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UNC vs. Yale: Three things to watch

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Can the Tar Heels finish up the non-conference schedule with a win?

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at North Carolina Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple game out west, UNC will return home to wrap up their non-conference schedule against Yale.

The Bulldogs may be a smaller conference team, but are far from a pushover. The Bulldogs come in with a 10-3 record, ranked 71st at KenPom. They boast a win over an ACC team in Clemson and played a really good Penn State team close back in November, which is the last time they lost.

The Tar Heels will have a difficult task on their hands, so let’s look at what some of the key factors in this matchup could be.

Will we see any lineup changes?

One of the major talking points to come out of the win over UCLA was the play of freshman Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris. They arguably put in UNC’s two most important performances in the game, leading to calls for them to get more playing time.

On one hand, Roy Williams notoriously takes his time and does his due diligence when it comes to major things like lineup changes. Francis and Harris both started the season injured and have only played a handful of games each. It seems unlikely that Roy would rush any big changes like this so soon.

On the other hand, what better game to ease them into it than a home outing against a small conference team? Yes, Yale are a good team, but after this game, we’ll be days away from the ACC season ramping back up. It’s still probably not going to happen this quickly, but we’ll see.

Can UNC feed their big men?

With a lot of the backcourt in flux due to aforementioned reasons, along with some members just struggling in general, UNC’s frontcourt will take on some added importance.

Yale has allowed opponents to shoot just 44.2% from two, which is the 52nd best mark in the country. However from three, their opponents are shooting 25.9%, which is sixth best. Considering that UNC already generally struggles from three, these two teams meeting up is unlikely to lead to the Tar Heel lighting it up from three. Similarly, good, mid-range looks may be hard to come by. Hence, the Tar Heels big are going to need to step it up.

For his part, Garrison Brooks has been pretty good of late, averaging 15 points and nine rebounds over his last three games. Armando Bacot was good against UCLA, but had struggled in his two outing before that, possibly still dealing with effects of the injury that seemed likely to keep him out a couple weeks. The Tar Heels are going to need both of them to be on, especially if Yale lives up to its defensive metrics.

Can UNC avoid giving up another long run?

Even though they ended up winning handily in the end, another bad trend continued in the UCLA game. The Tar Heels allowed the opponent to go on another extended run, the Bruins cut a 13-point halftime deficit to just one in three minutes to start the second half. Stretches like that have been one of the main factors in Carolina’s recent struggles.

Just on the face of things, Yale has a style of play that could cause another. For one as mentioned, the Bulldogs are a good defensive team, as they rank 42nd at KenPom on that end of the floor.

UNC also might not get as many second chances as they usually do. Yale rebounds pretty well. While UNC does lead the country in rebounds. Yet, the Bulldogs are 81st while playing at a much slower pace than the Tar Heels. Yale is not going to be a small conference team who just doesn’t have the height and will get pushed around on the boards, they will compete for rebounds.

Yale doesn’t force a ton of turnovers, but other than that, their playing style could lead to another bad stretch if the Tar Heels aren’t careful.