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NCAA 3rd Round: #1 UNC vs #8 Creighton

What: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
When: Sunday, March 18th, 5:15 PM
Records: UNC 30-5; Creighton 29-5
NCAA Results: UNC-def. #16 Vermont; Creighton-def. Alabama

Will he or won't he?

The lingering question heading into this game as it was the game before and the game before that is whether John Henson will play. The news pre-practice on Saturday was encouraging with Henson talking like he will play but cautioning that the day's practice would have the ultimate judge on whether he takes the floor on Sunday. Henson indicated that he had some pain, it only affected him on the offensive end which may well be enough to justify putting him on the court. The decision on Henson will come an hour before tip-off since there is little reason to give anyone, Creighton included, any sort of advanced warning.

Regardless of whether Henson plays or not, UNC's handling of Creighton will be similar to how the Heels handled Duke. The Blue Jays shoot 42% from three as a team and while they possess less interior size than even Duke has, the formula for beating them relies heavily on getting after the three point shooters. That is easier said then done given the smaller lineup employed by Creighton however UNC showed against Duke it knows how to get after perimeter shooters when so inclined and this should be no different. Regardless of whether Henson plays or not, the Heels should dominate the boards on both ends and if the perimeter defense is more than adequate, Creighton will find scoring difficult.

UNC's offensive production is where this game may get decided. The Blue Jays are not a great defensive team but with the lack of interior size will probably use healthy doses of a zone defense to keep UNC in check. That will be pressure on UNC to be crisper in the halfcourt execution and also hit some outside shots though they shouldn't fall in love with them. UNC's offensive strength still lies with Tyler Zeller first and just because a team goes zone doesn't mean there are not ways to picking it apart. It will be incumbent on Kendall Marshall to figure that out.

There is also some business about Harrison Barnes and Creighton's Doug McDermott being high school teammates and the fact McDemott has overshadowed his more highly touted classmate now that both in college. I am sure this storyline will be beaten to death by Jim Nantz during the course of the game. Does it ultimately matter? It might to Barnes and/or McDermott but it is really just extra pepperoni or two on a pizza that already had plenty on it.

UNC 88 Creighton 72