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UNC vs. Louisville: Three things to watch

The Heels’ rubber match is here, and it’s not against the usual suspects

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After Lousville’s victory over Notre Dame last night, the North Carolina Tar Heels are set to tip off against the Cardinals tonight at 7:00 PM in Charlotte.

After a season split, including Louisville handing Roy Williams his worst home loss in his whole time in Chapel Hill, can the Tar Heels keep their seven-game win streak alive? The Cardinals present challenging matchups for UNC, especially in the front court.

Here are few things to keep an eye for as Carolina seeks its 19th ACC Tournament title.

Can Kenny keep it up?

After dropping 17 points against NC State on February 5, Kenny Williams went seven games without scoring in double figures. However, in the past two games, Williams has scored in double digits.

Williams was the second leading scorer for the Tar Heels against Duke, but his 18-point game was not the highlight of his Senior Night performance. He was a stat-stuffer and his defense against one of the top offensive players in the country kept the Heels in the game and eventually, with his block on RJ Barrett as the clock ticked away, sealed the victory and a share of the regular season championship.

His player of the game performance against Duke was reflective of the better defensive efforts by the Tar Heels. Appropriately enough for tonight’s game, the turning point for team defense was after the historic shelling by Louisville. After facing the Cardinals, the Tar Heels have improved their defensive efforts in a stretch that saw the team win 14 of 15 in league play.

Making it happen in the front court

One of the major storylines from their first meeting in the season was how Louisville handled Carolina on the inside. In the second meeting, UNC flipped the script and returned to their usual front court dominance.

Since the first Duke game, Luke Maye has pulled down double-digit rebounds in each of UNC’s games. Even when opposing defenses double team and hone in on Maye, like against Syracuse and the second Duke game, he has been able to make serious contributions on the glass and on the defensive end of the court.

Louisville can cause serious matchup issues for Carolina. One of the players to watch for the Cardinals is Jordan Nwora, 2019 Third Team All-ACC member. The 6-8 sophomore has been on a tear in ACC play and the first UNC game was his springboard. Nwora has scored in double figures in every single game since that fateful Saturday in the Smith Center.

With Garrison Brooks playing solid defense and the rest of the team helping out on the glass, the Tar Heels must keep up that same effort tonight.

Sprint to Saturday

The Tar Heels earned another double bye in the ACC Tournament and only need to win three games to take home another ACC Championship. Fast play is even more of an ally for Carolina in the ACC Tournament, but it is only as effective as it is imposed on the will of their opponents.

It starts tonight against Louisville. As my colleague Jake Lawerence pointed out before the Duke game, a fast start has been a staple of success this season for UNC. Can the Tar Heels get a fast start against Louisville with four days off?

Coby White will be the key to achieving this goal. With a friendly crowd likely each day of the tournament (Thank you Charlotte!), White can settle down and find his game that he has shown throughout the season, especially at the Smith Center.

If White controls the tempo of the game, not only will fit Carolina’s game, it will draw defenses in and allow First Team All-ACC Cameron Johnson to find space and time for his shot. With White and Johnson making plays, the Tar Heels will certainly have a chance tonight and throughout the tournament.