Later tonight, Carolina will look to continue their run in the NCAA Tournament, when they take on #4 UCLA in the East Regional Semifinal. Carolina advanced to their record 30th Sweet 16, after routing Marquette. And upsetting #1 Baylor last weekend in Fort Worth. This will be the third time Carolina has competed in the Sweet 16 as an 8 seed, after doing it previously in 1990, and 2000.
UCLA enters with a 27-7 record, after going 15-5 in the Pac-12 during the regular season. They are led in scoring by Johnny Juzang and his 15.7 points per contest. The entire core of last year's team that made the Final Four is back, as they are trying to get back to the Final Four, and win a national championship. They advanced to the Sweet 16 after escaping Akron, before taking down Saint Mary’s. The win over Saint Mary’s came at a price though, as Jaime Jacquez had to leave the game with an ankle injury. After a week of speculation about his availability to play tonight or not, it does appear that Jacquez will be able to suit, which is a big lift for the Bruins.
After being ejected in the win over Baylor, Brady Manek won’t miss any action tonight, as Carolina will gladly welcome him back to the fold. Manek joined a list of Tar Heels to score 26 points in back-to-back NCAA Tournament games, which consists of the likes of Phil Ford, and Michael Jordan. With every time he steps on the court, could be his last in a Tar Heel uniform, it’s safe to say that the transfer isn’t ready for his Tar Heel career to come to an end.
While the officiating was questionable down the stretch of the win against Baylor, Carolina also made too many mental errors and missed too many free throws, which allowed the game to go to overtime. They can’t make those mistakes this weekend if they hope to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans next weekend. The good news is that this team playing as confident as anyone in the country, and with their newfound competitive spirit, are more than capable of beating any team left in the East Regional:
Tempo: Carolina is going to have to dictate the pace of the game tonight, to put themselves in the best position to win. UCLA wants no part of running up and down the floor with UNC and will do their best to make this a half-court game. Tyger Campbell is as good a point guard at playing to his individual strengths, as well as the strengths of his team. Carolina has fared well against teams that wanted to have limited possessions, in the likes of Virginia and Virginia Tech, but we can all agree that UCLA is a better team than those two, and the challenge will be much tougher tonight.
Dominate the Paint: UCLA has talent, and they have depth, but they don’t have the size you usually see a blue blood have. Cody Riley is their tallest player in the starting lineup at 6-9, and their tallest player off the bench is Myles Johnson who is 6-11. This sets up well for Armando Bacot to feast on the interior, something he had no problem doing against Marquette and Baylor. If Mando can control the painted area on both ends of the court, Carolina can wear down the smaller opponent.
Make Perimeter Shots: If Carolina wants to keep playing, they are going to have to continue to make perimeter shots. They made 13 against Marquette which was a program record in an NCAA Tournament game. They followed that up by going 11-25 against Baylor, behind the strong shooting of R.J. Davis, and the aforementioned Manek. They’ll need Caleb Love to return to form in this game, as the magic number of made triples is still 8-10.
UNC in the Round of 16: Since the NCAA Tournament expanded from 8 to 16 teams in 1957, Carolina is 26-8 in the Round of 16. Overall, Carolina has competed in 37 regional semifinals which is the most in college basketball. Since the NCAA adopted the phrase “Sweet 16” in 1975, UNC is 21-8.
Series History: Carolina is 10-3 against the Bruins, and has won the last 5 matchups. UNC is 1-1 against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, having lost the 1968 national title game, and beating them in the Second Round of the 1989 tournament.
UNC - 22nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.9 (19th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.5 (43rd)
UCLA - 8th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.2 (12th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 91.1 (14th)
TV Info: Tonight’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 9:40 on CBS.
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