UNC vs Lipscomb: Game preview, info, prediction and more

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Kenny Williams
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Kenny Williams /

2-seed North Carolina takes on 15th-seeded Lipscomb in Charlotte

The North Carolina Tar Heels fell shy of an ACC Tournament title on Saturday night, but still managed to do enough to earn a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina got placed in the West Region and will face the 15th-seeded Lipscomb Bison in its first round game. The Tar Heels will get an early afternoon start at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina to begin the tournament.

If the Tar Heels can win a couple of games in Charlotte, fans can look ahead to possible matchups with Michigan and Xavier in later rounds. And all things considered, North Carolina got a pretty favorable draw this season, particularly compared to past tournaments.

The NCAA Tournament is unpredictable, though, and almost anything can happen. Here’s a look at what UNC fans can expect during the Tar Heels’ first round matchup with Lipscomb.

One Lipscomb player to watch…

Garrison Mathews is Lipscomb’s leading scorer and top three-point shooter. He’s the player that North Carolina will have to focus a tremendous amount of attention on during the team’s first round matchup on Friday.

Mathews’ 22.1 points per game are six more than the team’s second-leading scorer. He also connects on nearly 80 percent of his free throws and averages a team-high 30.4 minutes per game.

He’s got good size at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, combined with terrific long-range shooting that falls just a hair shy of 39 percent.

He scored 20 or more points on 21 occasions this season. Four times during the 2017-18 season Mathews scored better than 30 points, including a 43-point outburst against Kennesaw State in early January.

The Tar Heels have multiple players with the adequate size and skill to guard Mathews. It’s likely that both Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams will spend some time guarding Mathews, trying to keep him at bay.

One UNC player to watch…

Theo Pinson is playing the best basketball of his career. And despite a couple of less impressive performances against Duke and Virginia, he’s still averaging 15 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game over his last nine.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – FEBRUARY 08: Theo Pinson /

He’s collected four double-doubles in those nine games after having just two in his first 26. His 4.8 assists per game lead the Tar Heels, and he’s second on the team in rebounds with 6.4 per game.

He’s improved his free throw percentage by 12 points since last year, and better than 20 percent since his freshman season. He’s become the Tar Heels’ best passer and facilitator, compiling a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio over the course of his senior season. And he’s arguably the team’s best slasher, too.

When he’s on his game and finding open teammates in good positions, the Tar Heels are much tougher to beat. Particularly when they’re knocking down outside shots. If those two things happen, look for the Tar Heels to enjoy another extended run in March.

Key to the game…

The three-point line. On both ends of the court.

Lipscomb is shooting just 33.1 percent from three-point range for the season. That’s tied for 275th in the nation. Let’s face it, though, the Tar Heels have made sub-par shooting teams look like ultra-efficient offensive units on multiple occasions this season.

North Carolina has to fight through screens and stay close to defensive assignments in order to limit some kind of legendary three-point shooting barrage in its first round game. And if Lipscomb starts hitting shots from long-range, it might be wise to help less and play tighter man-to-man.

On the other end of the court, North Carolina will need to knock down some threes of its own. Despite their ability to rebound the ball so well, the Tar Heels’ offense is much less effective when it becomes one-dimensional.

If Joel Berry, Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson can connect on some outside shots, the Tar Heels will be infinitely more difficult to beat in the early rounds of this tournament.

Last time they met…

North Carolina beat Lipscomb 80-66 in Chapel Hill on November 12th, 2010. It was the teams’ only meeting in their respective histories.

The Tar Heels’ 14-point home victory marked the first collegiate game for the nation’s No. 1 high school prospect, Harrison Barnes. The preseason Associated Press All-American played 27 minutes, scoring 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Junior center Tyler Zeller scored a team-high 15 points, while second-year big man John Henson added 10 points and 17 rebounds for the eighth-ranked Tar Heels.

Lipscomb was led by senior guard Josh Slater, who scored 21 points for the Bison.

Next: Tar Heels gear up for NCAA Tournament

What you need to know…

What? UNC, 25-10 vs. Lipscomb, 23-9
When? Friday, March 16th at 2:45 p.m. ET
Where? Spectrum Center – Charlotte, North Carolina
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-Time series? UNC leads 1-0
Prediction? UNC 91, Lipscomb 66