No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
NCAA tournament South Region
Game time: 4 p.m. (approximate), Friday. Site: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C. Television: TNT (Brian Anderson, Chris Webber). Internet live-stream: NCAA March Madness Live (NCAA.com). Radio: 106.1-WTKK; SiriusXM channel 137.
North Carolina (27-7)
G Joel Berry 14.8 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Theo Pinson 6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg
F Justin Jackson 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F Isaiah Hicks 12.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 12.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg
Texas Southern (23-11)
G Demontrae Jefferson 14.9 ppg, 3.3 apg
G Jalen McCloud 8.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Zach Lofton 17 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Kevin Scott 9.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg
C Marvin Jones 8.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Well, here it is: what UNC has been waiting for all season
Ever since losing in heartbreaking fashion against Villanova in the national championship game last April, the Tar Heels have been waiting to begin another NCAA tournament. Now the time has arrived. Unlike last year, UNC isn’t trying to keep the momentum going after winning an ACC tournament championship. This time the Tar Heels are attempting to repeat history, and to win a national championship after losing in the ACC tournament semifinals. Both the 2005 and 2009 national championship teams did the same. As senior forward Kennedy Meeks said earlier this week, though, “That’s what they did. We can’t depend on what they did and use it now.”
Searching for defensive mojo
UNC’s march to the national championship game a year ago began when the Tar Heels finally began playing defense the way coach Roy Williams wanted. In moments in recent weeks, UNC has done the same. But it has been inconsistent. The Tar Heels were brilliant defensively against Miami in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, but then Duke dismantled UNC in the second half one day later. UNC’s defensive effort might not matter much on Friday against Texas Southern, given the quality of competition. Even so, the Tar Heels have an opportunity to begin to set a defensive foundation that can carry them through the rest of the tournament.
Scouting Texas Southern: Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, no No. 16 seed has ever defeated a No. 1. If that changes this year, it’s not likely to be because of what Texas Southern does in Greenville. This is about as bad of a match-up as possible for the Tigers, who earned their way into the field by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament. Texas Southern is the worst 3-point shooting team in the field – and that’s the one thing teams generally have to do well to have a shot against UNC. To make matters worse for the Tigers, they’re also the worst defensive rebounding team in the field, which means that it allows their opponents plenty of second-chance opportunities. UNC is the nation’s best offensive rebounding team. Zach Lofton, the 6-3 junior who averages 17 points per game, is the name to know for Texas Southern, but he scored a combined six points in losses against Louisville and Cincinnati earlier this season.