Not even the most diehard fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels expected that yesterday.
Against a very good defensive team in Marquette, UNC dismantled their efforts through one of the best offensive performances in program tournament history.
With no. 1 seed Baylor up next at noon tomorrow, Carolina must avoid the letdown in the wake of a good win that we have seen much too often this season.
Here are a few things to watch when the Tar Heels take on the defending national champions.
Continue to Spread the Floor
Especially in the first half, UNC effectively spread the floor on offense. The Tar Heels had better looks from outside, and the rebounds were plentiful.
Carolina must avoid what happened in the ACC Tournament. After a solid performance against Virginia, the game plan was copied and pasted for the Virginia Tech game.
The Hokies were ready, especially for the high-low screen, and the offense sputtered.
The offense yesterday moved the ball effectively, and offense was created throughout the half court.
Here is an underrated stat from yesterday’s game: R.J. Davis had the most assists by a Tar Heel in a decade.
There were more open looks from outside, and when the defense closed in on those shots, the cuts through the lane allowed for high-percentage shots.
Caleb Love spoke about this in the postgame press conference:
You know, just getting in the lane. You know, we get in a lane and we kick it out for open threes. We got a lot of guys that can shoot. We penetrate the defense and we kick them out and we knock them down.
Baylor has a slower tempo on offense, so it will be interesting to see if Carolina can impose their pace on the game.
It will be difficult to match the output level from Thursday, but as long as UNC continues to trend in that direction, Carolina will be competitive.
When the Tar Heels play to their potential, there is a noticeable difference in their defensive intensity.
Sure, the Golden Eagles seemed to be shooting a beach ball into a golf cup, but Carolina had a lot to do with that.
When asked about the offense during the awkward in-game interview, head coach Hubert Davis immediately pivoted to talking about the defense.
Love, who had a terrific offensive performance, spoke about the difference-maker during the 20-2 first half run in the postgame press conference:
I feel like it’s just our defense. You know, we pride ourselves on the defensive-end. And we seen that we can turn them over and make them take bad shots. And so that just contributed to the run.
As they face one of the top offensive teams in the country tomorrow, the fate of UNC’s NCAA Tournament run will depend on their defensive performance.
A Shooter Needs to Stay Hot
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, both Love and Brady Manek were excellent from outside yesterday.
Carolina needs at least one shooter to keep the hot hand if they want to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
We saw this team play to its potential yesterday, but everyone knows that you need a little bit of luck and momentum during the NCAA Tournament.
Love had this to say about making some of those shots and building confidence:
When you shoot your first one and it goes in, you kind of get a feel for it. Since we’ve been here, you know, we got a feel for the ball and the ball felt good. So, you know, as a shooter, and you see your first one go in, you get confident. And like I said, you keep shooting and they keep falling.
Let’s hope those shots keep falling for the Tar Heels.