For the first time in the Courtney Banghart era, the North Carolina women’s basketball team have made it to the NCAA Tournament. In her second year in charge, she led the team to 13-10 record, having closed strong, including an upset win over #1 seed NC State towards the end of the season.
Their reward for that is a #10 seed and a Monday afternoon matchup against #7 Alabama. The Crimson Tide went 16-9 and 8-8 in a strong SEC. You can watch the game Monday afternoon at 12 PM ET on ESPN, and here are some things to look out for while watching.
Can UNC take what they’re given?
Despite playing at a slower pace than the Tar Heels, Alabama allows more points than UNC on both a per game level and on a tempo-adjusted level. They score a similar amount per game, with Alabama doing better on a per-100 possessions level. The Crimson Tide have allowed opponents to shoot 42.7% on the season, which puts them in the lower third in the country.
If UNC can keep unforced errors down, they have a chance to have pretty solid day on the offensive end. Knock on wood, but Alabama hardly seems like a world-class defense.
Can Alabama’s backcourt be contained?
The Tide’s three leading scorers that combined average about 50 of their 74.8 points per game. Two of them reside in the frontcourt. Jasmine Walker leads the way with 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds, while Ariyah Copeland goes for 15 and 8.5.
Janelle Bailey is quite good herself down low, but of the eight player for UNC that average more than 10 minutes per game, only two others are forwards, and they’re towards the bottom of that list of eight. Alabama’s front court duo has a chance to have a big day, but they could do that even if UNC plays them well.
The other in the Tide’s big three is guard Jordan Lewis, who scores 16.8, while hitting 36% from three on five attempts per game. If they can hold her below that, you can put a pretty big dent into the 22% of her team’s points per game.
Can the Heels win the rebounding battle?
As mentioned, Alabama has two bigs that each average near double digits in rebounds. However on average, UNC has grabbed more per game. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that the Heels play faster. In terms of rebounding margin, UNC also has an edge. Carolina typically outrebounds opponents by 7.3 per game, which is 26th in the country. Alabama is closer to the middle of the pack, grabbing 1.4 more than opponents on average (123rd in the country).
Again, Alabama’s big duo is pretty good, so the more they can limit their second chances, the better. The Tide aren’t a prolific offensive rebounding team, so if UNC can limit them to a fairly normal amount, that’s more chances for them to get the ball down the other end of the floor, where they can hopefully make Bama pay.