No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 8 Arkansas
NCAA tournament South Region, Second round
Game time: 6:10 p.m., Sunday. Site: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C. Television: TNT (Brian Anderson, Chris Webber). Internet live-stream: NCAA March Madness Live (NCAA.com). Radio: WTKK-106.1; SiriusXM channel 137.
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North Carolina (28-7, 14-4 ACC)
G Joel Berry 14.5 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Theo Pinson 6.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
F Justin Jackson 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F Isaiah Hicks 12.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 12.6 ppg, 9 rpg
Arkansas (26-9, 12-6 SEC)
G Jaylen Barford 12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg
G Dusty Hannahs 14.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg
G Manuale Watkins 6.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Dustin Thomas 5.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
F Moses Kingsley 12.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg
A tournament test for Tar Heels
UNC’s 103-64 victory against Texas Southern was impressive, and the Tar Heels had some fun in the process, but now they face a significantly more challenging test on Sunday against Arkansas. Unlike Texas Southern, the champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Arkansas has the size and athleticism to match up with UNC. The Razorbacks don’t have the overall talent or depth that UNC has, but playing against Arkansas will provide a much better barometer of whether UNC is beginning to peak at the right time, as it hopes it is. Some of the main questions that UNC had entering the tournament – ones about defense, and whether Justin Jackson is truly back on track – could be answered by Sunday night.
And so they meet again
This is the sixth time UNC and Arkansas will meet in the NCAA tournament and the second time in the past three years. The Tar Heels and Razorbacks played in the second round in Jacksonville in 2015, an 87-78 UNC victory remembered for Marcus Paige’s performance, when he scored 20 points in the second half. The Tar Heels also defeated the Razorbacks in the NCAA tournament in the second round in Raleigh in 2008, and in the Sweet 16 in the Meadowlands in 1993. Arkansas does hold the ultimate NCAA tournament bragging rights between these schools, with its victory over UNC in the 1995 Final Four.
Scouting Arkansas: This is a favorable match-up for UNC for two reasons: For one, Arkansas won’t shy away from running with UNC, and the Tar Heels should have little trouble playing at their preferred, up-tempo pace. Second, Arkansas is a poor defensive rebounding team, and that should magnify the Tar Heels’ offensive rebounding advantage. UNC leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and generating second-chance points is an integral part of the Tar Heels’ offense. Arkansas, meanwhile, ranks 330th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. That’s a mismatch, and a significant advantage for the Tar Heels. The Razorbacks are a good offensive team – they’re 25th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com – and Jaylen Barford and Dusty Hannahs, a pair of 6-3 guards, will challenge the Tar Heels on the perimeter. UNC, and especially junior point guard Joel Berry, has to avoid the kind of foul trouble that doomed the Tar Heels against Duke in the ACC tournament. Arkansas is not necessarily known for its 3-point shooting but it did make at least 10 3s in five games this season.