What: NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Where: Time Warner Arena, Charlotte, NC
Records: UNC 26-7; LIU 27-5
How They Got Here: UNC-ACC Regular Season Champ; at large bid. LIU-NEC RS & tourney champ; automatic bid.
NCAA Results: First game for both teams.
The question really bugging most UNC fans ahead of this game is how much what we saw last weekend in the ACC Tournament will show up now that the next loss sends you home? Roy Williams said in the press conference today that he thought maybe his team got "fat and happy" after winning the ACC regular season. Well, gee Roy, maybe it wasn't a good idea to cut down the nets after beating Duke and acting like there was something to be "fat and happy" about. I know, I know, as a matter of history UNC has always treated the ACC regular season in higher regard than the tournament. I also know that cutting down the nets in 2005 and 2009 did not affect those teams' march to glory. However this is a young team with their first true taste of success. Obviously they relaxed a bit and lost focus heading into Greensboro. The question is whether getting smack around by Duke brought the team back into focus? I think it did based on Kendall Marshall's Twitter apology and the fact Roy Williams treats the NCAA Tournament with the proper point of view.
As for what to expect from Long Island, they play an uptempo offensive style which has them ranked fourth nationally in tempo. It is rare for UNC to face a team who plays faster than the Heels do. That is a little easier this season since UNC is playing a tad slower and more defensive minded. In any case this will be an up and down game where it is entirely possible UNC will eclipse 80 possessions for only the second time this season. LIU is below average on defense with a DE of 103.1 which is 204th nationally. Offensively they come in at 107.5 or 78th overall but have four players who have made at least 40 three pointers this season. The offense is very balanced with Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere both averaging 12.9 ppg. David Hicks and Kyle Johnson average in double figures with four other players putting up between 6-9 ppg. For a team averaging 83 ppg that means they have several different players who can hit shots so no one can really relax on defense. Also of note is the Blackbirds are 8th nationally in offensive rebounding rate which is surprising for a team not exactly possessing a lot of size. The bulk of those offensive boards come from Boyd, Olasewere, Johnson and Kenny Onyechi who range from are 6-7, 6-7, 6-5 and 6-7 respectively. Given UNC's height on the interior and the athleticism of Harrison Barnes, the Heels should be able to keep LIU off the offensive glass and cut down on additional offensive opportunities.
For UNC this game should be all about exploiting the interior matchups and allowing both Marshall and Strickland to be as aggressive as possible. Any more than about 12-14 three point attempts is too many. If LIU goes zone, it might be necessary for Leslie McDonald or Harrison Barnes to drop some threes to negate that otherwise the Heels should be looking to get the ball inside versus the smaller LIU frontline, scores some points and rack up some fouls. More importantly, Marshall needs to get back to basics in playing clean basketball and getting the offense rolling. In short the Heels need to be focused, intense and take care of business in the first half so key personnel can get some rest ahead of what stands to be a tough battle with the winner of the Washington-Georgia game.
UNC 96 LIU 64