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UNC vs. UCLA: Sweet Sixteen by the numbers

We’ve done a lot of talking about what these teams can and can’t do, but what do the numbers say?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-North Carolina vs Baylor Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

We are now just one day away from the Tar Heels taking on UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament. So far both teams have done an admirable job of handling their opponents in the first two games, but it is worth noting that UNC took on 9-seed Marquette, as well as #1 seeded Baylor. When it comes to level of competition, arguably UNC has had it harder than the Bruins (though we all know that during the tournament that can be debatable), but facing off against Saint Mary’s wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either. Both teams will almost certainly bring their A-game, though the question is who will come away victorious.

As of right now, UCLA is favored in the game by 2.5 points according to The Bruins spent the 2021-22 season looking like a much better team than the Tar Heels, but as we all know, things are pretty much reset once we get into tournament time. Teams are playing a lot better, there’s a lot more intensity, and really, there’s a lot more unpredictability. So with that said, I wanted to compare the stats for both of these teams so far in the NCAA Tournament and see if UCLA truly has the edge over the Heels in significant categories, or if it’s the Heels who are actually performing better right now. Disclaimer: all of this data was pulled from the round of 64 and 32 games only, and are averages of each category. Let’s go ahead and dive in.

Stat Comparison

PPG: UNC 94, UCLA 64.5
FG%: UNC 47.5%, UCLA 45.85%
3PT%: UNC 40.55%, UCLA 40.4%
FT%: UNC 76.35%, UCLA 84.4%
Reb: UNC 49.5, UCLA 30.5
Assists: UNC 25.5, UCLA 14
Steals: UNC 5.5, UCLA: 6
Blocks: UNC 4.5, UCLA 3
Turnovers: UNC 15.5, UCLA 7

Points in the Paint: UNC 33, UCLA 19
Pts. Off Turnovers: UNC 13.5, UCLA 9.5
2nd Chance Points: UNC 15.5, UCLA 11
Fast Break Pts: UNC 14.5, UCLA 4
Bench Points: UNC 16, UCLA 4.5

Let’s start with the obvious standout number: the Tar Heels have been the offensive powerhouse between these two schools so far in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 94 points a game. They are also shooting at a 47.5% clip, which is a little higher than UCLA’s 45.85%. While three-point shooting is basically a draw, the Bruins are a much better free throw shooting team, which won’t bode well for the Heels if they get into foul trouble. As far as rebounding goes, UNC has been dominant in that department, and it really makes you wonder if UCLA is built to bang around with Armando Bacot and Brady Manek in the paint.

Speaking of the paint, UNC’s dominance in that department is also reflected in their scoring production. They are averaging 33 points in the paint compared to UCLA’s 19, which is a big deal considering the fact that the Heels have been pretty three-point heavy in the tournament so far. One big surprise I found when I went through these numbers was that the Heels are currently averaging 16 bench points, which is over double the amount of points that UCLA have produced with their bench. This is huge for Hubert Davis, because it’s a well-known fact that he has been playing a really tight rotation, and there’s been times when that has been a huge disadvantage. That doesn’t appear to be the case this time, which is a good sign for things to come.

If we were to go strictly off of these numbers from the tournament, one has to feel really good about UNC’s chances. Sure, going into overtime inflated some of these numbers a bit in favor of the Heels, but UCLA doesn’t come even close in a handful of key metrics. If the Heels beat the Bruins up on the boards, get out in transition, and continue to shoot well from deep, it’s hard to believe this team won’t make it to the Elite Eight. That is, of course, as long as they get their turnover and foul issues under control.

What do you think about these numbers? Has this changed your mind about how this game will go, or do you have a bad feeling about what you are going to watch and you have a bottle of bleach standing by just in case you need to throw some in your eyes? Let us know in the comments below.