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Heel Tough Blog: Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic Preview


We certainly learned about the Tar Heels on Tuesday night, as they escaped Charleston with a 94-83 win, their first win on the road under Hubert Davis. This weekend, we’re about to learn a whole lot more about Carolina, as they are competing in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, which consists of four teams that are all currently ranked. This is the first time Carolina has participated in the event, since the 2013-14 season, where they beat Richmond, before upsetting Louisville to win the event. If Carolina wants to prevail winners of this event once again, they’ll have to have a couple of upsets in them this weekend.


There aren’t many frontcourts that Carolina will see this season that the opponent has the upper hand, but that will be the case against the sixth ranked Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday. Matt Painter has four players on his roster, 6-9 or taller, including Zach Edey who stands at 7-4. Edey is leading the team in both scoring and rebounding, for a team that has legitimate Big Ten championship, and Final Four aspirations. Purdue has five players currently averaging double figures scoring, as they average 94.7 points per game, which is 10th nationally. In addition to their scoring prowess, the Boilermakers rebound the ball to the tune of 46.7 rebounds per contest, which ranks inside the top 20 nationally.


UNC - 51st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.5 (17th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.2 (108th)

Purdue - 4th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.9 (2nd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 89.2 (19th)

Series History: After dropping the first two games against the Boilermakers, Carolina has won the last 8, to hold an 8-2 edge all time. Ironically, like this meeting, the last three have come on neutral sites. The two schools have only played once on each other’s home floor.


The preseason pick to win the Big East, and a trendy pick to make the Final Four, and win the national championship, Villanova enters this event the most complete team, despite having a loss. That loss came to #2 UCLA on their home floor, so it’s nothing to scoff at, to say the least. The Wildcats are as experienced as any team in the country, headlined by Collin Gillespie, who is second on the team in scoring and leads the team in assists. Jay Wright’s squad currently has four players averaging 16 points per game, or more, as their offensive rating is third overall in college basketball. TV is desperately rooting for a rematch of the 2016 national championship game, where Villanova brokes Carolina’s heart with a game winning three as time expired.


UNC - 51st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.5 (17th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.2 (108th)

Villanova - 10th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.6 (3rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.3 (60th)


UNC has played the Volunteers recently, having beat Tennessee during the 2016-17 national championship season, and once more during the 2017-18 season. Both of those games were tough contests, as it didn’t matter what shade of orange Rick Barnes was coaching in, he was as good as anyone at giving Roy Williams’ teams fits. Tennessee enters this event, ranked 17th in the country, coming off blowout wins over Tennessee-Martin, and East Tennessee State. Led by Kennedy Chandler, the Vols are putting four players in double figures scoring, and they lead the country in offensive rebounds per game, at 21.0.


UNC - 51st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.5 (17th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.2 (108th)

Tennessee - 11th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.0 (20th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 87.7 (6th)

You’d love for Carolina to leave Connecticut with two wins, but a split here won’t be the worst thing. This is the first real test for not only the players this season, but Hubert Davis and his coaching staff. You play in these events to see where you stack up nationally and figure out what areas you need to improve before conference play starts next month. Here’s what to watch over the weekend:

  1. Guard Play: We’ve seen both Caleb Love and R.J. Davis have big games early this season, as they appeared to have taken the next step. Kerwin Walton even got involved in the win over College of Charleston, connecting on 4-6 three-pointers. This will be the first measuring stick for the backcourt, as they will be matched up against physical, experienced guards all weekend long. How will they respond? In Tuesday’s win over Charleston, both Love and Davis battled foul trouble, and turnovers in the first half, forcing Leaky Black to play significant minutes at the point guard position. That can’t happen this weekend if Carolina wants any chance of taking both games, let alone splitting. After not seeing Anthony Harris on Tuesday night, I have a feeling we’ll see him in both games this weekend.

  2. Containing the Dribble: After a summer spent on becoming a better defensive team, Carolina has struggled at times this season to simply stay in front of the ball. That’s not a good sign considering the competition they’ve faced. Against Purdue, you’re going to face a team that wants to get downhill and attack the basket. As for either Villanova or Tennessee, their guards are also downhill players that thrive on contact. We’ve seen Hubert Davis sprinkle in some zone defense from time to time this season, if Carolina can’t hold their own the perimeter, we might see more of that moving forward.

  3. How Does the Front Court Hold Up: This is a great test to see how Armando Bacot, Brady Manek, and Dawson Garcia can hold their own against teams with size, depth, etc. Purdue's size will be the biggest the Tar Heels will see before they play Florida State during the ACC season. As for Tennessee, they lead the country in offensive rebounding and will be relentless in their pursuit of them. With Villanova, Jay Wright uses his bigs, a lot like Hubert Davis wants to, putting them on the perimeter to increase floor spacing. Carolina has yet to have their trio all play well simultaneously, it would go a long way if they can have that happen in Uncasville.

TV Info: Saturday’s game will tip at 4 PM on ESPN News, and if Carolina wins they will play Sunday at 1:00 PM on ABC, if they lose, they’ll play at 3:30 PM on ESPN.

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