The Tar Heels are back in action tonight, as they host Pittsburgh in the Smith Center. Carolina is coming off an impressive 94-74 win over Florida State on Saturday, which improved their record to 18-7 and 10-4 in the league. With their 10th conference victory, it became the 45th time, UNC has won at least 10 ACC games, which is the most in the conference. As of right now, the Tar Heels are among one of the last four teams to receive a bye into the NCAA Tournament, as the final stretch of conference play, will be critical to the team’s hopes to be dancing in March.
Pitt enters with a 10-16 record, as they are 5-10 in league play. The bright side is that they have won back to back to games against Florida State, and NC State, but it’s fair to say that they haven’t had the type of season they expected to have. Jeff Capel’s squad does put four players into double figures scoring led by, John Hugley’s 14.2 points per contest, but the team averages a modest 62 points per game. As you could expect with a low-scoring output, the Panthers aren’t a great shooting team, shooting 41% from the field, and 32% from behind the arc. They do average 21.5 free throws per contest, which is 18th best in college basketball.
A win over Pittsburgh won’t do anything to impress the NCAA Tournament committee, but it keeps Carolina on track to at least make the field of 68. A home loss to the Panthers would be disastrous and put a lot of pressure on the team during the final couple of weeks, and in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Here’s how they can avoid a letdown, against a lesser opponent in Chapel Hill:
Control Tempo: Against FSU, Carolina generated 20 fastbreak points, as they did a good job running off of both makes, misses, and turnovers. That allowed them to speed the game up, which FSU couldn’t keep up. Pitt isn’t an efficient offensive team, as they struggle to put the ball in the basket. If Carolina can keep the game on the open floor, this thing could be over at halftime. UNC hasn’t played in the open court as much as we probably expected them, but they’ve been able to turn it up against the lesser competition at home in the past this season, to blow out opponents. Let’s hope that is the case tonight.
Stay Aggressive: When you look at Carolina’s shooting numbers in the first half against FSU, they will read 74% from the field, and 75% from behind the three-point line. You have to credit the shooting display they put on, but it was a large part of the looks they got. Both Caleb Love and R.J. Davis were relentless in driving the basket, which forced the defense to collapse, leaving open shooters spaced out across the court. That was a continuation of what we saw from the team in the second half at Clemson, where Carolina was in constant attack mode. This team is at its best when they are forcing the issue, and applying pressure on the defense, which should continue into tonight’s game.
Stay Out of Foul Trouble: As mentioned above, Pitt does draw a lot of fouls, as they average over 21 foul shots per game. With Dawson Garcia officially out for the rest of the season with a family issue, Hubert Davis’ already tight rotation is even tighter now. Armando Bacot and Brady Manek both have to be conscious of the fouls they do give up, as they are the only legitimate post players are on the roster at this time. With that in mind, expect Davis to deploy a smaller lineup, with Dontrez Styles and Kerwin Walton on the floor.
Series History: UNC is 15-5 against the Panthers all-time, including 8-4 since they joined the ACC. In Chapel Hill, Carolina is 7-1, with the lone loss coming the last time the two teams met in Chapel Hill, as the Tar Heels blew their largest halftime lead in a home loss since 1997.
UNC - 39th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.3 (20th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.1 (105th)
Pittsburgh - 178th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 99.9 (233rd) Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 100.9 (137th)
UNC - 37th.
Pittsburgh - 179th.
TV Info: Tonight’s game will air on the ACC Network starting at 8 PM.
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