When: 7:47 p.m. Friday
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
TV/Radio: TBS, WRDU-106.1, WCHL-1360
Justin Watts (1.1 ppg, 0.1 apg) or Stilman White (0.7 ppg, 0.6 apg) vs. D.J. Cooper (14.9 ppg, 5.7 apg )
This is one matchup North Carolina would have won with a healthy Kendall Marshall (8.1 ppg, 9.8 apg) at point guard. But with Marshall likely out or playing in a limited capacity, at best, Cooper could be a big problem for the Tar Heels. Cooper rates among the best defensive perimeter players in the nation. The North Carolina role probably will be a committee situation with freshman White attempting to fill the void.
Reggie Bullock (8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) vs. Walter Offutt (12.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
A transfer from Ohio State, 6-foot-3, 190-pound Offutt might be mistaken by some as a wide receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes rather than a wingman for the Bobcats, but he is a talented junior with plenty of combined experienced. Like Cooper, Offutt is a menacing defender who makes up for his lack of size with quickness and ability to clog passing lanes. Bullocks shooting has been a consistent plus for the Tar Heels. Hell be a star next season.
Harrison Barnes (17.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) vs. Nick Kellogg (8.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
Kellogg, at 6-3, can get to the basket occasionally and has a reliable 41.8percent 3-point shot but will give up a lot of offensive options to 6-8 Barnes. Clearly this is a position where North Carolina can victimize if someone can get the ball to Barnes in shooting situations.
John Henson (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg) vs. Ivo Baltic (8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Baltics length helps against Henson, and he can get to the offensive board quicker than any of the Bobcats. But assuming there are no repercussions with Hensons left wrist injury, its hard to believe Baltic can stop the lanky Tar Heels forward one-on-one. Again, though, Henson has to get the feed inside or make the most of putbacks, which he does as well as any forward in the nation.
Tyler Zeller (16.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg) vs. Reggie Keely (9.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
At 6-8 and 263 pounds, Keely is the only real big body in the Bobcats working lineup. A junior from near Cleveland, he would have been a nice fit for several Big Ten lineups but isnt quick by ACC or Big Ten standards. If Zeller can get the ball on the block, Keelys best retort will be to body up, which will lead to a lot of fouls.
North Carolinas P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Justin Watts and Stilman White vs. Ohios Stevie Taylor, T.J. Hall, Jon Smith, Ricardo Johnson and Ty Quane Goard
The obvious key here is White, who might start and will play a good deal even if Marshall can play a few minutes. If White has a decent game and Watts is reasonably productive the bench will carry North Carolina on to Sundays regional title game. But thats a big if. The Bobcats have a lot of depth and quickness unless Marshall plays enough to stretch the Tar Heels bench.
This is one of the biggest stage events in Ohio history and theres no reason to assume the Bobcats will fire blanks. They are 10 1/2-point underdogs facing one of the top programs in college basketball history. If they dont get melted by the lights, look for the Bobcats to make life miserable for a while on the perimeter. But in the end, the Tar Heels are as accustomed to adversity as any team around.