Things to Watch For vs. Arkansas


Both the #4 seeded Tar Heels and the #5 seeded Arkansas Razorbacks squeaked out one possession wins Thursday, March 19th against their respective so assumed “inferior” opponents.  But many underdogs came out on top in the second round of the NCAA tournament which featured cold-blooded, clutch, 30-foot shots that even got coaches falling out of their chairs, so to refer to 13-seeded Harvard and 12-seeded Wofford inferior is not exactly correct this time of year.

And this idea applies directly to the matchup between North Carolina and Arkansas Saturday, March 21st.

In fact, according to Andrew Carter of the News and Observer, the Tar Heels consider themselves lucky to say the least.

In the tweet above, Marcus Paige explained that the tournament seems to follow a team’s so-called “fate” when he tried to describe his emotions while Wesley Saunders’ three-point attempt in the dire seconds of the game was in the air.

"“You’ve got a million emotions and thoughts running through your mind other than trying to get the rebound,” Paige said. “It’s a situation you don’t want to be in a lot during the tournament because fate has a way of finding teams.”"

Marcus Paige scored 12 points and added 6 assists, and Justin Jackson added 14 points including the game-winning dunk in North Carolina’s win. And for the Razorbacks, luck certainly played a role in their win over Wofford Thursday night. With the score tied at 53 and 1:40 left in the second half, Arkansas’ Alandise Harris converted an and-one to put the Razorbacks up by 3.  And in the final seconds, Wofford had two good looks from three to tie it up but both shots rimmed in an out. So from a luck standpoint, both teams can consider themselves even.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

March Madness always provides reasons to watch a particular game.  And knowing the Tar Heels, there is really only one thing to watch for as the biggest game of the season gets more important each week. North Carolina consistently controls the boards and points in the paint, outscoring Harvard 36-22 Thursday, and they always have trouble taking care of the ball.  Harvard outscored North Carolina 29-6 off turnovers Thursday – the most the Heels have allowed in a game the last four seasons.  So if there are any deviations from these trends they could have some effect on the game.

But ultimately, it comes down to one thing.  It’s so simple and easy theoretically that it drives North Carolina fans mad when their team looks to be collapsing right before their eyes.  For the Heels to be successful Saturday against Arkansas, they will have to continue their level of play from the beginning to the end of the game. This North Carolina team shows flashes of brilliance.  And considering the size, talent, and leadership that is present on this squad, it shouldn’t come to much of a surprise. But yet it is, mainly because of what we here at Keeping It Heel call the “dead spells” North Carolina experiences.

And these dead spells can happen anytime during the game, but are never more present than down the stretch when Carolina is forced to close out a game against a tough opponent.  So if there is anything to watch for, it would be how North Carolina’s game changes in terms of offensive tempo, defensive aggressiveness, and overall focus as the game goes on.

And if this third round matchup stays close for the majority of the game, I guess the fates of both teams will come down to who’s luck is stronger.  But if it gets to this point, it is completely in the hands of the March Madness magic.