:00 P.M. To get you ready, here are some things to ponder as you prepare to watch Carolina vs. Pitt.

Effects of Home Court Advantage

The game on February 15th was played in Chapel Hill in the Dean Dome, and the home crowd played a big part in Carolina’s win. That game was the stripe out, and UNC fed off the atmosphere in the second half to hang on for the win. Today, there will not be a home court advantage, but could a home state advantage come into play?

The ACC tournament is in Greensboro, just a short ride for many Tar Heel fans across the state. Heels fans typically travel very well to the Greensboro ACC tournaments, and I don’t expect anything different today. How much will the pro-Carolina crowd affect today’s game?

Lamar Patterson Must Be Stopped

Patterson is fourth in the ACC in percentage of possessions used, has the highest offensive rating of any ACC player while using at least 28% of possessions and ranks third in the ACC in assist rate. To say he is the heart and soul of this Pittsburgh team would be an understatement.

UNC has to find a way to stop Pitt’s best player this afternoon, or they will not win the ballgame. The Heels struggled when faced with a similar task in guarding Jabari Parker last week. Parker scored at ease against Carolina when McAdoo went to the bench with foul trouble. In order to advance, the Heels must find a combination of J.P. Tokoto and McAdoo that works in shutting the talented guard down.

Battle on the Glass

This game features two of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, with UNC ranking first in the ACC in offensive boards per game and Pitt coming in at fourth in the conference. Both teams rely on offensive rebounds for easy points to aid their ailing offenses- both teams rank below 112th in the nation in effective field goal percentage. Cleaning up the glass is how Carolina and Pitt get easy buckets offensively, so the team that does a better job on the boards will win the game.

Free Throw Shooting

Its been said many times, many ways- UNC stinks at free throw shooting. The Heel’s achilles heel (no pun intended) could very well lead to their downfall in tournament time, when every free throw shot becomes so important late in ballgames. Carolina has to be able to hit their free throws down the stretch in order to win not only this game but the rest of the games they will play in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

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Tags: ACC Basketball ACC Tournament Basketball North Carolina Tar Heels

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