The Tar Heels return to the basketball court tonight, against Charleston Southern, to close out non-conference play this season. Carolina played last Wednesday, when they took down then undefeated, and #7 Oklahoma, in the Spectrum Center. That win propelled Carolina back inside the top 10 of the AP Poll, the third week we’ve seen UNC be ranked inside the top 10.
Charleston Southern is the worst mid-major Carolina has played this season, as they are 4-8 so far. Three of those wins have come against Division II or worse competition, including a win over Johnson & Wales, a culinary school in Charlotte. With that in mind, their numbers are somewhat inflated, but they have four players averaging double figures scoring, led by RJ Johnson, and his 17.3 point per game average. Their three-point defense isn’t a fluke, as teams are making just 5.3 threes against (17th fewest in the NCAA), and teams are attempting 17.4 (20th fewest in the NCAA).
This is the first home game for Carolina, since the passing of former Tar Heel player, and broadcaster, Eric Montross. As you could expect, the program was going to honor him in a big way, and tonight’s broadcast will only feature play-by-play man Jones Angell, who will call the game with an empty seat beside him in honor of Montross.
Carolina has taken major strides forward in the non-conference portion of their schedule, earning multiple wins against ranked opponents, and playing potential national title contenders like UConn and Kentucky tough. Once the calendar turns, Carolina will start ACC play with three straight road games (Pittsburgh, Clemson, NC State), and this game offers Carolina a chance to fine-tune everything before a 19-game stretch of just ACC competition.
Build Off Defensive Performance Against Oklahoma: Against the Sooners, Carolina forced 18 turnovers, scored 24 points off those turnovers, and held Oklahoma to 40% shooting from the field, and 31% from behind the arc, proving that they can play well on that end of the court. While Charleston Southern does have four players averaging double figures scoring, against Division 1 competition, the Buccaneers are only scoring 62 points per game. When you look back at the Oklahoma game, Carolina may not have full-court pressed, but their pressure on the ball in the half-court forced many of those 18 turnovers. That same mindset needs to be on display tonight, as this is a game where Carolina’s size, length, and strength should overwhelm CSU.
Take Smart Perimeter Shots: There’s no denying that the Bucs are good at taking away the three-point for opponents, and Carolina doesn’t need to fall victim to their success in that particular area. Hubert Davis is still in search of more consistent perimeter scorers outside of R.J. Davis. History would suggest that eventually, Cormac Ryan will break out of his shooting slump, as he’s shooting just 29% from deep this season. Harrison Ingram is shooting over 40% from deep but may need to increase his volume for it to become more effective for his teammates.
Play Through Armando Bacot: The offense is going to go as R.J. Davis goes, but Carolina needs to get their big man the basketball early and often. As you could expect, CSU doesn’t have anyone who can match up with Bacot from a size perspective, meaning he needs to establish a presence on the block from the word go. When Bacot is active on the offensive end, it fuels him to be a better rebounder, and defender on the other end, and it allows him to control the game. That should be the case tonight, against an overmatched mid-major opponent.
This is the first-ever meeting between UNC and Charleston Southern, although the Bucs are the second Big South opponent the Tar Heels have played this year, after dispatching Radford 86-70 in the season opener.
North Carolina - 15th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.4 (10th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.4 (40th)
Charleston Southern - 339th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 96.5 (318th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 112.8 (338th)
North Carolina - 25th.
Charleston Southern - 339th.
Tonight’s game will start at 8 PM on the ACC Network.
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