PREVIEWING THE TAR HEELS

The Providence Friars are gearing up for their first NCAA Tournament in a decade, facing off against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the Round of 64. It's been close to 40 years since these two teams last played each other. This article will compare the two teams.

Offense: The Friars and the Tar Heels are fairly evenly matched on the offensive side. Carolina averaged 76.3 ppg this season, edging the Friars by a mere 3.1 points. However, despite their closeness in average scoring, the Tar Heels and the Friars accumulate their points in two different ways to play the game. 62% of Carolina's offense comes from converting the two, edging Providence's 49%. Providence, on the other hand, gets more points from 3 point territory and free throw line at 26% and 25% respectively, whereas UNC only gets 16% and 22% of their points from these same opportunities. Given Providence's strength at the free throw line and that Carolina opponents draw an average of 21 fouls per game as a team, the free throw line will be critical to a Friar victory. Additionally, Carolina does not protect the 3-ball well, allowing almost 20 attempts per game. Bryce Cotton, LaDontae Henton and Josh Fortune will need to take full advantage of whatever Carolina gives them from beyond the arc.

Defense: On defense the teams are again incredibly similar in points allowed per game, each team letting up an average of 69 ppg. The key for Providence on defense will be controlling the pace, as Carolina plays with an average of 5 more possessions per game than the Friars are used to giving up. Furthermore, Carolina knows how to attack the glass and averages 40 rpg, slightly more than the usual 33 rpg that Providence opponents are able to snatch. Limiting second chance opportunities will be key to a Friar victory since 38% of Carolina's rebounding comes off the offensive glass, and since they rarely take three point shots, boxing out the paint will be demanded of Kadeem Batts, Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris.

Backcourt: The Marcus Paige-Bryce Cotton matchup is sure to be hyped prior to and during the game. The 6'1" sophomore guard has started in all but one game for UNC this season and averages 17 points a game. Cotton has shown he can defend against the best, and it will be on the senior guard to leverage his speed and experience to shut down Paige and limit one of UNC's best scoring options.

Alongside him, 6'5" senior Leslie McDonald averages 10 ppg but is wildly inconsistent in his scoring abilities. Ensuring that McDonald has a game similar to the one played against Pitt in the ACC Tournament (where McDonald was scoreless) will help keep the game under control. Josh Fortune will most likely take the McDonald assignment, and it will be on Fortune to keep control on defense and not allow McDonald to get comfortable.

Fortunately, as Cooley's zone has shown against Creighton, the Friars can control the opponent's offensive game rather well, and as long as this keeps up, McDonald could be a non-factor and Paige should be limited.

Frontcourt: At the three, 6'5" sophomore J.P. Tokoto will give his matchup (most likely Tyler Harris or LaDontae Henton) fits with his ability to defend the ball. However on offense Tokoto has to play close to the rim as his range is limited, with an average of 9 ppg coming off of 48% shooting. A zone defense could be the most effective solution against the Tokoto's offensive efficiency.

Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and James McAdoo will be the other frontcourt options for UNC, as they average 7, 10 and 14 ppg respectively. The three make up a majority of the rebounding for UNC, with all three averaging about 6 rpg, so shutting them down will be crucial. The advantage Providence will have over them is height. Each player is listed at 6'9" and with 7' Carson Desrosiers in the paint, it should help minimalize UNC's effectiveness on the glass, and that's before factoring in Batts' height and LaDontae's dog-ish ability to attack the glass.

Keys for Providence:
• Make the most of the 3 point opportunities the Tar Heels afford other teams. Fortune, Cotton and Henton can help this game run away quickly in favor of the Friars if they do so.
• Play the zone. With such a reliance on shooting coming within the key a zone will be effective here, and help keep the pacing at a level that Providence likes to play, not one UNC prefers.
• Control the glass. Take advantage of the size difference PC's 7' center has over their leading rebounders, and make sure to box out and limit the second chance opportunities.

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