And now on to the second part of UNC's tour of the Atlantic-10: the Dayton Flyers. Dayton had a similar season to Rhode Island, with a strong non-conference season that included a win over an ACC team (and yes, I see the irony in having written this) followed by a semi-collapse once conference play began. They went about it in the opposite way, however. Where URI excelled with offense, Dayton had the best defense in the Atlantic-10, and the seventh-best in the country. Which spells trouble for the poor-shooting Heels we saw last night.
Unlike a lot of defenses UNC has struggled against season though, they aren't generating an awful lot of turnovers. They mostly rely on very good shot defense coupled with a monster presence on the defensive boards. And they do so without a lot of height, as their best rebounders are 6'5" Chris Johnson, 6'8" Chris Wright, and 6'0" London Warren. They'll be tough to put a body on, although UNC should be used to it having faced Marcus Ginyard in practice.
On offense, it's a better story. Dayton has a turnover rate more horrific than UNC's, and free throw shooting almost as bad. They're prone to shooting threes, but nothing like the other teams Carolina has seen in the NIT. Most of the shooting comes from Chris Wright, who shoots the ball more than twice as often as almost anyone else on the team, especially from inside. They move the ball well through point guard Rob Lowery, and have a pretty senior-laden team. And like the Heels, they're using the NIT as redemption for a disappointing season. It's going to be a tough game, and require a level of consistency and shot-making UNC has had trouble achieving.
Win or lose, this is Carolina's last game of the season, and the last for the college careers of Ginyard and Thompson, the latter playing in his NCAA-record 152nd college basketball game. It'd be nice to send them off with a win, and salvage something for this year. The Heels have been dragging opposing teams down into and ugly level of basketball all tournament, and it's their best shot for cutting down the nets; I'm just not sure they can manage it one more time.