What: NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
When: Friday, March1 16th, 4:10 PM(approx)
Records: UNC 29-4, Vermont 24-11
NCAA Results: UNC-First game; Vermont-def. Lamar 71-59
All eyes on John Henson.
UNC opens up the 2012 NCAA Tournament much the same way it did the 2009 tournament in Greensboro with key starter dealing with an injury. We probably won't know until after warm-ups if John Henson will play. In the end it should not matter. While Vermont does a lot of good things, there is no reason why the Tar Heels shouldn't leverage the talent gap and quasi-home court advantage to close the door quickly on the Catamounts.
For the record, Vermont is a decent defensive team that prefers a slower tempo. The Catamounts are 102nd in defensive efficiency but 34th in eFG% defense. UNC's eFG% on the offensive side is 50% good for only 138th. In addition the Catamounts are pretty good at limiting offensive rebounds giving up 30.4%(93rd overall) versus UNC's 40.2% which is seventh best. If Henson does not play, that changes some of the math there for UNC but probably not too much if James Michael McAdoo fills in the way he did at times in the ACC Tournament.Vermont also runs a little deeper than UNC but in the NCAA Tournament with long timeouts that is probably not going to be a concern.
The key to winning for UNC is simply. Feed Tyler Zeller. I suspect Vermont will opt to double Zeller in the post and this would be a great time for Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston to get the three point shot warmed up. In fact this is a huge game for Hairston who is from Greensboro and would love nothing better than to play well in the city he grew up in. One giant factor for UNC in the NCAA Tournament is whether the P.J. Hairston from the second half of the ACC title game made the trip back from Atlanta and is still with the team. That Hairston was not only hitting threes but playing with a lot of hustle as evidenced by twice sprinting back in transition to disrupt two FSU fast breaks.
It is important for UNC to dominate this game early and keep it under control. The more Kendall Marshall and others can be afforded rest in this one the better. This is likely the last game UNC can open a huge lead and provide rest. Ultimately that may be a small thing but I think Roy Williams would feel a lot better if he didn't have to tax the team in the first game.
UNC 83 Vermont 61