North Carolina (27-7, 14-4 ACC) vs. Texas Southern (23-11, 16-2 SWAC)
Greenville, S.C. – Bon Secours Wellness Arena
Friday, 4 p.m.
TNT (Brian Anderson, Chris Webber, Lewis Johnson)
“If you compare the numbers around the country, our headlines are up there with the high majors. To be able to get those wins, keep racking up wins and NCAA Tournament appearances, it’s just a great job that our team and this school’s legacy is able to do.” – TSU center Marvin Jones
"We won't even try to focus on the seeds. We're going to play another high-major team as we did all through November and December. We just have to focus on that and believe in Coach and play our hardest. It's the biggest game of our lives." – TSU guard Zach Lofton
Heels Enter NCAA Tournament Off Loss: UNC fell in the ACC Tournament Semifinals to eventual champion Duke, 93-83, last Friday. While the loss highlighted the Tar Heels’ recent difficulties with foul trouble and Justin Jackson’s shooting slump, it didn’t change the selection committee’s view of the ACC’s regular season champions. UNC received the No. 1 seed for a record 16th time in the NCAA Tournament’s South regional. The Tar Heels, led by ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson, are fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (122.0) and 25th in adjusted defensive efficiency (94.2), per kenpom.com.
Texas Southern Spotlight: The Tigers had arguably the oddest road to clinching a spot in the NCAA Tournament, simply because they secured the SWAC automatic bid before the championship game even took place. Their opponent in the title game, Alcorn State, was ruled ineligible from this year’s tournament due to university-wide NCAA sanctions. Regardless, TSU still took care of business in the conference title game and left no lingering questions, defeating Alcorn State, 53-50. Mike Davis’s squad lost eight straight games before Christmas and entered conference play at 4-9. The Tigers hit their stride after the holiday break, posting a 16-2 record in SWAC play. SWAC Player of the Year Zach Lofton leads TSU with 17 points per game. Lofton’s season is a success story on its own as he played for Illinois State in 2013-14 before transferring to the University of Minnesota, but was dismissed from the Gophers’ team before ever playing a game. On the defensive side of the ball, skyscraping 7-footer Marvin Jones has thrived. The senior is averaging 1.6 blocks per game and was named the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Top 25 Blowouts: The Tigers are 0-4 this season against Top 25 opponents, losing those games by an average of 29.3 points.
Three-Point Trouble: There’s no getting around the fact that Texas Southern is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country. The Tigers are shooting 29.7 percent from beyond the arc, good for 339th. For a team with essentially only one big man, TSU’s struggles from outside could eliminate its hopes of a first-round upset. Lofton is second on the team in 3-point field goal attempts per game, yet has converted only 26.4 percent from long range.
Jefferson’s Big Plays: Entering this season, Coach Davis couldn’t have expected the immediate contribution that he would get from freshman guard Demontrae Jefferson. At 5-foot-7, Jefferson is one of the smallest players in college basketball, but his play this year has made him a big name in Houston. The freshman is second on the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and is aggressive in taking the ball to the rim, relying on his scoring inside the arc to boost his scoring totals.
Early Departure: TSU star forward Derrick Griffin left the program in December to prepare for the NFL Draft. The 6-foot-7 sophomore was the SWAC Player of the Year in 2015-16, and was averaging 11.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per game this season before his exit.
Matchup to Watch: In addition to their poor outside shooting, the Tigers are even worse on the offensive glass. TSU gives up 12.4 offensive boards per game and ranks 337th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage (34.6), according to kenpom.com. Size is the primary issue. TSU has only one player (Jones) over 6-foot-4 who plays more than 20 minutes per game. To add to that, Davis play three players smaller than 6-foot more than 20 minutes per game. UNC, on the other hand, enters the NCAA Tournament as the top offensive rebounding team in the country (42.0 OR%).
Recent Consistency: The Tigers have clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons. Overall, this is TSU’s seventh bid in 40 seasons of play.
Series History: This is the first meeting between these programs.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.8 ppg, 3.7 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) –7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.5 ppg, 2.3 apg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Projected TSU Starters:
1 Jalan McCloud (5-10, 160, Jr.) – 8.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg
2 Zach Lofton (6-3, 180, Jr.) – 17.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg
3 Demontrae Jefferson (5-7, 150, Fr.) – 14.9 ppg, 3.3 apg
4 Kevin Scott (6-4, 190, Jr.) – 9.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg
24 Marvin Jones (7-0, 220, Sr.) – 8.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg
11 Dulani Robinson (5-8, 175, Sr.) – 6.3 ppg, 2.5 apg
15 Stephan Bennet (6-10, 230, Sr.) – 4.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg