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Heel Tough Blog: Jumpman Invitational - Oklahoma Preview


Universitty of North Carolina Athletics - Maggie Hobson

Tonight in the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC, the Tar Heels will play their fifth-ranked opponent in their last six games, as they face the undefeated, #7 Oklahoma Sooners, in the Jumpman Invitational. Carolina has lost back-to-back games against blue blood programs in UConn and Kentucky and needs a win tonight to steady the ship going into the Christmas holiday. 


It took some time, but Porter Moser has replicated the success in Norman that he had at Loyola-Chicago, where he led the Ramblers to a Final Four, and two Sweet Sixteens. The Sooners have vaulted themselves from unranked in the preseason, to a top-10 ten team that looks more than capable of competing in the Big 12, which happens to be the best basketball conference in the country at the moment. Otege Oweh leads them in scoring at 14.9 points per game, on 67% shooting from the field, and 75% from behind the arc. What makes Oklahoma so hard to guard is that they have six players averaging at least 8 points per game, and eight players that average at least 7 points per game, meaning you have to account for every player they put on the floor. Furthermore, this team gets after it on the defensive end, as teams are shooting just 26% from behind the arc against OU, the sixth lowest percentage in the country, and they are allowing 61.3 points per game, the 14th fewest in all of college basketball. 


This is the end of the road for one of the toughest stretches in Carolina Basketball history, as they’ve never played five ranked opponents in a six-game stretch. The best part about this stretch of games is that Carolina has seen a different style in every one of them, something that should pay dividends as the season moves along. But after back-to-back losses, there is pressure to avoid a three-game losing streak heading into the holiday break, especially if this team has serious hopes of competing for an ACC championship. 


  1. Create Transition Opportunities: Given how well Oklahoma defends in the half-court, Carolina is going to need to create some easy buckets in transition, to really open up its offense. They scored 15 in the loss to Kentucky on Saturday, a number that would typically lead you to believe they came away victorious. There has been a greater sense of urgency to get the ball up the court and into their primary break offense early in the season, and that needs to be on display tonight because if not, Carolina will have to earn every basket the hard way, something that hasn’t led to success in the first 10 games of the season. 

  2. Defend. Defend. Defend.: Despite giving up 87 points to Kentucky, they held the explosive Wildcats to 42% shooting from the field, including 33% from behind the arc. Those types of shooting numbers need to be replicated in this game. What makes Oklahoma so hard to guard, is that you have to account for every player that’s on the court at any given time. Even against UConn or Kentucky, there was usually one guy on the floor who didn’t scare you on that end of the floor, but that’s not the case with this OU team. When you have six players averaging at least 8 points per game, and eight players averaging 7 points per game, there will be constant pressure on you defensively. Carolina needs to communicate as well as it has all season, rotate as well they have all season, and be locked in from the opening tip onward. 

  3. Rebound: Armando Bacot totaled just 6 rebounds in the loss on Saturday, as Carolina lost the rebounding battle 42-32, including getting overwhelmed on the offensive glass, 18-6. Bacot has had a knack for putting together his best games in big moments but has fallen well short of that here recently. He needs to control the blackboard all game long but needs help from his teammates. R.J. Davis led the team with 7 boards the other day, but this team needs more from Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan in that department. Oklahoma only allows 4.0 offensive rebounds per game, the 4th the fewest of any team in college basketball, and just 29.7 total rebounds, the 10th fewest in the country. Carolina has its work cut out for them, but they need to answer the call and rebound the basketball the way a Carolina team is expected to. 


Series History:

  • Carolina is 3-0 all-time against Oklahoma, and all three previous matchups have come on neutral courts. The last matchup was in the 2009 South Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament, a 72-60 win for UNC on their way to the national championship. The only regular season contest happened back in 1982 when Michael Jordan led Carolina to victory in the Rainbow Classic. 


Jumpman Invitational History:

  • Carolina is 1-0 all-time in the Jumpman Invitational, after beating Michigan in the inaugural matchup last year. 


UNC in Charlotte History:

  • The Tar Heels are not strangers to playing in the Queen City, where they are 165-27 all-time, including 15-2 in the Spectrum Center. 


KenPom:

  • North Carolina - 20th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.6 (10th). Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.5 (47th)

  • Oklahoma - 18th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.2 (32nd). Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.6 (9th) 


NET:

  • North Carolina - 37th. 

  • Oklahoma - 7th. 


TV Info: Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPN, with a scheduled tip time of 9 PM. 


The Four Corners Podcast: 





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