The first full week of December is the annual ACC/Big 10 challenge, and despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the tradition continues this season. This year Carolina is on the road, as they’ll take on the #I3 Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Overall in the challenge, Carolina is just 10-11 all time, with all the wins coming under Roy Williams, who’s 10-7 in such challenge games as Carolina’s head coach.
This will be the first time we’ve seen the Tar Heels since their last second loss to Texas in the Maui Invitational final last week. As disappointing as the defeat was, Carolina improved in every game they played in Asheville, and that’s what matters with such a young group this season. The Tar Heels need more from ACC Preseason Player of the Year in Garrison Brooks, but his slow start has been leveled out with a deeper, more talented front-court. Both Caleb Love and R.J. Davis has given you glimpses of their potential, while making mistakes most freshmen make under Roy Williams.
The number beside Iowa’s name isn’t a joke, the Hawkeyes are legitimate Big 10 and Final Four contenders. They boast a high scoring offense, averaging 99 points per game, led by Luka Garza and his 34.7 points per game. Overall, the Hawkeyes put 4 players in double figures scoring, for an offense that shoots 50% from the field, including 39% from behind the three point line. Iowa is built a lot like Carolina historically, as they like to play inside-out, and they have a nice blend of experience and young talent on the perimeter.
This is the first trip to Iowa City since the 1989-90 season, when the Tar Heels lost 87-74. In the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, Carolina is just 3-6 on the road, and has lost the last two seasons in the event, to Michigan and Ohio State. Here’s what Carolina will have to do to secure a marquee victory on the road:
Rebound: This is always a key to success for the Tar Heels, but this will be their toughest test to date. Carolina has a rebound margin of 18 per game, which would shatter the school record at the rate they're going. But they haven’t competed against a team that has a big like Luka Garza. Not even Stanford and Texas are as physical as Iowa will be in this game on the interior. It’s unknown if Garrison Brooks will be available to go for tonight’s game, so that means Armando Bacot and the freshmen coming off the bench will have to play at a high level.
Make Perimeter Shots: There’s not a certain number of perimeter shots Carolina needs to make, but they need to connect on some triples. It’ll help soften up the defense, and open up driving lanes for Love and Davis to attack. They got good looks last week in Asheville, they just didn’t go in the basket. If Carolina is looking for the upset, they’ll need to make some perimeter shots.
Turnovers: Carolina was able to compete against Stanford and Texas, despite not valuing the basketball. If that happens tonight, they’ll get run out of the gym in a hurry. Roy Williams has been patient with his young players and the mistakes they’ve made in the young season, but that’ll last for so long. Live ball turnovers has been the biggest issues thus far. We’ll see if this apparent coachable team has learned from their mistakes from a week ago.
Free Throws: Lastly, Carolina has to be better from the foul line, from top to bottom. While you like seeing R.J. Davis be comfortable at the charity stripe, Carolina needs more from their veteran players when toeing the stripe. They were just 18-32 against the Longhorns, a big reason why they lost that game. A similar effort tonight, will make it that much harder to beat Iowa.
Series History: Iowa has had the Heels number, winning 3 of the 4 all time meetings, including a 60-55 win in Chapel Hill back in the 2014 ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Carolina’s lone win over the Hawkeyes came in the 2004 Maui Invitational final.
UNC - 14th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 108.7 (26th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 87.7 (14th)
Iowa - 11th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.5 (3rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.7 (71st)
TV Info: Tonight’s matchup will be televised on ESPN, with a tip time scheduled for 7:30
Tar Heel Sports Network: Coverage will start at 6:30 with the Reed’s Jewelers pregame show. Followed with the call with the Voice of the Tar Heels Jones Angell and Eric Montross.
Roy's Boys Podcast: