Previewing Louisville

No. 5 seed North Carolina and No. 4 seed Louisville will attempt to repeat the drama of their first two meetings of the season in ACC Tournament quarterfinal action on Thursday. Tip-off at the Greensboro Coliseum will be at approximately 2:30pm and will be televised by ESPN and the ACC Network.

North Carolina (22-10, 11-7) vs. Louisville (24-7, 12-6)
Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Coliseum
Thursday, approx. 2:30 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Shane Battier); ACCN (Tim Brant, Mike Gminski)


“We have had two sensational games. They should probably have won the game at our place, and we should probably have won the game at their place. But it is two teams that really fight like crazy.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams

“"I think this competition, what we could potentially face, is incredible. The only thing I probably will not like -- because I don't know it -- I have a funny feeling there will be more Carolina fans there than Louisville fans.” - Louisville head coach Rick Pitino

"I'm just getting more confident and the team's getting more comfortable. Just play like I've been playing. They just want me to pick it up in the defensive area." – Louisville freshman guard Quentin Snider, who is starting in place of dismissed point guard Chris Jones


Since the Last Time: Since the last time these two teams played on Jan. 31 at the KFC Yum! Center, the Cardinals have battled their way through an incredibly difficult stretch of matchups. Over the course of its last 10 games, Louisville had a home-and-home with No. 3 Virginia (the two teams split), a home game against No. 12 Notre Dame (a 71-59 loss) and road tests at Syracuse (a 69-59 loss) and Miami (a 63-55 win). Despite closing out ACC play with a 6-4 mark, head coach Rick Pitino’s squad finished on an emphatic high note with a last-second 59-57 win over UVa at home. As a result, the Cardinals secured the No. 4 seed and a coveted double-bye in the ACC Tournament.

Life Without Chris Jones: Initially, the former Louisville point guard was suspended by Pitino for just one game before returning to the lineup against Miami on Feb. 21. However, following the team’s 52-51 victory at Georgia Tech (a game in which Jones played), he was dismissed from the team entirely (amidst charges of sexual assault). The senior guard was the team’s third-leading scorer (13.7 points per game) and was tied for first in the ACC in steals (2.0 per game) and 14th in assists. Sine Jones’s dismissal, the onus of carrying the Louisville backcourt has fallen on sophomore guard Terry Rozier, who is fourth in the ACC in scoring (17.03 points per game) and who has averaged 6 assists a game without Jones in the lineup. Wing Wayne Blackshear has also stepped up and has averaged just over 12.5 points per game in his last three games. Freshman point guard Quentin Snider has also played well in place of Jones.

Defense Inside and Out: Whether its down in the paint or out on the perimeter, this is a group that rarely gives up easy baskets. Between Montrezl Harrell (6’8, 240 lbs.), Chinanu Onuaku (6’10, 230 lbs) and Mangok Mathiang (6’10, 220 lbs), this frontcourt is loaded with rim protectors. The Cardinal has the second-best scoring defense (59.2 points per game) and field goal percentage defense (38.7 percent) in the ACC. Those long bodies on the back end also allow guards Terry Rosier and Wayne Blackshear to extend out on the perimeter. Louisville has the best 3-point percentage defense in the conference at 28.9 percent.

Shouldering the Scoring Load: Heading into ACC Tournament play, the Cardinals have averaged 69.5 points per game (good for 5th in the ACC). A healthy dose of those points have come from Harrell (15.8 ppg) and Rozier (17 ppg). Both players were second-team all-ACC selections and have combined to account for almost 47 percent of their team’s scoring production.

A Heated Rubber Match: The Tar Heels and Cardinals have produced two of the most exciting games in the ACC this season. In the first matchup in Chapel Hill, Louisville controlled the game until late in the second half when UNC rallied and won on Marcus Paige’s circus-style layup with 8.5 seconds remaining to secure the victory (72-71). In the second contest, it was Louisville that was able to mount a strong second half rally. Pitino’s team trailed by as many 18 early in the second half before Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell took over the game. The second-team All-ACC selection went for 22 points and 15 rebounds as he lifted his team to a 10-point victory in overtime (78-68).

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Cardinals, 10-4. UNC is 3-1 against Louisville during the Roy Williams era. Rick Pitino is 1-6 in his coaching career against UNC.

Projected Starters:
3 Quentin Snider (6-2, 180, Fr.) - 3.2 ppg, 1.1 apg
0 Terry Rozier (6-1, 190, So.) - 17.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg
25 Wayne Blackshear (6-5, 215, Sr.) - 10.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
24 Montrezl Harrell (6-8, 240, Jr.) - 15.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg
32 Chinanu Onuaku (6-10, 230, Fr.) - 3.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg

Top Reserves:
1 Anton Gill (6-3, 190, So.) - 2.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg
21 Shaqquan Aaron (6-7, 170, Fr.) - 1.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg
12 Mangok Mathiang (6-10, 220, So.) - 2.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg

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(Photo by USA Today Sports)

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