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UNC vs. Wisconsin: What to watch

North Carolina is the fastest-paced team remaining in the NCAA tournament. The slowest? That’d be Wisconsin, the Tar Heels’ opponent in an NCAA tournament Midwest Regional semifinal.
North Carolina is the fastest-paced team remaining in the NCAA tournament. The slowest? That’d be Wisconsin, the Tar Heels’ opponent in an NCAA tournament Midwest Regional semifinal. Robert Willett - newsobserver.com

North Carolina plays against Wisconsin on Thursday night in an NCAA tournament West Regional semifinal here at the Staples Center.

One of the key questions surrounding the Tar Heels is how they'll go about defending Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin's 7-foot center who perhaps the favorite to win national player of the year honors. I wrote about that in a story right here.

Another question facing UNC: Will Kennedy Meeks play? More on that.

Let's get to it, though: what to know and what to watch tonight …

No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

NCAA tournament West Regional semifinals

When: 7:47 p.m.

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

TV/Radio: TBS/106.1-WTKK

Projected starting lineups

Wisconsin (33-3)

G Bronson Koenig 8.6 ppg, 2.4 apg

G Josh Gasser 6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg

F Nigel Hayes 12.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg

F Sam Dekker 13.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg

C Frank Kaminsky 18.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg

North Carolina (26-11)

G Marcus Paige 14.2 ppg, 4.5 apg

G J.P. Tokoto 8.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg

F Justin Jackson 10.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg

F Brice Johnson 13.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg

F Joel James 2.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg

Three things to watch:

1. UNC's defense of Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky, a national player of the year candidate, presents challenges they've faced in no other player. He's as skilled as Jahlil Okafor on the interior, but he can shoot and pass as well as some of UNC's guards and wing players. How to defend him is the most important question that faces the Tar Heels entering Thursday night. UNC won't take away Kaminsky – he's too good for that – but it has to make life uncomfortable for him as much as possible.

2. Field goal percentage defense

Wisconsin is undefeated when it shoots at least 43 percent. When it doesn't it's 5-3. The Badgers are among the most efficient offensive teams in the nation and UNC is unlikely to beat them if they shoot at a decent percentage. Defending Kaminsky is important but so, too, is limiting Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, both of whom are Wisconsin's second options behind Kaminsky. Dekker is averaging 18.5 points in the NCAA tournament. Can UNC guard Wisconsin without putting itself in foul trouble? That's another key question for a team that has been foul prone throughout this season.

3. Tempo and turnovers

Among the 16 remaining teams in the tournament, no team plays at a faster pace than UNC. And no team plays at a slower pace than Wisconsin. The Tar Heels – just 2-5 in games with fewer than 65 possessions – don't like slow, grind-it-out games, but they're highly likely to find themselves in one on Thursday night. UNC would love to force turnovers but Wisconsin is the best team in the country at not committing them. So UNC will have to create its own transition opportunities. Whether it's off of the rare turnover or off of a long rebound, the Tar Heels have to find a way to score in transition.

Carter: 919-829-8944;

Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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