Friday, March 23, 2012

UNC vs. Ohio: Three keys for the Tar Heels

ST. LOUIS — Won’t be long now, folks. North Carolina’s game here against Ohio in the NCAA tournament Midwest regional semifinals will begin in about four hours at the Edward Jones Dome. The Tar Heels will attempt to advance to the regional finals, where they’d play either Kansas or N.C. State.
But first, three keys for top-seeded UNC against No. 13 Ohio:

First …
Avoid turnovers, especially in the backcourt. It’s unlikely that Kendall Marshall, the sophomore point guard who sustained a broken right wrist in UNC’s victory against Creighton on Sunday, will play tonight. In his absence the Tar Heels will rely on Stilman White and Justin Watts to handle the bulk of the point guard duties.

White, Watts and whomever else might be handling the ball for UNC will face a difficult test tonight. Ohio plays an aggressive defense, and specializes pressure in the backcourt. You can bet the Bobcats will try to increase that pressure tonight.

Ohio has forced turnovers on 25.8 percent of its opponents possessions, which among the best ratios in the nation. Ohio ranks third nationally in steals, with 334, and it’s a team that does a great job of getting into the passing lanes and making it uncomfortable for opposing teams to settle into their offense.

Second …
The Big Three must come up, well … big. Without Marshall, there will be more pressure on Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller. And none of them can avoid an off game tonight.

The frontcourt is one area where UNC has a clear advantage, both in talent and size. Ohio won’t start a player taller 6-foot-8, and the Bobcats won’t have a defensive answer for Henson and Zeller on the interior. Barnes, meanwhile, can create mismatches because of his versatile skill set.

Before his injury, Marshall had proven to be a capable scorer. So when Barnes, Zeller or Henson – or any combination of the three – struggled offensively, Marshall could mitigate the damage with scoring of his own. But Marshall isn’t likely to be on the court tonight, of course, and UNC can’t afford unproductive games from the big three.

It’s almost a given that Zeller and Henson will have successful games, given their physical advantages, but Barnes could be the x-factor. We’ve been waiting a while for Barnes to break out and completely dominate a game. Now would be a good time.

Third …
Guard against the 3-point shot while making 3-pointers on offense. There are two ways Ohio can win this game: The Bobcats either need to force a lot of turnovers, limiting UNC’s field goal attempts. Or Ohio needs to shoot well from behind the 3-point line. Of course, the Bobcats will try to do both tonight.

Ohio this season is averaging 21 3-point attempts per game, and the Bobcats on average make seven of those. They were 9-of-18 in their victory against USF in the third round of the tournament and Ohio is likely to try to use the 3-point shot tonight to offset its disadvantage on the interior.

UNC did a good job defending the perimeter against Creighton, and the Heels need that kind of defensive performance again. Conversely, the Tar Heels need to make 3-pointers of their own. If the Heels are making 3s, that means Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston are having an impact – and that’s a good thing given the load that Barnes, Henson and Zeller will shoulder.

Almost game time now.
-Andrew Carter


Anonymous said...

Sweet OT win vs. a 13 seed...even the most delusional Walmart Heels can't like their chances vs. Kansas, Syracuse, and Kentucky back-to-back-to-back.

pay per head services said...

those three keys or main reasons why UNC won the game are very precise, but I would or I could add a couple or even three more