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UNC vs Lipscomb: Three Things to Watch

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Cam Johnson’s health, turnovers, and minutes from the bench.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Miami vs North Carolina Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow UNC takes on Lipscomb in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament. Yesterday, Evan Davis covered three things to watch throughout the tournament. it’s hard to argue against any of his thoughts. However, each game is different. What are a few areas to focus for Friday’s game?

Full Strength

This time of the year, everyone is banged up. For most of the year, the Heels have been fortunate to avoid any major , season-ending injuries. That almost changed last week against Miami, when Cameron Johnson was tuned into a human pretzel after a Miami player fell on him going for a loose ball. You can see him discuss that here.

Johnson returned to finish the Miami game, and played well enough against Duke. However, he missed the final six minutes of the ACC Championship game against Virginia after the injury flared up. The exact injury is unknown, but it’s some hybrid of a hamstring/hip/back soreness. Hopefully it’s nothing a little rest can’t fix, though that may mean sitting out on Friday.

Bench Involvement

Evan touched on the bench yesterday, but if there is a game that will allow UNC to rest it’s starters, this is it. With an inexperienced bench that consists of four freshmen and two sophomores, this game would provide a nice introduction to the tournament atmosphere. Fortunately, the bench has proven to be capable of producing against lower-level competition, like Sterling Manley ’s double-double against Bucknell.

With all five starters averaging 29 minutes or more per game, getting some early rest could be beneficial with two quality opponents in Providence aorTexas A&M waiting in the second round. Hopefully, the starters can get some valuable rest, as the subs finish off a blowout victory.

Turnovers

This seems like an old talking point we hang onto. Maybe it is. Yet, Lipscomb is the 5th fastest team in the country with an Adjusted Tempo of 74.9. As we all know, UNC loves to play fast. That means that UNC will have more opportunities to commit turnovers, which has been an occasional obstacle for them to overcome. Interestingly, they have recently struggled when teams try to force the pace. Both Syracuse and Duke immediately come to mind.

The Bisons of Lipscomb have forced opponents to turn the ball on 19.8% of pssessions — essentially once every five possessions. One of the easiest ways to lose to a lesser talented team is to give them extra opportunities to score. Fortunately, the Heels have continued to improve their ball security and currently have a turnover rate of 16.8%. Last year’s champions finished with a 16.2% rate.