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#1 UNC vs #9 Arkansas

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What: NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Where: RBC Center, Raleigh, NC
When: Sunday, March 23rd, approx. 5:20 PM
Records: UNC 33-2, Arkansas 23-11
NCAA Results: UNC-def. #16 MSM; Arkansas def. #8 Indiana

Friend of THF and occasional commeter, Geof, was able to snag me a ticket to Sunday's game so I will be in the RBC Center to see the Heels take on Arkansas.

Quick Trivia: Arkansas has two wins over UNC in the NCAA Tournament. They are one of only four teams with two wins over UNC in the Big Dance. Can you name the other three?

In case you did not know, UNC is 1-2 versus Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament. All three meetings came between 1990 and 1995 with the only UNC win being in the 1993 Sweet Sixteen. That game hold a special place in my heart due to the fact Razorback coach Nolan Richardson spend the better part of the few days ahead of that game running his mouth about how Arkansas was going to do this and that versus the Heels. Daddy save the newspaper clippings from the N&O and after the Heels dispatched Arkansas we sat there and read the relevant quotes from Richardson to each other and laughed about it. The other two games were not nearly as funny. The 1990 game was somewhat excusable since the Heels were a #8 seed and Arkansas a #4. The Razorbacks gave UNC a full dose of their vaunted "40 minutes of hell" in routing UNC. The 1995 game was in the Final Four and the Heels played Arkansas fairly well except Dante Calabria could not hit the broadside of a barn with a sawed off shotgun which was enough to doom the #2 seeded Heels in Donald Williams, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace's last game.

Now this all means nothing since it has been 13 years since the last game and UNC does come in as the superior team. However the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups and the Razorbacks have enough inside depth to give UNC fits. Head coach John Pelphrey played for Rick Pitino so it is a sure bet UNC will see pressure defense and some propensity to the three point shot.

Since we could be looking at a situation where Tyler Hansbrough will be challenged and well covered the onus is on the guards to respond with efficient offensive games. UNC also needs Deon Thompson to continue his improvement from last game and the same goes for Alex Stepheson. The danger in this game is if Wayne Ellington and Danny Green both struggle then finding offense might prove difficult. The recovery of Ty Lawson to nearly 100% will be an important aspect to this game, especially if the Heels see any measure of pressure defense. In other words I think this game is easily winnable if UNC strikes that balanced offensive chord and steps up the defense. Allowing MSM to score 41 and the clamping down on them in the 2nd half is not a huge deal given what the offense was doing. Having the same kind of effort against Arkansas could dig a hole that the Heels would rather not have to climb out of in the 2nd half.

Speaking for myself, I would love to see UNC come out and have a similar game to the one they had versus Iowa State in 2005 which was controlling the game earlier and cruising to the win. If that happens, it would be a bigger message than the one they sent Friday night.

UNC 88 Arkansas 72