As North Carolina fans, we were probably all hoping that the Tar Heels women’s basketball team would get a top four seed and get to host their first and potential second round NCAA Tournament games in Chapel Hill, but alas it was not meant to be. Not only was Carolina not a four seed, they weren’t even put on the five line. The selection committee made them a #6 seed and sent them on the road for the first weekend.
For the opening rounds, UNC will be in Columbus, Ohio, as Ohio State will host the four-team pod. However before any potential matchup with the Buckeyes, the Heels will have to get past St. John’s.
The Red Storm were victorious in one of the First Four games on Thursday night, pulling out a two-point victory over Purdue. Despite taking a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter, St. John’s nearly came away with a loss. The Boilermakers outscored them 16-4 in the fourth to tie the game, but Jayla Everett made a bit of a circus shot with just seconds remaining to win the Johnnies the game.
That win got them through to the main bracket and got them a date with Carolina on Saturday. Now that we know the matchup, let’s take a look at how things could shake out.
St. John’s is led by a solid defense that allows just 82.89 points per 100 possessions. They play at a fairly slow pace, averaging just 65.1 possessions per game, compared to 72.5 for the Tar Heels. They got into the field thanks in large part to a marquee win over UConn back on February 21st. They might not necessarily bring anything that UNC hasn’t seen in a deep ACC, but they’re not pushovers.
One interesting thing to note is that St. John’s does not turn the ball over a ton. They average just 13.9 per game, which is among the lower totals in the country. On the other hand, UNC had forced opponents into 18.6 per game this season, which is one of the higher totals. Something will have to give on Saturday.
As you might expect for someone who had the ball in their hands in the final seconds, Everett leads the way for the Red Storm. She’s their leading scorer, averaging just a shade under 16 points per game on the season. Against Purdue on Thursday night, she dropped 20. She’s also especially dangerous from three, knocking down 42.4% from there on nearly six attempts per game.
Their only other double-digit scorer is Kadaja Bradley, who goes for 13.3 per game. However, Unique Drake went off for them against Purdue, scoring 16 and knocking down four threes. In general, the Tar Heels will have to defend the three well, as the Red Storm knock down nearly 36% as a team.
One area that St. John’s might have an advantage is height. The Red Storm have three regular starters who are at least 6-0, and have a fourth who played a little less than 17 minutes per game. UNC have the people to match up against them, but the regular lineup is a bit smaller than that. That being said, despite that height, St. John’s gives up a lot of rebounds, which UNC is solid at grabbing.
The Tar Heels have a bunch of win against teams that are seemingly better than St. John’s this year. That being said, this won’t be the easiest test, especially considering that it’s a first round NCAA Tournament game.