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Heel Tough Blog: Battle 4 Atlantis- Villanova Preview

Kevin Jairaj- USA Today Sports

For the first time since the 2016 national championship game, the Tar Heels will face the Villanova Wildcats on Thursday. The Tar Heels will hope to get a little revenge on the Wildcats and, in the process, advance to the Battle 4 Atlantis final.

The Wildcats are coming off their best win of the season so far on Wednesday when they ran away from the Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-69. The team’s two stars carried the load in that one and will be the toughest matchups for the Tar Heels today. Preseason first team All-Big East member Justin Moore leads the team in scoring and will want to bounce back yesterday’s inefficient showing while second team All-Big East member will look to build off his strong start to the tournament. Transfers TJ Bamba and Tyler Burton have provided nice support around these to standouts and Jordan Longino and Brendan Hausen have done a nice job of providing sparks off the bench.

The Tar Heels are entering this game off their best win of the season as well over Northern Iowa 91-69. It certainly wasn’t the most complete performance we’ll see from this team, but one of the best second halves that we’ve seen from this team in a long time. The hope is that the success in that second half from behind the arc can carry over into this game after a slow start to the season from beyond the arc. Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis will also be looking to bounce back from quiet days by their standards, while Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan will be hoping to build on productive starts to the tournament. Elliot Cadeau will hope to serve as the main spark off the bench and look to build off his best performance of the season. This game will serve as the first significant test of the season and should be the first step to telling us a lot about where this Tar Heel team is at heading into the heart of the non-conference season.

  1. Make Perimeter Shots: The Tar Heels were finally able to see some shots go down from beyond the arc in the second of the game yesterday, but the Wildcats know the struggles that the team has had in the first halves of the season. Don’t be shocked if the gameplan for them defensively is to force this Tar Heel team to beat them with their perimeter shooting. Carolina has been getting good looks from deep all year long and today should be no different. They have to be able to knock them down and bring those defenders out of the paint to open up the lane.

  2. Protect the Three Point Line: While the Tar Heels need to knock down their three-point shots, they need to take away those opportunities on the other end of the floor. Villanova comes in with more three-point attempts than two-point attempts so far this season, meaning they rely heavily on the outside shooting to win games. The Tar Heels need to do everything can to run them off the three-point line and make this team have to score the ball in other ways which has been difficult for them to do so far.

  3. Rebound: Villanova is far from the biggest team that the Tar Heels will face this season, but they are a really gritty team that rebounds at a pretty high level. The Tar Heels are no longer built to dominate on the glass, but they need to rebound better than they have early in the season if they want to win this one. If they can win the rebounding battle, it should be enough to send them to Friday’s final.

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:

The Tar Heels are 11-5 all-time against the Wildcats. The loss in 2016 was the first time in exactly 20 years since they had lost to them. The previous four matchups today all came in the NCAA Tournament with the Tar Heels going 3-1 in those matchups. This is the third time that the teams will meet in a Feast Week tournament, with both teams having a win against each other in the two Maui Invitational matchups.

Ken Pom:

North Carolina - 14th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.6 (16th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.1 (24th) 

Villanova - 20th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.6 (14th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.4 (47th)

TV Info: Today’s game will tip at 2:30 PM on ESPN.

The Four Corners Podcast:


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