No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast
NCAA tournament East Region
When: 7:20 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
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TV/Radio: TBS, 106.1-WTKK
Projected starting lineups
Florida Gulf Coast (21-13)
G Zach Johnson 11.1 ppg, 3.3 apg
G Julian DeBose 8.8 ppg, 3 rpg
G Christian Terrell 12.7 ppg, 5 rpg
F Marc Eddy Norelia 17.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg
F Demetris Morant 5.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg
North Carolina (28-6)
G Joel Berry 12.7 ppg, 3.6 apg
G Marcus Paige 12.1 ppg, 3.7 apg
F Justin Jackson 12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Brice Johnson 16.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 9.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Three things to watch
1. How well the Tar Heels carry over their defense from the ACC tournament
UNC is playing some of the best defense it ever has under Roy Williams. The Tar Heels were spectacular defensively in the ACC tournament in the semifinal victory against Notre Dame and the championship game win over Virginia. The question now is whether UNC can consistently sustain that kind of effort and intensity, regardless of circumstances or opponent. Florida Gulf Coast can’t match the talent at Notre Dame or Virginia. Few expect the Eagles to compete with UNC. But they’re coming off of a 31-point victory against Fairleigh Dickinson and Florida Gulf Coast will be anxious to prove it belongs. If the Tar Heels are sharp defensively, though, they can put this one away early.
2. Can Joel Berry and Marcus Paige keep it going?
Berry is coming off perhaps his best three-game stretch of the season. He averaged 17 points during the ACC tournament, shot 70 percent from the field – and from 3-point range – and he played well defensively, too. Paige, meanwhile, regained some of his confidence and made clutch shots early in the second half against Virginia, which allowed UNC to stay close enough to win the game in the final minutes. It’d be difficult and unrealistic to expect Berry, especially, to maintain the same level of play from the ACC tournament. Still, the old cliché’ about the NCAA tournament often turns out to be true: teams go as far as their guards will take them. Berry and Paige have to be at their best for UNC to reach the Final Four, and getting off to a good start in the first round is important.
3. A new “Dunk City?”
Florida Gulf Coast during the 2013 tournament became the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16. Along the way, amid victories against Georgetown and San Diego State, the Eagles earned their “Dunk City” nickname that they still carry with them. They’ll be eager to prove worthy of it against UNC, but the Tar Heels can establish something of their own dunk city, especially with forwards Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks. They’re at their best, and most unstoppable, finishing at the rim, and it will be a priority for UNC to establish their interior offense early. The quicker UNC builds some offensive momentum – whether that’s through dunks or otherwise – the quicker this game turns into the rout it’s expected to be. Conversely, the longer UNC allows Florida Gulf Coast to hang around, the more its confidence will build.