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Heel Tough Blog: Ohio State Preview

The Tar Heels return to action today, taking on Ohio State in the annual CBS Sports Classic. Carolina is coming off its best performance of the season. On Tuesday night they throttled The Citadel, 100-67 in the final game against non-Power 5 competition for the rest of the regular season. Caleb Love and Armando Bacot were sensational, but the play of guys like Tyler Nickel, Dontrez Syles, and Jalen Washington off the bench has everyone wanting more.

The Buckeyes enter with a solid 7-2 record and are ranked #23 in the AP Poll. Chris Holtman’s squad has nice wins over Cincinnati, and Texas Tech, but has also fallen victim to San Diego State, and Duke. They are led by forward, Zed Key, who averages 14.3 points, and 8.7 rebounds, while shooting a blistering 70% from the field. Other guys that average double figures scoring include, Brice Sensabaugh (14.1), Justice Sueing (12.7), and Sean McNeil (10.0). Opponents are only averaging 20.5 defensive rebounds against Ohio State, which is the fifth-fewest in all of college basketball.

Today’s game will be played in Madison Square Garden, often referred to as the “World’s Most Famous Arena” or the “Mecca of Basketball”, and you will see UNC in NYC a lot under Hubert Davis, including next year when they compete in the Jimmy V Classic. This is all in an effort to put the Carolina Basketball brand back on the biggest stage, and have a presence on the recruiting trail in a talent-rich area.

Carolina sits at 7-4, but if they win their next two games before the Christmas break against Ohio State, and Michigan, the feeling around this team will be much different. After the four-game losing streak, Hubert Davis preached patience, saying that if his team didn’t look any better any some much-needed practice time, then he would panic like everyone else. Well since coming home, Carolina has won back-to-back games, in good fashion, and the goal is to continue that improved play today:

  1. Feed Off Hubert Davis’s Emotion: The head coach of Carolina Basketball will be very emotional today, as he’s returning to The Garden for the first time since retiring from the NBA. Davis was drafted by the Knicks, and most of his fondest NBA memories took place in MSG. The Tar Heels can use that to their advantage because this game should mean more to them than it does to Ohio State.

  2. Limit Zed Key’s Impact: There’s no way Carolina can take Key out of the game altogether, but they need to limit his ability to control the game on both ends. If you remember in the loss at Virginia Tech, Justyn Mutts was the best player on the floor, well Key is a better player than Mutts, and has the same ability to control the game, with his scoring, passing, rebounding, etc. Expect Leaky Black to draw the assignment, and don’t be surprised to see Seth Trimble come off the bench and guard him. If other members of Ohio State beat you, I think you live with that, if Key comes out and burns you, that’s going to be a tough pill to swallow.

  3. Rebounding: Carolina has pummelled its opponents on the glass in its last two games, 43-22, and 47-31. While it’s hard to imagine that type of dominance today, they need to establish a presence early on the backboards. The Buckeyes average 40.3 rebounds per game, while holding their opponents to just over 29. The Tar Heels average 39.7 rebounds per game, which leads you to believe that whichever team wins the battle of the boards, will most likely win the game.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series 12-3, despite losing the last contest, 74-49 in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge in 2019. In the CBS Sports Classic, Carolina is 2-0 against the flagship school from the state of Ohio.

UNC in NYC: Playing in New York isn’t too unfamiliar for the Heels, as they are 43-25 in the city that never sleeps. They are 29-11 in The Garden’s current venue, with their last win coming all the way back in 2010, a 78-55 win over Rutgers.


North Carolina - 21st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.2 (10th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.7 (60th)

Ohio State - 18th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.5 (4th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.4 (75th)


North Carolina - 32nd.

Ohio State - 28th.

TV Info: Today’s game will tip at 3 PM on CBS.

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