North Carolina (23-5, 11-3 ACC) vs. Louisville (22-5, 10-4 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Wednesday, 9:05 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
“It’s a different tempo game that we’re going to see because they like to press and pick you up full court and go up and down the court. Their strength of schedule is even better than ours… their record is very legit. They lost Quentin Snider; they’ve added him back now. He’s done a great job in the backcourt for them. Donovan Mitchell is probably one of the top-10 players in the league with the way he’s been playing this year. Their big guys are really big; they’re long.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
“We are not a good defensive team. We have to become that. So I take a lot of joy in wins. If you were to say to me, 22-5 with our schedule, I would have said, ‘give it to me right now.’ I'll take it. I'll sign with the devil, but I'll take it… We are going to step into North Carolina for first place and that to me is an amazing feeling by these young men in that locker room.” -- Louisville head coach Rick Pitino
“The press is a big part of it, how hard they play is a big part of it. He gets after them but they accept it because they know who’s coaching. He does a great, great job. He’s a Hall of Fame coach and has won a lot of games… Rick Pitino is one of the greatest coaches we have in our game.” – Williams
Tar Heels Trounce the Hoos: The highly-anticipated College Gameday matchup between North Carolina and Virginia on Saturday didn’t live up to the competitive billing. The Tar Heels were able to ride an 18-point first half performance from Justin Jackson and a dominant second half post presence to a 65-41 win. Roy Williams’s team held the Cavaliers, who were shooting 47.6 percent from the field coming in, to a 27.8 field goal percentage. The win helped UNC maintain it’s one-game lead atop the ACC standings entering its tough four-game closing stretch.
Louisville Spotlight: The Cardinals entered the 2016-17 season having graduated their three leading scorers in Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, and Chinanu Onuaku. Even with the mass exodus of talent, Rick Pitino’s squad has had no problem making up for the lost production. Guard Donovan Mitchell has stepped up, emerging from a reserve role a year ago to leading the Cardinals in scoring (15.9 ppg) this season. His backcourt partner, Quentin Snider, has also taken a big jump in his junior season: he’s second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg) and leads the team in assists (4.1 apg). Louisville ranks fifth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (90.5) and 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and currently sits one game behind UNC in the ACC regular season standings.
Cardinals Quality Closing: The road to an ACC regular season title is always turbulent, and Louisville has been through the ringer in it’s last three contests. Pitino’s squad, which has won six of its last seven, has averaged a 4.3-point margin of victory in those three wins. The Cardinals trailed at some point in the second half of each contest, and their 76-72 win over Syracuse needed overtime. Mitchell is proving to be vital, as he’s averaging 20.0 points per game over the span, and he’s the primary reason Louisville is tied for second place in the ACC. A key piece to their late-game success has been an ability to take care of the ball. The Cardinals turn the ball over the fewest of any ACC team, averaging 10.2 giveaways a game.
Matchup to Watch: The Tar Heels were given a break on the offensive glass in their trouncing of Virginia, but they won't be afforded the same luxury against the Cardinals. While UNC leads the ACC, and NCAA as a whole, by a wide margin in offensive rebounding, Louisville is right behind them in the ACC rankings. The Cardinals average 12.3 offensive rebounds per game, and in return have been able to burn their opponents in second chance points. In their 94-90 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, UL accounted for 26 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds. The Cardinals rank 13th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (36.8), led by bigs Jaylen Johnson and Mangok Mathiang. With the two top offensive rebounding teams in the ACC going head to head, defensive rebounding may be the key to the game.
Top-10 Success: UNC is 10-2 under Roy Williams in games at the Smith Center in which both teams are ranked in the AP top-10.
Last Meeting: Louisville defeated UNC, 71-65, at the KFC Yum! Center on Feb. 1, 2016. North Carolina entered the game ranked No. 2 nationally, but couldn’t find an answer for Cardinals guard Damion Lee, who dropped a game-high 24 points. Louisville outscored UNC, 36-28, in the paint and 17-7 in second-chance points. Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels in scoring with 16 points.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 11-5. The series is tied, 2-2, since Louisville joined the ACC in 2014.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.6 ppg, 4.0 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 7.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) – 7.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.8 ppg, 2.5 apg
Projected Louisville Starters:
4 Quentin Snider (6-2, 175, Jr.) – 12.5 ppg, 4.1 apg
10 Jaylen Johnson (6-9, 230, Jr.) – 8.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg
12 Mangok Mathiang (6-10, 230, Sr.) – 7.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg
22 Deng Adel (6-7, 200, So.) – 11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg
45 Donovan Mitchell (6-3, 200, So.) – 15.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg
0 V.J. King (6-6, 190, Fr.) – 6.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
14 Anas Mahmoud (7-0, 215, Jr.) – 6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg