For the first time since 2018 Carolina has lost 3 consecutive games, and the first time since 2014, they find themselves not ranked. The season hasn't gone the way anyone has expected it to, but they don't have time to feel bad for themselves as the competition isn't getting any easier, as they've headed west this week. Tonight they'll take on a familiar foe in Gonzaga, a team they played in the 2017 national title game, and last year the Bulldogs made the trip to Chapel Hill, a 103-90 win for the Tar Heels.
As you can expect, Gonzaga is one of the best teams in college basketball. This is nothing new as Mark Few has built a powerhouse of program in Spokane. They enter tonight's match-up with the nation's #2 ranking, with a 11-1 mark on the season. The Bulldogs feature a high scoring offense that averages over 85 points a game, which is 4th best in college basketball. They are led by Filip Petrusev and his 15.8 points, as he's one of 6 players that averages over double figures scoring the basketball. This is as efficient an offense Carolina will face all season long, as Gonzaga excels at shooting both inside the three point line, and from behind the arc. They aren't known for their defensive prowess, while they allow only 66 points, their defensive rating is 79th in the country.
Carolina will once again be without Cole Anthony, and Leaky Black figures to be a game time decision. You saw some positive things from the trio of guys that ran the offense in the Wofford loss, and the hope is that you can build off that heading into the game tonight. Simply put, Carolina needs to shoot the ball much better to have a chance to upset the #2 team in college basketball. Here are 3 things to watch tonight:
1. Inside Game: Gonzaga is one of the few teams in college basketball that can match up with the size of Carolina on the interior, and tonight will be no different. Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot both need to play to their capabilities to give Carolina a shot. Against Wofford Brooks had his best game of the season, while Armando struggled shooting just 2-14 from the field. With the team being without Anthony, and the perimeter offense lacking the offense needs to run through its bigs, but it needs both of them to play at a high level.
2. Production from Back Court: Roy Williams isn't asking a lot out of guy like K.J. Smith, or Jeremiah Francis but heeds them to give the team something when on the floor in the absence of Cole Anthony. Production isn't limited to only the guys at the point, Christian Keeling has to start scoring the basketball at the rate he did at Charleston Southern. If the production doesn't pick up, this offense will continue to struggle to score at the way we've grown accustom to over the Roy Williams era.
3, Forcing Turnovers: Carolina has struggled to force the opposition into making mistakes, to help get the offense out in transition. Gonzaga is one of the smarter teams in the country, so it's going to be a task to get them to commit turnovers, but it's imperative the Heels force them to do so. As bad as Carolina has been on the offensive end, ironically the turnaround for this team will have to take place on the defensive end.
Series History: As mentioned earlier, these teams have some history between them. Carolina is 3-1 all time against the Bulldogs, with 2 wins coming in the NCAA Tournament, including the 2017 national championship game. This is the first time the two teams have played in Spokane.
UNC: 37th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency- 106.9 ( 52nd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency- 91.1 ( 37th )
Gonzaga: 6th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency- 114.5 ( 3rd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency- 91.6 ( 41st )
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