With its win over Lipscomb on Friday, Carolina advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament. While the 84-66 score indicates a comfortable victory, the Tar Heels will need to play much better if they hope to keep advancing. Here are three things to watch when they take on the Aggies of Texas A&M.
This was easily the most troubling area for UNC versus Lipscomb. The Tar Heels turned the ball over 18 times, just one shy of their season-high. With all due respect to Lipscomb, that kind of number is simply too high against a 15 seed making its first ever tournament appearance.
After a nice showing in the ACC tournament, it appeared the Heels were locked in and ready for another postseason run. The only man who truly looked that part on Friday was Kenny Williams, who, mind you, is essentially playing in his first NCAA tournament. Seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson are used to success in March, but they also understand that if you don’t bring it on any particular night, you go home.
It’s hard to see Carolina advancing to the second weekend if it repeats its performance from Friday. The Tar Heels must play smarter and take better control of the ball against an athletic Texas A&M team.
This matchup will be a battle of a couple of the best rebounding teams in the country. UNC (42.6) ranks first in the country in total rebounds per game, while Texas A&M (41.4) ranks fourth. The ways in which these teams have accomplished these ranks are slightly different, though.
Texas A&M’s starting lineup features three players 6’9” or taller. Conversely, Carolina has no such player in its starting lineup. The Heels employ a gang rebounding approach while the Aggies use their athleticism and size to bully teams on the glass.
Roy Williams always emphasizes rebounding, but perhaps it should receive even more attention for this game. These teams rarely loses the battle on the backboards, and when they do the final score isn’t always favorable. Rebounding will likely be a big factor in determining the outcome of this game.
Luke Maye looked rattled early against Lipscomb. That matchup was one that seemed ripe for Maye to have a big game given the Bisons’ lack of size. This was not the case. Maye struggled all day from the field, ultimately shooting 2-9 to go with 10 points.
All year long, Maye has had games where he’s looked virtually unstoppable, and he’s had games where he’s looked completely out of sorts. Of course, his stellar play early in the season set expectations very high for Tar Heel fans. Still, there’s no doubt this team needs the consistent, productive Maye to show up the rest of the tournament.
The Aggies present an interesting challenge for Maye. As mentioned earlier, they are very big and athletic. Typically, he has struggled some against teams like this (Michigan State and Duke come to mind). Maye will have an opportunity, though, to make guys like Tyler Davis and Robert Williams step outside and guard him from the perimeter. He will need to have success out there in order to stretch the Texas A&M defense and open things up for his teammates.