The UNC Tar Heels (24-10) and the Villanova Wildcats (20-13) each bring dynamic shooting and star-caliber players to the table as they clash in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
UNC averages 77.2 points per game, backed by James Michael McAdoo’s 14.4 points per game and 45.1 percent shooting from the field. In contrast, Villanova is averaging 67.8 points per game, led by JayVaughn Pinkston’s 13.1 points per game and 46 percent field-goal percentage.
The Tar Heels are coming off a loss to Miami in the ACC championship while the Wildcats suffered a 19-point defeat at the hands of Louisville in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
These teams last met in the 2009 Final Four, where the No. 1 seeded Tar Heels handled Jay Wright and the Wildcats, 83-69.
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
When: Friday, March 22, 7:20 p.m. ET
Listen: WCHL 1360 AM in Chapel Hill and 610 WIP AM in Philadelphia
Betting Line: UNC -4
Key Injuries (via USA Today):
What’s at Stake?:
Their NCAA tournament lives. Teams start with a clean slate and take the tournament one game at a time. A loss, and the season is over.
The winner presumably has a date with the South region's top seed, Kansas Jayhawks to advance to the Sweet 16.
What They’re Saying:
Jason King of ESPN.com discusses how the Wildcats’ schedule has set them up to give the Tar Heels a fight:
North Carolina has won eight of its past 10 games, but the Tar Heels haven't been tested as much as Villanova. That's because the Big East is significantly better than the ACC. Villanova defeated three top-five teams during the second half of the season. Jay Wright's squad won't be intimidated by the Tar Heels. Villanova also will have the backing of a Kansas City crowd that will no doubt be rooting against North Carolina.
Joe Giglio of NewsObserver.com talked about how the Tar Heels were able to overcome their slow start and make the tournament:
North Carolina’s season changed when Williams put the high-scoring Hairston into the starting lineup before a 73-68 loss at Duke on Feb. 13. The Tar Heels got smaller but quicker. Their floor spacing got better and so did their defense, switching more and making up for whatever they lacked in height with aggressiveness.
Players to Watch:
North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston
Sophomore guard P.J. Hairston has scored in double figures in every game since January 10. He put together his best performance this past Sunday in the loss to Miami when he dropped 28 points on 9-17 shooting, including 6-13 from three-point range.
Hairston is one of the more prolific shooters in college basketball, and the Tar Heels are going to be relying on him to knock down some triples.
With his ability to hit contested jumpers, he could spoil the dance party for ‘Nova.
Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono
Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono is the best three-point shooter on the Wildcats. Logging the most minutes on the team (34 per game), Arcidiacono is second on the team in scoring (12 PPG).
He leads the team in assists (3.5 per game, 116 on the year) and can change momentum with his shooting from beyond the arc.
Arcidiacono didn’t show up in the conference tournament against Louisville, contributing three points on 1-9 from the field. He’ll look to turn it around on the biggest stage.
Key Matchup: Perimeter Defense vs. Three Point Shooting
Both teams love to shoot the three pointer. Yet, both teams have struggled to defend the three pointer.
In order to win, one of these teams needs to step up with their perimeter defense.
Villanova has some size on the wings, with sophomore Darrun Hilliard and junior James Bell both standing at 6’6”. They’ll have to take advantage of their length and force the Carolina sharp-shooters into difficult looks and contested shots.
North Carolina has had its problems defending the perimeter, but have put together stretches of solid perimeter defense. They’re going to have to get out and contest the long range shots from the Wildcats, hitting their perimeter jumpers on the offensive end.
Whichever team can establish solid perimeter defense early in the game will advance to the Round of 32.
Stat Line to Watch: Turnovers
The Wildcats have been turning the ball over much more than recent years. In the loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament, ‘Nova turned the ball over 11 times in its first 16 possessions.
‘Nova commits 15.7 turnovers per game while Carolina forces 15.3 turnovers.
For the Wildcats to come away with this one, they’ll have to secure the ball and make the most of every possession. Turnovers in the NCAA tournament can become the deciding factor in any game.
Prediction: UNC 76, Villanova 71
The offense of the Tar Heels will prove to be too much for the Wildcats to handle. They’ll distance themselves in the second half, but the Wildcats will make it close late. The way North Carolina is playing, they won't lose.