UNC vs Wisconsin: Things to Watch For


Mar 13, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA; North Virginia Cavaliers guard Justin Anderson (1) and forward Evan Nolte (11) walk off the court as Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) celebrates in the second half during the semifinals of the ACC Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. The North Carolina Tar Heels won 71-67. Mandatory Credit: Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night the 4th seeded North Carolina Tar Heels will face their stiffest challenge of the NCAA Tournament thus far, when they do battle with the #1 seeded Wisconsin Badgers. Many of the “experts” are going with Wisconsin in this game but I for one believe the Tar Heels have a real shot at stealing this showdown at Staples Center. With that being said, here’s a few things to keep an eye on while enjoying this sweet 16 matchup.

Who will guard Frank Kaminsky?

The Badgers All-American big man is not only the teams leading scorer and rebounder (18.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game) but he’s also the Big Ten champs most versatile player. Although Frank is 7’0 234 lbs, he spends a decent amount of time on the perimeter, so whichever of the Carolina players draws that assignment will have his work cut out for himself.

When the hobbled Kennedy Meeks has to check Frank, expect him to start outside and attack the basket off the dribble. If Brice Johnson or Isaiah Hicks has to guard Kaminsky, he’ll likely try to do his damage in the post. Know one should expect UNC to stop Frank ” The Tank,” but banging on him with three or four different bodies should slow him down and maybe even wear him down by the end of the game.

Can UNC control the tempo?

This isn’t your grandfathers Wisconsin teams who loved sucking the life out of a basketball game – with that being said, they still want to play at a slower pace than Carolina. So if UNC has realistic plans on winning this game, it has to be played in the 70’s or 80’s opposed to the 50’s or 60’s.

Don’t get me wrong, the Badgers can get out and run when they have too, but they can’t beat Carolina playing that style. On the other hand, the Tar Heels don’t want to get into a grind it out, possession for possession game with Wisconsin because they can’t win that way. The main reason the Heels would probably struggle in a game like that? They turn the ball over too much and they’re not at their best executing in the half court consistently. Bottom line, UNC needs to turn this game into a track meet. If they can’t, their chances of winning will greatly decrease.

Brice Johnson

The Tar Heels have made to the Sweet 16 with very little offense punch from Brice Johnson. If they plan on going any further, the Heels will no doubt need a big performance from Brice. The junior forward has scored a total of 14 points in two tournament games and if it’s more of the same versus Wisconsin… well, we know how that will end.

Marcus Paige is the undisputed heart and soul of this squad but Brice is UNC’s best offensive player and something is telling me his best is yet to come. Thursday night I’m expecting big things from Johnson. If he can come out and set the tone offensively, it should take some pressure from his teammates and take some of Wisconsin’s attention off of Marcus Paige. Should Brice finish with 16-20 points and eight plus rebounds, the chances of a Tar Heel upset go way up.


More from North Carolina Tar Heels

Throughout the season Carolina has shot itself in the foot with silly turnovers. In this contest, the Tar Heels must keep the turnovers to a minimum or their stay in L.A. will be a short one. In UNC’s previous two tournament games we’ve seen how the turnovers have hurt this team. Against Harvard, the Heels had 17 turnovers and that was a huge reason that game was a nail bitter. Versus Arkansas, Carolina had 16 miscues, but they forced 21 so the turnovers didn’t kill them. Even so, 16 turnovers is too many.

Wisconsin is a good defensive team but they don’t put a ton of pressure on the ball so it will come down to the Heels being crisp with their passes and making passes to the right person at the right time. Should boys from Chapel Hill keep their turnovers at 12 or under, they’ll give themselves a great chance to win this game. Carolina is playing well on both ends and that makes them real threat to Wisconsin. The Badgers are really good by themselves but if you turn the ball over 15 plus times against them, they are unbeatable.