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Heel Tough Blog: ACC Tournament Semifinals - Pittsburgh Preview


Augusta Free Press

It’s a quick turnaround for Carolina Basketball, after advancing to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, Carolina will meet Pittsburgh, with a spot in the tournament final on the line. Carolina advanced in the ACC Tournament after routing Florida State yesterday in the quarterfinals, 92-67. The Heels were able to avoid a letdown after the win at Duke in the regular season finale last weekend and put together arguably their most dominant performance against an ACC team this season. With a win tonight, Carolina will advance to their first ACC Tournament final since 2018, when they lost to Virginia. 


Pittsburgh is looking to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and a win over UNC would do the trick. They defeated Wake Forest yesterday in a de facto elimination game for the Big Dance, and now find themselves a win away from not only a spot in the ACC Tournament final, but potentially an NCAA Tournament berth for a second straight season. Blake Hinson leads them in scoring at over 18 points per game, but he has help from Carlton Carrington who has been not only one of the best freshmen in the ACC but in all of college basketball, as he impacts the game as a scorer, rebounder and an passer. 


The two schools met in early January, a game in which Carolina won 70-57. If you remember, UNC failed to score in the first six and a half minutes, but were only down by six, before R.J. Davis hit a three-pointer. This was the start of Carolina’s turnaround defensively, and emergence as one of the best rebounding teams in all of college basketball. Pittsburgh shot 30% from the field, and 17% from behind the arc, something Carolina will look to recreate later tonight. 


There’s something special about playing in the ACC Tournament on a Friday night, no matter the location, and tonight figures to be a great environment, after Carolina fans showed up and showed out yesterday. A win tonight, not only earns Carolina a spot in the final but keeps them in the hunt for the final #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s how Carolina can beat Pittsburgh for a second time this season, and in the process, potentially ruin their NCAA Tournament hopes: 


  1. Match Their Physicality: A stape of Jeff Capel’s program is that they are going to play as tough as any team in the country, and won’t be afraid to turn the game into a blood bath. This UNC team has had an edge all season long, and they’ll need that edge to show up in a big way today. 

  2. Limit Blake Hinson: In the first matchup, Hinson scored 11 points, and was 4-16 from the field, and 2-11 from behind the arc. Carolina used a multitude of different defenders to wear him down, and that will be the plan again tonight. He averages over 18 points per game and is more than capable of carrying Pittsburgh to a win. Expect to see Cormac Ryan start on him, but see a rotation between him, Withers, Ingram, Trimble, and others to take him out of the rhythm and flow of the game. 

  3. Rebounding: Carolina won the rebounding battle back in January 51-41, and while it’s hard to expect them to get that many rebounds, the importance of winning the rebounding battle isn’t lessened. If Carolina controls the glass, it means they control the pace and tempo of the game. Pittsburgh isn’t built to run with UNC, so if they dominate the glass, they can make the game a half-court one, and take away easy offense for Carolina. It was a total team effort in UNC’s win over Florida State yesterday, and that needs to be the case once again. 

KenPom:

  • North Carolina - 7th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.6 (22nd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.1 (5th) 

  • Pittsburgh - 40th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.3 (31st) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.9 (50th) 

NET:

  • North Carolina - 7th. 

  • Pittsburgh - 40th. 

TV Info:

  • Tonight’s game will tip at 7 PM on ESPN. 

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