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Indiana vs. North Carolina: Position by position breakdown

Indiana and North Carolina meet tonight at 9:57 pm ET. Here's a look at a position by position breakdown.

It's officially game day for Indiana. The Hoosiers meet top seed North Carolina at 9:57 ET tonight in Philadelphia. Here's a look at a position by position breakdown to get you ready.

BACKCOURT

YOGI FERRELL (17.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.8 RPG, 45.9% FG, 41.9% 3)

ROBERT JOHNSON (8.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 44.9% FG, 44.7% 3)

NICK ZEISLOFT (6.7 PPG, 42.5% 3)

HARRISON NIEGO (0.5 PPG)

VS.

MARCUS PAIGE (12.0 PPG, 3.7 APG, 38.9% FG)

JOEL BERRY (12.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 43.6% FG)

NATE BRITT (5.7 PPG, 1.9 APG)

As much as people like to discuss individual matchups, college basketball rarely -- if ever -- comes down to that. So first we look at the two backcourts, a category that still has question marks for Indiana. Johnson is likely a game-time decision, and his status is critical to the outcome of the game. Without him, the Hoosiers lack the guard depth that North Carolina possesses. Then again, Kentucky's backcourt was even more dangerous, and Indiana found a way even without Johnson for more than half the game. 

To me, Paige has always been a little overhyped. He's a solid, smart player, but he's never been the star the national media seems to want him to be. Berry has actually been a better player on both ends this season, and Britt has been solid off the bench. Because of Ferrell's presence alone, I'm going to give Indiana the slight edge here.

ADVANTAGE: INDIANA

WINGS

TROY WILLIAMS (13.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 51.6% FG) 

JUWAN MORGAN (2.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 53.8% FG)

OG ANUNOBY (4.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 58% FG)

COLLIN HARTMAN (4.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 44.9% FG)

VS.

JUSTIN JACKSON (12.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 46.7% FG, 27.1% 3)

THEO PINSON (4.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 39% FG)

North Carolina doesn't have many guys that you would classify as traditional wing players, but the Tar Heels do have Justin Jackson, one of the more underrated players in the country. On paper, he appears similar to Troy Williams in most ways, and in such cases, whomever plays better on a certain night usually gives his team a significant advantage. Which Williams will show up for Indiana? Can he stay in front of Jackson and force him to shoot from the perimeter? Those are the biggest questions from the wing category. Also, how healthy are Hartman and Morgan, and how much will they be able to contribute? Will Morgan's shoulder hold up?

ADVANTAGE: INDIANA

FRONTCOURT

THOMAS BRYANT (11.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 68.9% FG) 

MAX BIELFELDT (8.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 51.7% FG, 44.1% 3)

OG ANUNOBY (4.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 58% FG)

JUWAN MORGAN (2.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 53.8% FG)

COLLIN HARTMAN (4.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 44.9% FG)

VS.

BRICE JOHNSON (16.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 61.9% FG)

ISAIAH HICKS (9.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 61.5% FG)

KENNEDY MEEKS (9.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 54.5% FG)

JOEL JAMES (2.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 44.9% FG)

You probably notice that Anunoby, Morgan and Hartman are listed in both the wings category and the frontcourt category, and that's because Tom Crean uses those three guys in both roles. Bryant and Bielfeldt are Indiana's only true bigs, and even Bielfeldt plays on the perimeter quite often. Anunoby is Indiana's best defender, and he will likely spend most of the game on Johnson, one of the toughest matchups in all of college basketball. 

Johnson is a double-double machine, and he has six games this season with 15 or more rebounds. Against Florida State, the senior exploded for 39 points and 23 rebounds. Johnson is a monster if you allow him to live on the glass, so blocking out will be critical for the Hoosiers in this game. I don't see Crean putting Bryant on Johnson for more than a few minutes because keeping Bryant out of foul trouble is vital for Indiana in this game.

Johnson is the biggest threat of the North Carolina big men, but the Tar Heels are deep on the front line. Hicks and Meeks are also big bodies and difficult matchups for the Hoosiers, but Meeks likely won't see a ton of time in such an uptempo game. 

ADVANTAGE: NORTH CAROLINA

BENCH PLAY

Indiana has the advantage off the bench, in my opinion, because of the consistency of guys like Bielfeldt and Anunoby. If Zeisloft has to start because Johnson isn't healthy, that obviously weakens Indiana's bench. But I like Indiana's bench better than Carolina's Meeks, Britt and Pinson.

ADVANTAGE: INDIANA

EXPERIENCE

At this time of year, guard play and experience seem to be as important as anything else, and both of these teams have some older guys. Paige is a 4-year starter, Johnson is a senior, Hicks, Meeks and Britt are juniors, and Jackson and Berry are sophomores. 

Neither group has ever advanced past the Sweet Sixteen, but this is the Tar Heels' second appearance in as many years. They lost in the round of 32 in 2014.

Indiana has a mix of old and young, and because of the Tar Heels' experience in the postseason, I give them a slight edge in this category.

ADVANTAGE: NORTH CAROLINA

BIGGEST KEYS TO THE GAME

1. FOULS: Can Bryant, Bielfeldt and Anunoby stay out of foul trouble? If any of the three gets two or three early fouls, North Carolina could dominate the boards and run away with the game. Don't be surprised if Crean uses some zone because of Carolina's lack of perimeter shooting and interior depth. 

2. TURNOVERS: Both of these teams love to run, and this game could well be played in the 90s. But because both teams like to run, turnovers will play a big role. Both teams excel in transition, so any live ball turnovers will turn into easy baskets for the other team. And if you turn it over against Carolina, they can go on a 10-0 run before you have time to blink.

3. FRUSTRATING CAROLINA: Indiana's greatest advantage in this game is its mental toughness. The Tar Heels have had a tendency to get frustrated when things don't go their way, and that usually leads to porous defense and losses. Johnson is especially vulnerable to such frustration, so if Indiana can make life difficult for North Carolina, the Hoosiers' chances of winning with mental toughness greatly increase.

PREDICTION: INDIANA 84, NORTH CAROLINA 82 


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