Tomorrow’s game is Senior Night for Theo Pinson, Joel Berry II, Kane Ma, and Aaron Rohlman. As another chapter in UNC basketball heads for its conclusion, there is still lots of work to do.
The North Carolina Tar Heels battle Miami in their only meeting of the regular season and there are significant implications for UNC. With a win, the Tar Heels can clinch a double-bye for the ACC Tournament next week. However, the Hurricanes are a talented team seeking their third-straight win after dropping the previous three.
Here are three things to watch when you tune in Tuesday evening.
Contain Lonnie Walker IV
The freshman guard has scored in double digits in 11 of 16 league games this year. His 19 points against Notre Dame was the key contribution that broke Miami’s three-game losing streak. Walker was 5-7 from three, and was shooting 50 percent overall from the field against the Irish. He followed that game up with a 14 point performance against Boston College.
With the foot injury to Bruce Brown Jr., Walker has taken on more of the offensive responsibility of the team, and has emerged as their leading scorer.
Perimeter defense has been a concern all season for the Tar Heels. With the offense executing at a high level, the defense has still some work to do before the tournament.
Control the Tempo
Miami has an adjusted tempo of 67.6, ranking 212th in the nation, while the Tar Heels sit at 71.4 that ranks 44th. Another statistic to take into consideration is the adjusted defensive efficiency of the two teams. They are almost evenly ranked with Miami at 34th and Carolina at 39th. Which team imposes their tempo and defensive will on the other?
If Carolina can control the tempo, it will give them the obvious edge on both ends of the floor. During their six game winning streak, the Tar Heels have mostly avoided the cold stretches that plagued them during their losses and games that were too close for comfort. Controlling the pace of the game can be attributed to some of these stretches, or in how they were avoided. The looming exception to this was seen in the closing minutes of the Syracuse game. It is critical that the Tar Heels do not regress and continue to push the pace against Miami.
Enjoy the Moment
Tar Heel fans could say this almost every year, but boy, there are a couple of special seniors on this team. Pay attention to Berry and Pinson in this game. Not the statistics, but rather the hustle and the joy. See if they are savoring the moments in their last home game at the Smith Center.
For a couple of emotional guys like Berry and Pinson, tomorrow night may be the experience that gives them that extra bit of something special that will carry them and this team through their tournament run.