What: ACC-B1G Challenge
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Wednesday, November 30th, 9:30 PM
Records: UNC 5-1; Wisconsin 6-0
After the sort of surprising first loss of the season to UNLV in Las Vegas on Saturday night, UNC must rebound quickly to take on a pair of top ten opponents who will test the Heels in every way fathomable.
If you could pick one opponent that is both the polar opposite of UNC and has strengths in areas that would probably give this team the most fits, Wisconsin would be it. Let's take a look at a few Ken Pomeroy numbers for the team he presently has ranked #3 in the country. Wisconsin comes in ranked 345th in tempo which is dead last in Division I. UNC on the other hand is fifth in tempo but seeing that it is easier to slow the game down than speed it up, the slower tempo will put some pressure of the Heels to be efficient offensively since there will be fewer possession to be had. The Badgers are #1 in the nation in controlling the defensive boards only giving up 18.1% of offensive rebounds. They are #1 in effective FG% which includes shooting 47.2% from three(#2 nationally) and with 46% of their points coming from three. Wisconsin boasts the #5 offense and #2 defense in teams of efficiency. Given how UNC has rebounded and defended the three so far this season, this could be a recipe for disaster especially when you throw in the fact Wisconsin has arguably the best point guard in the country in Jordan Taylor.
All that being considered there are some important areas that work in UNC's favor. First of all this is a home game for the Heels which should provide a significant boost for UNC after playing four of the first six games away from Chapel Hill. Secondly, UNC is athletic, long and while Wisconsin will probably be able to force a slower tempo I imagine the Heels are still going to force the Badgers into a tempo outside their comfort zone. It is also worth mentioning Wisconsin has not really been tested in their first six games. The Badgers' first five games were against teams ranked 200 or worse in the KenPom rankings. The Badgers did beat BYU 73-56 on Saturday for their first top 50 win of the season. This will be Wisconsin's first foray into a hostile environment.
Make no mistake, the numbers says this is a significant test for the Heels. Wisconsin does a lot of things well that can give UNC trouble and there will be physical play under the rim for John Henson and Tyler Zeller to contend with. The Kendall Marshall-Jordan Taylor matchup could go a long way to determining the outcome of this game as will the health of Harrison Barnes coming off the ankle injury versus UNLV. Wisconsin is not a deep team with only seven players over 10 mpg and six of those are 24 or more mins per contest. This is where the play of P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo could be huge as well as Dexter Strickland speed and athleticism which could work to keep pressure on the Badgers.
As much hand wringing as we have done over one loss, this game presents a perfect opportunity to prove the loss to UNLV was a one off perfect storm of one team playing above their heads and UNC underperforming. The Heels have always bounced back nicely under Roy Williams and this game is a chance to answers some critics while building some momentum heading to Lexington on Saturday.
UNC 71 Wisconsin 59