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Heel Tough Blog: Louisville Preview



AP

After three straight road games to open the 2024 portion of the season, the Tar Heels will complete their two-game home stand tonight, when they host the Louisville Cardinals inside the Smith Center. Carolina is coming off a dominant win over Syracuse, to improve to 13-3, and 5-0 in the ACC. After a hectic week in college hoops last week, UNC is now ranked inside the top 5 in the AP Poll and is inside the top seven in both KenPom and the NET, the only ACC team to do so. While Carolina has played less than half of their games at home, they are 7-0 at the Dean Dome, and they are averaging over 91 points per game. 


After a disastrous first season under Kenny Payne last year, things haven’t gotten much better, as Louisville is 6-10, and 1-4 in the league. Last week, Louisville earned their first-ever road win under Payne, taking down Miami in an upset that isn’t going to help the reputation of the league in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee. This year alone, Louisville has lost to Arkansas State, DePaul, and Chattanooga. They are 232nd in the NET, the lowest in the ACC, and the third-lowest team from a power conference. Despite their struggles, they do have five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Mike James, and his 14.3 points per game. Those five guys that average double figures, combine to average to score 60 of the 74 points per game that team scores as a whole. 


This is an odd ACC game where Carolina has nothing to gain, but everything to lose. For all intents and purposes, this feels more like a non-conference game, than it does an ACC game, even with a 9 PM tip tonight. A win for Carolina would extend its win streak to seven games, and keep them undefeated in the ACC, while a loss, would cost Carolina at least one seed line come NCAA Tournament time. Here’s how Carolina can avoid the upset: 


  1. Be Ready to Play: In years past it would be hard to trust this team to not lose this game, given Carolina’s struggles at various different times. That doesn’t seem to be an issue so far this season, but Hubert Davis doesn’t need to let his team relax. It helps to have two fifth-year seniors in the starting lineup, along with R.J. Davis, to hold their teammates accountable if they don’t come out focused on the task at hand. I’m sure that they’ve been reminded all week long about Louisville’s win at Miami just a week ago, and a loss tonight would all but wipe away all the good they’ve done so far this season. Expect Carolina to jump on Louisville from the start, to help avoid what would be the worst loss of the Hubert Davis era. 

  2. Build Off Saturday: Carolina’s offense returned to normal against Syracuse, scoring over 100 points, and shooting nearly 50% from the field, It’s hard to ask them to score 100 points again in a conference game, but they need to build off the success they enjoyed on Saturday. Carolina did a fantastic job of feeding Armando Bacot on the inside, which opened up the rest of the offense. Louisville gives up over 76 points per game, and their two-point defense is among the worst of any power conference team, meaning Carolina should play inside-out, and hope it overwhelms one of the worst defensive teams Carolina will play all season long. 

  3. Limit Turnovers: The easiest way to keep Louisville in the game, is by turning it over more often than not. This comes back to being ready to play, and also playing focused. Louisville will throw some different looks at Carolina just to give them something to think about, but at this point in the season, you’ve seen just about everything. If Carolina doesn’t turn it over, it’s hard to imagine Louisville having enough to keep up on the road. 


Series History: 

  • Carolina is 19-7 all-time against the Cardinals and is 10-4 against them since they joined the ACC. In the Smith Center, Carolina is 5-1 against Louisville and has won the last four games in the series.

KenPom:

  • North Carolina - 6th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.9 (15th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.1 (5th)

  • Louisville - 192nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.7 (173rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 107.9 (235th)

NET:

  • North Carolina - 7th. 

  • Louisville - 232nd. 


TV Info: Tonight’s game is set to tip at 9 PM on the ACC Network. 


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