NCAA March Madness Preview – North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina Tar Heels

ACC (27-7, 14-4)

 by Joel Welser

Following their disappointing loss to Villanova in the national championship game, North Carolina will look to take one more step and claim another title. With an ACC title under their belt, this group has the talent and experience, which is not always the case with Tar Heel squads, to make it happen in 2017.

Big Wins: 1/14 Florida State (96-83), 2/18 Virginia (65-41), 2/22 Louisville (74-63)

Bad Losses: 11/30 at Indiana (67-76), 12/31 at Georgia Tech (63-75), 1/28 at Miami FL (62-77)

Coach: Roy Williams

Why They Can Surprise:

North Carolina does a lot of things well, but what they do best is crash the glass. It helps that Coach Roy Williams has a lot of size in his starting five. Theo Pinson, who is 6-6, and Justin Jackson, at 6-8, start on the wing. Pinson and Jackson usually matchup with players who struggle to deal with their size and athleticism. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are the bruisers in the paint. Meeks is one of the best rebounders in the country and averages 9.1 per game. This team will get a lot of second chance points from their willingness to hit the offensive glass and that can be extremely demoralizing for the opposition. It also leads to plenty of points and few teams have had any luck slowing down this offense.

Why They Can Disappoint:

The two things that can slow down the Tar Heels offense are turnovers and poor shooting. Much of that comes down to Joel Berry II. The junior point guard has done a very good job setting up his teammates and scoring himself, but it is his job to make sure the North Carolina offense stays under control and works through Hicks and Meeks in the paint. Along with Jackson, Berry is this team’s three-point shooting threat as well. The season ending injury to Kenny Williams has really limited North Carolina’s shooters. Nate Britt is basically the only shooter on the bench and if Jackson and Berry are struggling with their shots, Britt better be ready to come in and knock down some shots and help stretch the defense.

North Carolina is not a team that is going to rely heavily on three-pointers, but they do need to make some. The loss of Williams has also hurt the overall depth. Coach Williams will still make his line switches by bringing in four or five new players at a time, but not all those players are going to stay in the game very long since this group really only goes eight deep, not nine or ten.

Probable Starters:

Joel Berry II, Junior, Guard, 14.8 ppg, 3.7 apg

Theo Pinson, Junior, Forward, 6.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 4.5 rpg

Justin Jackson, Junior, Forward, 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.7 apg

Isaiah Hicks, Senior, Forward, 12.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Kennedy Meeks, Senior, Forward, 12.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg

Key Role Players:

Luke Maye, Sophomore, Forward, 4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Tony Bradley, Freshman, Forward, 7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Nate Britt, Senior, Guard, 4.5 ppg, 2.3 apg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 85.2 (11th in nation, 1st in conference)

Scoring Defense: 70.5 (128, 7)

Field-Goal Percentage: 47.2 (43, 4)

Field-Goal Defense: 41.6 (62, 6)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (181, 9)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.0 (84, 8)

Free-Throw Percentage: 70.0 (176, 11)

Rebound Margin: 13.0 (1, 1)

Assists Per Game: 18.0 (4, 1)

Turnovers Per Game: 12.0 (73, 8)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2016    NCAA Round of 64 win over Florida Gulf Coast

2016    NCAA Round of 32 win over Providence

2016    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Indiana

2016    NCAA Regional Final win over Notre Dame

2016    NCAA National Semifinal win over Syracuse

2016    NCAA National Final loss to Villanova

2015    NCAA Round of 64 win over Harvard

2015    NCAA Round of 32 win over Arkansas

2015    NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Wisconsin

2014    NCAA Round of 64 win over Providence

2014    NCAA Round of 32 loss to Iowa State

2013    NCAA Round of 64 win over Villanova

2013    NCAA Round of 32 loss to Kansas

2012    NCAA Round of 64 win over Vermont

2012    NCAA Round of 32 win over Creighton

2012    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Ohio

2012    NCAA Regional Final loss to Kansas

2011    NCAA Round of 64 win over Long Island

2011    NCAA Round of 32 win over Washington

2011    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Marquette

2011    NCAA Regional Final loss to Kentucky

2010    NIT     First Round win over William & Mary

2010    NIT     Second Round win over Mississippi State

2010    NIT     Quarterfinal win over UAB

2010    NIT     Semifinal win over Rhode Island

2010    NIT     Final loss to Dayton

2009    NCAA Round of 64 win over Radford

2009    NCAA Round of 32 win over LSU

2009    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Gonzaga

2009    NCAA Regional Final win over Oklahoma

2009    NCAA National Semifinal win over Villanova

2009    NCAA National Final win over Michigan State

2008    NCAA Round of 64 win over Mount St. Mary’s

2008    NCAA Round of 32 win over Arkansas

2008    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Washington State

2008    NCAA Regional Final win over Louisville

2008    NCAA National Semifinal loss to Kansas

2007    NCAA Round of 64 win over Eastern Kentucky

2007    NCAA Round of 32 win over Michigan State

2007    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over USC

2007    NCAA Regional Final loss to Georgetown

*all team stats through 3/5

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