No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Providence
NCAA tournament East Region
When: 9:40 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
TV/Radio: TBS, WTKK-106.1
Projected starting lineups
G Kris Dunn 16 ppg, 6.3 apg
G Jalen Lindsey 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg
G Junior Lomomba 5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Rodney Bullock 11.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg
F Ben Bentil 21.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg
North Carolina (29-6)
G Joel Berry 12.7 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Marcus Paige 12 ppg, 3.8 apg
F Justin Jackson 12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Brice Johnson 16.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Three things to watch
1. How the Tar Heels account for Kris Dunn
Dunn is one of the best guards in the nation and will be one of the best perimeter players – if not the best – the Tar Heels have faced this season. For the second consecutive season, he was named both the Big East Player of the Year and the league defensive player of the year. He’s the only player in that league’s history to earn both awards twice. He’s an adept scorer and passer, and also averages 2.5 steals per game, so UNC will need to account for him on both ends. UNC sophomore guard Joel Berry is likely to draw the responsibility of defending Dunn. Marcus Paige, who successfully defended Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon in the ACC tournament championship game, is likely to take his turn, too. UNC has taken the approach of trying to shut down the other team’s best player in most games this season. That’s what it did against Virginia and Brogdon, and against N.C. State and Cat Barber the first time UNC played against the Wolfpack.
2. Can UNC create and take advantage of second-chance scoring opportunities?
This looks like a mismatch, at least on paper. UNC ranks fourth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, and is rebounding nearly 40 percent of its missed shots, according to kenpom.com. Providence, meanwhile, is a below average defensive rebounding team, and ranks 183rd nationally in that category. If it plays out the way the numbers suggest, UNC should have plenty of second-chance opportunities. The question is whether UNC can take advantage. The Tar Heels missed some close-range attempts against Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night, and those misses helped prevent the game from turning into the complete blowout that many expected. Against Providence, UNC will have to take advantage of second-chance opportunities when they present themselves.
3. Whether the Tar Heels effectively get their transition game going
Providence is a good defensive team, and ranks 29th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. And Dunn is one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation. And so a key for UNC, as it always is, will be to create scoring chances before Providence has a chance to set its defense. The Tar Heels haven’t been great at forcing turnovers this season – they rank in the middle of the pack nationally there – and the Friars do a decent job of avoiding turnovers. Turnovers aren’t the only way UNC can create transition chances, though. The Tar Heels can generate them off of defensive rebounds and even after made shots, if they’re quick enough bringing the ball up the court. A stat of significance for UNC: The Tar Heels are 21-1 when they score at least 10 fast break points. They’ve been practically unbeatable when they get their transition game going with any amount of consistency.