The Tar Heels return to action tonight in one of the toughest venues in all of college basketball, as they’ll take on #10 Indiana, in Assembly Hall. It wasn’t the most pleasant Thanksgiving for Carolina, as they lost back-to-back games in Portland, and as a result, lost their #1 ranking. On Monday, UNC checked in at #18, dropping 17 spots, the largest drop in the history of the AP poll. As tough as last weekend was, nobody is going to feel sorry for them, and the only way to respond is to win.
Indiana enters as a perfect 6-0 team, as Mike Woodson has returned his alma mater to the top of the Big 10, and college basketball. They are led by All-American candidate Trayce Jackson-Davis, who averages 18.8 points, and 8.0 rebounds, all while shooting 76% from the field. Xavier Johnson and Malik Reneau are the other Hoosiers that are currently averaging double figures scoring. Overall, Indiana has eight players that average 7.5 points or better, as they boast the #8 scoring offense in all of college basketball. Not only do they score the ball, but they also do so in an efficient manner, as they are shooting 56% overall from the field which is second in the country, and 63% from inside the three-point line, which is fifth.
Not only did UNC lose games to Iowa State and Alabama, they got beat up in the process, as both Leaky Black and Armando Bacot exited the Alabama game with separate injuries. Hubert Davis said on Tuesday, he expects both to play tonight, which is good news for UNC, as they are struggling to get any production from their bench.
Carolina is seeking a win to get them back on the right track and start building some confidence. This is a team that right now is looking for answers in November, and that wasn’t the expectation upon entering the season preseason ranked #1, and the favorite to win the national championship. The Heels have been here in the past, in seasons where they would go on to win national championships. Here’s how they get the job done tonight:
Defense: Indiana might be the best offensive team Carolina sees all season long, which means they’ll need to be at their best defensively. Mike Woodson has brought his NBA philosophies to the college game, and it has meshed well so far in Bloomington. Indiana can score at all three levels and will use a mixture of isolation situations for Jackson-Davis while screening shooters open behind the three-point line. In Portland, UNC let all of its opponents shoot 38% or better from behind the arc, if that happens in this game, it will be a long night for Carolina. Expect to see Leaky Black on Jackson-Davis, which means the guards need to contain the ball on the perimeter, and Armando Bacot needs to man the lane.
Halfcourt Offense: In the four overtimes against Alabama, UNC didn’t get much out of its offense in the halfcourt, and that was a big reason why they ultimately lost the game. Hubert Davis put the ball in the hands of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, after not being to trust Bacot or Pete Nance to not turn it over. Shot selection continues to be an issue for Love, and shots aren’t falling for Davis. Brady Manek was the guy that connected Carolina’s offense last season, and right now his absence is looming larger than we probably expected. With that, this team needs to get back to playing team-oriented offense, and getting Bacot more touches, while getting Nance more comfortable.
Rebounding: Carolina has been out-rebounded in three of the first seven games of the season, which isn’t normal. While they have been rounding into form, this will be imperative in tonight’s game, as that’s the best way for them to control the tempo. There aren't many times that Carolina goes into a game afraid to play in the open court, but right now that might not be the best idea, considering all the issues on the offensive end of the floor. They also need to crash the offensive glass, in an attempt to wear down the Hoosiers. It will need to be a total team effort.
Series History: UNC is only 6-9 all-time against Indiana, but is 2-2 in historic Assembly Hall. The last time UNC was in Bloomington they lost 76-67, in a season where they would go on to win the national championship. In the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, UNC is 1-3 against Indiana, having won in the 2004-05 season, while losing in the 2001-02, 2012-13, and 2016-17 seasons
UNC in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge: Carolina is 11-12 all-time in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, and they are only 3-7 on the road. This will be the fifth they’ve played IU in the event, tied for the most with Michigan State.
North Carolina - 22nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.2 (11th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.8 (46th)
Indiana - 10th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.3 (14th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 89.1 (12th)
TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip at 9:15 on ESPN.
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