No. 1 UNC vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh
Records: UNC 25-6, 14-4; Pitt 20-10, 9-9
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN, WRAL
Previous meetings this season: Feb. 14 (in Chapel Hill): UNC W 85-64
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Last ACC tournament meeting: Pitt, 80-75 (2014)
Players to watch
Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina, 6-2/175: Paige, who’s averaging 12 points per game and shooting 38.7 percent, hasn’t had the kind of senior season he envisioned. But it’s a new season now, and Paige can begin to rewrite a new script. For UNC to reach its potential in March – and perhaps in the first week of April – Paige has to more closely resemble the player he was during his sophomore and junior seasons. He likely received a confidence boost at Duke on Saturday, when Paige made four free throws in the final seconds to seal UNC’s victory. When Paige is shooting well, UNC just might be the most potent offensive team in the country.
Michael Young, F, Pitt, 6-9/235: The Panthers’ best, most consistent player, Young is ninth in the ACC in scoring (15.9) and 12th in rebounding (7.1). Young’s size will present a challenge on the inside for UNC, and the Tar Heels will have to find a way to defend him without committing fouls. Young scored just nine points during Pitt’s victory against Syracuse on Wednesday, but if the Panthers have hope of defeating UNC, he’ll have to play a more significant role.
Bottom line: This is a better matchup for UNC than the alternative, which would have been playing against Syracuse – the team that Pitt beat in the second round on Wednesday. Had Syracuse won, the Tar Heels would be going against the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense for the third time this season. As it is, UNC is facing a Pitt team the Tar Heels dominated during their 85-64 victory on Feb. 14. UNC shot a season-high 59.3 percent in that game, which helped the Tar Heels offset Pitt’s 19-1 advantage in offensive rebounds. As always, UNC will want to force a quicker pace. Pitt prefers a slower tempo, though the Panthers are 19-0 this season when they score at least 70 points.