What: NCAA Tournament East Regional Semifinal
When: Thursday, March 27, 7:27 PM
Where: Bobcat Arena, Charlotte, NC
Records: UNC 34-2, WSU 26-8
NCAA Results: UNC-def. #16 Mt. St. Mary's, def. #9 Arkansas; WSU-def. #13 Winthrop, def. #5 Notre Dame
Attempting to do what no other UNC has ever done.
UNC has never won 35 games in a season which is fairly hard to believe but there it is. A win of Washington State would put UNC in the Elite Eight and mark the 35th win of the season which would be a record. By all accounts, it will be a hard fought win againt a tough defensive minded opponent who prefers to slow the game down just as much as UNC wants to run as wide open as possible.
If I had to name my biggest concern it would be the limitation of possession combined with a poor shooting night from the Heels, especially from Ellington/Green. Everyone wearing Carolina blue played so extremely well this past weekend I am little fearful of the pendulum swinging backing the other way giving us an off night. UNC has also shown a tendency in games this season of allowing certain teams to walk out and smack them in the mouth to start the game which has UNC down early. During the regular season when this happened UNC eventually asserted itself at some point and went on to win the game with the Duke and Maryland games being the exceptions as reflected in the loss column. The trepidation I sense is during the NCAA Tournament allowing a team to knock you back a little to start the game could embolden that team with confidence that they can hang with you and the longer they remain viable in the game the more difficult it comes to put them down.
The best way for UNC to handle WSU is to come out and play some great defense themselves in the "fight fire with fire" mentaility. If the Heels can throw WSU out of sync on offense by creating some turnovers it can serve to ignite the fast breal. Controlling the defensive boards is also very important since it also could offer up some break opportunities. In terms of the halfcourt offense, where UNC could spend most of it's time, getting Ellington on track early is key as is having Ty Lawson break through that WSU defense with penetration. I am not sure UNC wants to make this a jump shooting game on the offensive end. Getting the ball to Tyler Hansbrough in good scoring position is paramount but more than that having Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson play with the same level of effectiveness as they did in Raleigh will be problematic for the Cougars.
When it is all said and done I think UNC has far too many weapons for WSU to effectively handle. However this does not mean UNC still does not find themselves in the middle of an absolute war going down the stretch but in the end I fully expect this team to do what they have done all season: Adapt and win regardless of what the other team throws at them.
UNC 75 WSU 66