Matchup

Saturday, April 2, 1 PM EST: UNC Tar Heels vs. Syracuse Orange

Tournament Run

  • First Round: 83-67 vs. 16 Florida Gulf Coast
  • Second Round: 85-66 vs. 9 Providence
  • Sweet 16: 101-86 vs. 5 Indiana
  • Elite 8: 88-74 vs. 6 Notre Dame

Key Players

Brice Johnson, F, Senior – 17.1p/10.5r/61.6% FG

Marcus Paige, G, Senior – 12.3p/2.5r/3.7a

Joel Berry, G, Sophomore – 12.7p/3.2r/3.6a

X-Factor

Kennedy Meeks, F, Junior – 9.2p/5.8r/1.0b

Team Overview

North Carolina has scored more points, made more field goals, and grabbed more rebounds than any other team in the nation. Their offense is absolutely scintillating. Their defense, however, is average at best, and they’ve been through the tournament because they’re simply too powerful on offense. Along with the three men listed above, Justin Jackson is the fourth member of their roster to average more than 12 points per game.

Such a great distribution of scoring is evidence that this Tar Heel team is full of willing and able passers. Carolina has dished out 674 assists this season, an average of almost 18 per game–the 674 assists are second in the nation to Michigan State’s 719. Berry and Paige are the two main facilitators of the offense, but Jackson and Theo Pinson have dished the ball more than one hundred times apiece.

While the guards do a great job of running the team, Brice Johnson is who gives them life. The senior from South Carolina is relentless around the basket and emerged as the most reliable option for Roy Williams’ squad. He’s been heating up over his last two games and dominated Notre Dame en route to 25 points on 10/15 shooting and 12 rebounds.

Beating Syracuse

Previous Matchups: 1/9/16 UNC 84 – Syracuse 73; 2/29/16 UNC 75 – Syracuse 70

If Carolina wants to win this game, they need to pound the ball inside as much as possible. They can clearly score against the Syracuse defense, and they put up those numbers while shooting atrocious percentages from three. Johnson should work to get upwards of 15 shot attempts this game, as he was relatively limited in previous matchups and UNC is notroiously poor from behind the arc.

With Marcus Paige being a senior, he should be initiating more plays than anyone else. While he’s facilitating, he should look to get going early on the scoring end because he has the ability to get 20 or more. While he’s getting his, he should look for everyone else as well–I know, that’s obvious. However, UNC is 3-0 when Paige gets at least 20 points and five assists, so it’s advantageous for him to want to pass the ball; opposed to him passing because the other shot is a bit better.

Although their defense is suspect at times, they can still lock down when they need to. Locking down Syracuse’s offense means getting the ball away from Gbinije and Richardson. Ideally, the Tar Heels should want Trevor Cooney to have the ball late in the shot clock because he struggles to create shots for himself.

View Syracuse’s breakdown here, Villanova’s here, and Oklahoma’s here.