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NIT Semifinals: #4 UNC vs #2 Rhode Island

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Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Tuesday, March 30th, 9:00 PM
TV: ESPN2
Livestats: SCACC Hoops
Records: UNC 19-16; URI 26-9
NIT Results: UNC def. W&M, Miss. St., UAB; URI def. Northwestern, Nevada, VPI

There are lots of interesting tidbits with this match-up which is sort of surprising.

  • The last time these two teams met UNC took a 2x4 and beat the ever living crap out of the Rams to the tune of 112-67 in the 2nd Round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament. It still stands as UNC's largest margin of victory in tournament play which is saying something considering what the 2008 and 2009 teams were capable of in terms of point production.
  • URI wears a strikingly similar shade of blue and they stole UNC's fight song.
  • URI leads the overall series 2-1.
  • URI freshman Akeem Richmond, originally from Sanford, NC, grew up a die-hard UNC fan. He served as a ball boy for UNC and was at the 2005 UNC-Duke game. He was given a cursory look by Roy Williams but not seriously recruited. Richmond is averaging 8.9 ppg and has set a URI record for made three pointers by a freshman with 81 this season out of 203 attempts(40%). Probability Richmond will go nuts this evening and hits like six threes? 350%.
  • This will be Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson's fifth game in MSG. They have a 2-2 mark in New York losing to Gonzaga and beating Tennessee in 2006-07 and beating Ohio St and losing to Syracuse earlier this season.
  • Common opponents: BC, Virginia Tech, Nevada. URI was 3-0. UNC was 2-2.

The only question that matter is whether this team can keep the nice roll going. Do we continue to see good basketball from Larry Drew? Can Will Graves find his jump shot on a bad ankle? Will John Henson continue to be freaking awesome? And finally can Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard take this opportunity to go out on as high a note as possible. I think the matchup favors UNC, especially the way the Heels have been playing in the NIT. The problem with tournament play is you have to re-engineer momentum, especially heading into a place like MSG. This is where coaching can make a difference but at the same time, the key to the nice run UNC has had lies in part with how loose they have been. If Roy can keep them loose then I think they will play well. If they starting pressing too much, it might not end well.

And now I have to decide how I want to predict this. I think the reverse mojo is spent so I am going for the win. Don't screw me over Tar Heels.

UNC 67 URI 60