UNC Basketball: From Harvard To Arkansas


#4 Chapel Hill narrowly escaped Thursday. They came within two points of falling prey to #13 Harvard and the Crimsons’ cinderella vision.  The Tar Heels weathered a four-point play, a deficit with 75 seconds remaining and two potentially dream-ending, rim-rattling Harvard misses. A win is a win but whoa. That was close. Here is the main lesson must UNC learn from Thursday’s victory in order to build March Madness momentum against Arkansas Sunday.

Lessons #1 Through #100: Defend Scorers Faster

UNC did an awful job stopping Harvard’s Wesley Saunders. The 6’5″ senior guard lit up the Tar Heels to the tune of 26 points. Now the percentages he was laying down weren’t remarkable or head scratching: a 57% field goal percentage, 66% from three and 89% from the free-throw line.

These numbers were good but nothing unheard of. So what gives? Well, what gives is how many different ways UNC allowed him to score. The man had 16 points from the field, 6 points from three and 8 from the free throw line. He also had 17 first-half points.

Besides Siyani Chambers’ decent 13 point production, Harvard’s other 6 players only managed to combine for 26 points—averaging to only 4.3 points per person. Saunders carried the Crimsons. UNC can’t continue allowing that trend to continue.

#5 Arkansas has scorers. Regular season averages list 6’11” forward Bobby Portis at 18 points, 9 rebounds and 6’6’’ guard Michael Qualls at 16 points, 5 rebounds per game.

So what about in their tourney win against #12 Wofford? Qualls dropped 20 on the Terriers. Portis didn’t disappoint with 16 rebounds to match his 15 points. And while Arkansas survived a nail-biter like Carolina, both stars played large.

Those stars will likely play large on Sunday. It’s up to UNC to hone on those two specific guys. What does that mean?

It means Kennedy Meeks must keep Arkansas’ Bobby Portis off the block. Portis can’t be allowed to get position low in the paint or it’s bad news for UNC. This also includes long-armed swing forwards like Justin Jackson, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto to keep their arms out and clog the lane. Don’t make it easy for the Razorbacks to bounce an entry-pass to Bobby in the post.

Chapel Hill must also keep an eye on Michael Qualls. This high-percentage shooter went 8-for-9 from the field, 2-for-2 from three and 2-for-3 from the charity stripe. He’s dangerous.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

How does UNC slow down Qualls? It’s simple—make him uncomfortable. A shooter is a creature of habit. Get in his head and shake up routine.

Play physical—legal but physical. When he comes down the lane, don’t play around with hand slaps. Qualls can still shoot before landing and make easy three-point plays. These are huge for momentum junkies AKA shooters. Yank down arms on layups, chest him during every drive and most of all, make him uncomfortable. This is especially important during the early first half. A confident shooter is normally an accurate one and UNC can’t afford to let Michael heat up.

Chapel Hill will turn their offense around. This is a given. Especially being a fast-break squad, defensive stop will translate to easy buckets. To continue dancing though, stopping Arkansas’ big players has to be UNC’s primary focus.