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Heel Tough Blog: Jumpman Invitational - Michigan Preview


WBTV.com


The Tar Heels return to the hardwood tonight in the final non-conference game of the 2022-23 season. The last time we saw Carolina, they came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half, to beat Ohio State 89-84 in overtime, as the team's biggest stars showed up while playing in the Mecca of basketball. That win improved Carolina’s record to 8-4, as they’ve won three straight games, following a four-game losing streak. It was also the first win against a top-25 team this season, which also serves as their first Quad 1 win of the year.


Michigan enters with a respectable 7-3 record, and like Carolina, it has taken them some time to figure out what type of team they are going to be this season. Two of their three losses have come against ranked competition, as they lost at home to Virginia 70-68, and lost to Kentucky on a neutral floor in London, 73-69. Their lone loss which doesn’t make much sense was an 87-62 defeat at the hands of Arizona State. They are led in scoring by the veteran center, Hunter Dickinson, who averages 19.1 points, and 8.4 rebounds. If not for NIL, Dickinson may have left Ann Arbor two seasons ago, but instead has been afforded the opportunity to stay in college, fully develop his game, while making some money, and earn his degree. Other players in double-figures are Jett Howard, the son of coach Juwan Howard, as Jett averages 15.5 points. The only other player in double figures is Kobe Bufkin, who averages 11.4 points.


This might be Carolina’s last non-conference game of the season, but Michigan is an opponent that the Heels have seen plenty since the 2017-18 season, including last year in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, where Hubert Davis secured his first signature win as UNC’s head coach. This matchup comes in the inaugural Jumpman Invitational, where Carolina will see Oklahoma and Florida in the coming years. With the event being in Charlotte, you can expect to see the Tar Heels well represented.


The hope is that the win over Ohio State was the win to jumpstart this season. A win tonight pushes their record to 9-4, which might be a little disappointing considering this team entered as the favorite to win the ACC and the national championship, but it could be worse had this team not turned the season around. Here’s how Carolina can keep the winning streak going:


  1. Win the Painted Area: We often talk about the best big men in the country often being Armando Bacot, Drew Timme from Gonzaga, or Oscar Tshiebwe from Kentucky, but Hunter Dickinson belongs in the same conversation. This is the best big that Armando Bacot has seen this season, so you can expect he’ll be motivated to play well. When Carolina has won the painted area, they usually win the game, when they lose that battle, that’s where the losses have come. While they’ll need to limit the potential dominance of Dickinson, they’ll need to keep the guards out of the painted area as well, as they thrive at getting downhill.

  2. Force Turnovers: Carolina scored 27 points off of Ohio State turnovers on Saturday, and that was a big reason why they were able to come back against the Buckeyes. This team is starting to form an identity on the defensive end of the floor, and forcing turnovers is starting to become a part of it. When they force turnovers, it opens up their fastbreak game, which is when Carolina is at its best. Expect to see Hubert Davis deploy the full-court press early and often tonight.

  3. Defend 3 Point Line: Michigan may only make eight triples per game, and may only average 24 attempts per game, but Carolina needs to be lockdown on the perimeter. As mentioned above, Michigan’s guard thrives at driving the lane, forcing the defense to collapse, if that happens, the same result as what happened against Iowa State isn’t out of the question.


Series History: Carolina is 5-4 all-time against the Wolverines, with the most notable win coming in the 1993 national championship game. Four of the nine previous meetings have come in the NCAA Tournament, where Carolina is 3-1. This is the fifth time in six seasons these two programs have met.


UNC in Charlotte: The Heels aren't strangers to playing in Charlotte given how many times they’ve played in the Queen City in the ACC or NCAA tournaments. Their overall record in Charlotte is 164-27. The last time Carolina was in Charlotte they lost to Duke in the 2019 ACC Tournament. Back in 1987, UNC took down Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, 109-97.


KenPom:


North Carolina - 19th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.7 (9th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.0 (56th)


Michigan - 46th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112.7 (24th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.1 (91st)


NET:


North Carolina - 24th.


Michigan - 85th.


TV Info: Tonight’s game will start at 7 PM on ESPN.


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