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UNC vs. Michigan: Three Things to Watch

Carolina prepares to beat the other half of some big football rivalry tomorrow in Charlotte.

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina looks to keep the good vibes rolling after their thrilling overtime win over Ohio State at Madison Square Garden by beating another B1G team in an NBA arena. Michigan are in Charlotte to take on UNC at the Spectrum Center in the inaugural Jumpman Invitational tomorrow night. The Wolverines have had a lot of time off for exams and didn’t look sharp in a home win against Lipscomb. What should the Tar Heels expect when they tip-off? Here are three things to watch.

Feed Dickinson More

Preseason All-B1G center Hunter Dickinson has been a beast for Michigan this season. His 19.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg lead the team and his size (7’1” 260 lbs) make him a matchup nightmare.

So it was curious against Lipscomb to see him only put up nine shots (Dickinson scored 15 points on 6-9 shooting, 1-1 from three) and only grab seven rebounds in 32 minutes of action. Michigan had size advantages up and down the roster, but only outrebounded the Bisons 38-36.

Armando Bacot got the better of Dickinson last year in Chapel Hill when the Heels ran rampant over Michigan. Dickinson only played 18 minutes as he was saddled with foul trouble, finishing the game with four fouls, three turnovers, four points, and five rebounds. Bacot will have to assume he’ll get a better version of Dickinson tomorrow, because he’ll never see one worse. How well Bacot can cope with greater size (he was bigger than anyone Ohio State could throw at him) will determine how well Carolina handles Michigan.

Where do you put Leaky?

I’ve harped on this dilemma before, but Michigan presents an interesting dilemma. 6’8” freshman Jett Howard is their second leading scorer at 15.5 ppg compared to 6’4” Kobe Bufkin, who scores 11.4 ppg.

But against Lipscomb, Bufkin went goblin mode, hitting his first seven shots (including three 3’s) en route to an 8-9 shooting night with a team-high (and personal career high) 22 points.

Can Hubert Davis trust Caleb Love to stick to Bufkin close enough to prevent another hot night and allow Leaky to lockdown Howard? Or will Leaky be pulled from Howard to stymie Bufkin, leaving the Heels vulnerable to bad size matchups against Howard?

Can UNC’s bench please stand up?

After an absolutely fabulous night against Citadel at home, many felt Carolina’s bench turned a corner and could be trusted to play more minutes going into the meatier part of non-conference and eventually ACC play. That thought fell by the wayside against Ohio State, as the bench only contributed three points and 33 total minutes (spread across five players). In the second half, it was near Iron Five-ish, with Seth Trimble and Puff Johnson only spelling the starters for about 3.5 minutes each.

Bottom line, UNC needs neeeeeds some bench production in games that matter. It was nice for the starters to get to rest at home against Citadel, but they’ll need points, rebounds, and momentum changing plays against ACC teams. Carolina has too many cold shooting nights and are vulnerable to an off night from Bacot (or refs allowing him to be outright assaulted without foul calls) that can lead to an unexpected loss.

UNC’s bench has shooters, skill, and some intriguing defense. Trimble has always been a dog, Styles has shown an ability to rebound bigger than his size, and Nickel looks less lost on defense and more assertive. None of that matters if they can’t show out against quality opposition. Maybe it’ll start tomorrow night.