The 40th game of the season for the Heels is for ALL the marbles. Let’s just say that no matter what happens, this team has done a fantastic job of reaching its potential. I’ve said for two seasons that this team will go as far as Joel Berry takes them, Brice Johnson needs to be strong, and Marcus Paige has to continue to be that special personality that draws us to college basketball. All three have happened, and now this team is able to be one of the best for one of basketball’s most storied programs.
The Heels entered the game against Syracuse knowing they needed to get the ball inside and respond quickly once Syracuse’s excellent defense collapsed, which they did. Defensively that had to put pressure on the guards and force some perimeter turnovers, which they did. In the end it was a game that felt much tighter than it really was. The Heels scored 1.01 points per possession to Syracuse’s 0.80. Total possessions were a wash, so rebounding was not a factor. The key to the game is that UNC’s interior men were able to catch and score, basically.
Villanova came out scorching against an excellent Oklahoma team. Nova shot an alarmingly high 71% from the field and 61% from behind the arc. Of course those are final stats, and Oklahoma gave up 2/3 through the game. Will Villanova be able to shoot the ball well on a second night; that is the question. While Villanova took 37% of their shots from behind the arc, they have taken 43% of their shots from behind the arc this season, a very high share. (UNC’s opponents have taken 36% of their shots from behind the arc). UNC poses a different threat, though, than Villanova is used to. UNC is large, fast, versatile, and scores at an impressive level of efficiency.
UNC has shown that they can score against any kind of offense. They can go small, they can play slow, they can be a jump shooting team; if they need to be. The real key to this game is whether or not Villanova lives or dies by the 3. UNC’s approach will be to play very fast against the thin Wildcats and wear them down. Few fouls will also be a factor in fatiguing Villanova. If UNC can keep Villanova’s 3-point percentage below 35%, they will win be a comfortable amount. We’ve seen teams live and die by the 3 in the past and it’s gone both ways. We’ll see which way it swings this year, closing out a fantastic season.