top of page

Heel Tough Blog: Battle 4 Atlantis- Arkansas Preview

Kevin Jairaj- USA Today Sports

The Tar Heels will put a bow on their trip to the Bahamas on Friday when they face their first ranked opponent of the season, the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Tar Heels can still salvage this week with a win in this one, but it won’t be easy.

Eric Musselman’s crew has lost two of their last three and had to survive in double-overtime in their one win during this stretch. They will be desperate to avoid another loss, especially with Duke coming to town on Wednesday night, so the Tar Heels could be in for a battle here. The Razorbacks have a ton of talent again this season, most of which they found in the transfer portal. Temple transfer Khalif Battle leads the team in scoring off the bench and Houston transfer Tramon Mack sits right behind him as the team’s second-leading scorer. Louisville transfer El Ellis is another offensive weapon for them and is one that the Tar Heels are very familiar with. These three transfers combine with preseason first team All-SEC big man Trevon Brazile, who will be another tough matchup for Armando Bacot and the Tar Heel bigs, and second team guard Davonte Davis to form one of the better rosters on paper in the SEC this season.

The Tar Heels will be looking to put their first loss of the season from Thursday behind them and pick up their first signature win of the season. Veteran holdovers Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis started the season out strong, but haven’t been nearly as impactful as they were in the first three games of the season here in Nassau. They will look to get themselves back into a rhythm in this one before the team hits the hardest part of their non-conference, which starts Wednesday night in the Smith Center against Tennessee. The supporting cast has done a good job around them on the offensive end in this tournament. Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram has been outstanding, especially on Thursday, when he dropped 20 points on 6-8 shooting and 4-5 from beyond the arc. Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan has also found his groove in Atlantis with back-to-back games of 15 or more points. Unfortunately, his status is up in the air after he rolled his right ankle pretty badly in the final seconds of overtime off the intentionally missed free throw. If he can’t play, that could open the door for freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau who has been playing some solid ball out of the gate and had a career-best performance in the opener of this tournament against Northern Iowa on Wednesday. This Tar Heels team remains one of the deepest in the country right now after playing eleven different players on Thursday. That depth will be needed again on Friday against an Arkansas team that goes nine deep themselves.

  1. Avoid Fouling: The Tar Heels entered this tournament allowing 7.7 free throw attempts per game, the fourth-best mark in the country to that point. However, in this tournament, they are allowing an average of 29 foul shots a game to their first two opponents. It’s a task much easier said than done with how tightly this tournament has been called, but it is crucial for the Tar Heels to defend without fouling. Arkansas leads the country in free attempts per game so far this year, so the Tar Heels will have their work cut out for them.

  2. Get Bacot and Davis in Rhythm: The Tar Heels two veteran stars have each had their struggles in Nassau and today needs to be the day they break out. Davis scored 23 points in yesterday’s game but was just 8-22 from the field in the process. So far in the tournament, Davis is shooting it at 36.3%, well below his percentage from the first three games of the season. As for Bacot, he came into the tournament having scored 21 or more points in each of the first three games and shooting 61% from the field. In Atlantis, Bacot has just 18 points combined in the first two games and is shooting just 39%. The Tar Heels need both of these guys to return to their early season form today if they want to beat this talented Arkansas team.

  3. Force Turnovers: The Razorbacks have lost the turnover battle in just two games this season and both of them have resulted in losses. They turned it over a season-high 18 times on Thursday against Memphis which into 27 points for the Tigers. If the Tar Heels can force turnovers anywhere near the level that Memphis did, their pace could make it a long afternoon for the Razorbacks.

Battle 4 Atlantis History:

This is Carolina’s third time competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, having finished 5th back in 2014, and third in 2019. This actually marks the second time Armando Bacot has participated in the event where he averaged a double-double back in 2019.

Opponent History:

Carolina is 7-3 all-time against the Razorbacks. The Tar Heels have won the last four matchups, all under head coach Roy Williams. /The two team’s last meeting actually came in a Feast Week tournament, with the Tar Heels prevailing 87-68 in the PK80 Tournament back in 2017. That wasn’t the only matchup the two teams have had in a holiday tournament, as the Tar Heels won the matchup in the 1980 Great Alaska Shootout 64-58. Interestingly, all but one of the matchups with the Razorbacks have come in a neutral site.

Ken Pom:

North Carolina - 16th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.1 (16th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.9 (27th) 

Arkansas - 38th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.7 (39th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.7 (40th)

TV Info: Today’s game will tip at 1:00 PM on ESPN.

The Four Corners Podcast:


bottom of page