CBS Sports Classic: North Carolina vs Ohio State, 1:00 PM, CBS
In theory there are no "must wins" in December but there are ones a team really could use for resume, momentum and to start meeting some lofty preseason expectations. This game certainly qualifies as the Tar Heels face Ohio State in search of a quality win and avoid a fourth loss on the season.
Ohio State presents two significant challenges. The first, which was covered in the Tale of the Tape, is the Buckeyes' shooting. Ohio State is led by freshman D'Angelo Russell(18.0 ppg) who enters the game shooting 43% from beyond the arc. Russell is one of four Buckeyes hitting over 40% from three. UNC has been very good this season limited opposing teams from hitting three point shots. Ohio State will be a real test of UNC's perimeter defense given the number of weapons the Buckeyes have.
The other issue facing UNC is the fact Ohio State has been relying on a zone defense more this season. As Roy Williams noted earlier in the week, the Buckeyes are traditionally a solid defensive team playing man-to-man. This season Buckeye coach Thad Matta is using a zone defense which has historically been a nightmare for Tar Heel teams. It can be even more so for a team that doesn't shoot the three point shot with any consistency which perfectly describes UNC as this point.
While three point shooting can be effective in breaking a zone, it isn't the only way. UNC can utilize a big man in the high post to collapse the zone and kick to an open shooter or Brice Johnson in the low post as they did against Robert Morris. Kennedy Meeks' passing skills are well suited for this type of work not to mention Meeks has shown the ability to hit jumpers at that range. Zone defenses also tend to give up offensive rebounds which plays right into one of UNC's greatest strengths. Exploiting that weakness in the defense and getting some good looks in transition before the zone sets up will be crucial for UNC's chances at winning.
Ultimately UNC's chances of winning will hinge on Marcus Paige. The wait for Paige to really put that stellar, preseason All-American game together. Paige showed flashes of it in the second half versus Kentucky last week and against UCLA when he dropped in 21 points on four threes. However Paige has yet to have that complete game. Facing a zone defense and UNC in dire need of outside shooting to put pressure on the zone, now would be a great time for Paige to finally join the party.
UNC 78 Ohio State 70