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NCAA Tournament Round 1: UNC vs. Texas Southern preview

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The Tar Heels get their tournament started with the SWAC champions.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Greenville Practice Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Someday, some team may suffer the ignominy of losing to a #16 seed. It probably won’t be North Carolina against Texas Southern.

Despite the painful loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals, UNC received a #1 seed, third overall, and a trip to Greenville, South Carolina to open the NCAA Tournament. They also got what looks like a team they match up pretty well with in the first round.

Texas Southern won SWAC regular season title by three games, and then beat Alcorn State to win the tournament title. Former Indiana coach Mike Davis’ team is making their third NCAA Tournament appearance in five years and come in with a 23-11 overall record.

The Tigers are lead by SWAC Player of the Year Zach Lofton. The junior shooting guard averages 17.0 points per game. Lofton is pretty good at getting to the line, averaging nearly seven free throw attempts per game. Like his ACC POTY counterpart Justin Jackson, Lofton has struggled lately. He scored just 24 points total in three games in the SWAC Tournament, including just three points on 1-9 shooting in the final.

Other players to watch for Texas Southern include 5-7 freshman guard Demontrae Jefferson, who scores 14.9 per game. Down low, the Tigers have 7-0 big man Marvin Jones. The former Kent State center came to TSU as a graduate transfer, and is averaging 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.

The Tigers have a pretty big weakness that seemingly plays right in North Carolina’s hands. In terms of total rebounds per game, Texas Southern is a middle of the pack team. They get 35.3 per game, which is 175th in the country.

However, they have a lot of trouble on the defensive glass. This season, the Tigers’ opponents have an offensive rebounding percentage of 32.5%. That is near the very bottom of Division I. Add in the fact that North Carolina is the best team in the country at getting offensive rebounds, and that is a pretty good sign for the Tar Heels.

Texas Southern themselves aren’t that bad at getting offensive rebounds, but that should likely be nullified by UNC’s big men.

In terms of pace, the Tigers aren’t going to really do anything to mess with the Tar Heels that much. On Kenpom, the Tigers are the 149th fastest team, which is middle of the pack in Division I.

One of the things that has famously come back to hurt UNC this season has been three -point defense. Texas Southern isn’t exactly the team that is going to exploit that. The Tigers shoot just 29.7% from three which is 339th in the country.

Texas Southern themselves allows teams to shoot 32.4% from three. That could be a good thing in allowing Jackson to possibly get going and out of his recent slump.

If the Tigers are going to trouble North Carolina at all, it’s going to be by attacking, getting to the line, and getting the Tar Heels in foul trouble. Texas Southern is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the line, and one of the best at making free throws when they get there.

The Tigers and Tar Heels have one common opponent this season. Texas Southern traveled to Louisville in December and lost by 31. The game was seemingly a microcosm of who they are. They performed well on the glass, attempted 20 free throws, but allowed Louisville to hit 11 three-pointers.

North Carolina really shouldn’t have that much trouble in this game. They are a #1 seed for a reason, and Texas Southern is a #16 seed for a reason. That’s no shade on the Tigers, they are the class of their conference and have been for a couple years. However, as long the Tar Heels don’t do play exceedingly badly, this should be a normal #1 over #16 game.

Prediction: UNC 94, Texas Southern 70