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UNC vs. Louisville: Three Things to Watch

Can the Tar Heels keep their winning streak going?

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina has been on a bit of roll lately. The Tar Heels have won their last six games, and currently sit alone atop the ACC with a 5-0 conference record. On Wednesday night, they’ll look to continue that as Louisville come to town.

Ahead of the action in the Dean Dome, let’s take a look at some things to look out for when the Tar Heels and Cardinals face off.

Don’t fall into the trap

Louisville is not quite as bad as they were last season, but they’re still not particularly good. The Cardinals will come into Wednesday night with a 6-10 record overall and 1-4 in ACC play. However, that one ACC win is of note. Two weeks ago, Louisville went on the road at Miami and took down the Hurricanes, who came into this year fresh off a Final Four appearance and as one of the projected best teams in the conference.

Despite that, the closeness of this game will almost certainly depend more on what UNC does than what Louisville does. Even with that Miami win, the Cardinals still have losses to Chattanooga, DePaul, and Arkansas State. As a team in that Miami game, the Hurricanes shot under 40% from the field and barely 50% from the free throw line. Louisville certainly played well that day, but there were definitely some self-inflicted wounds on the other side. If Carolina can avoid too many of those, this game hopefully shouldn’t be a contest for too long.

Can Harrison Ingram find some shooting form?

Ingram has been by no means bad in recent week. In the last four games alone, he’s grabbed 48 rebounds and been a large part of UNC’s recent success. However, one thing he hasn’t been great at recently has been knocking down shots.

Dating back to December 29th’s game against Charleston Southern, Ingram has shot just 30.9% from the floor. Part of that likely due to a wrist injury that he’s been dealing with, although Ingram himself has downplayed that a bit. Again, throughout all that, he’s still been a very effective player, so it’s not as if we should be especially worried, but this would be a good game for him to rediscover some of the shooting touch he displayed earlier in the season.

The Cardinals haven’t always been great at shutting down players of Ingram’s general size and skillset. It would be very nice to see him get back on track in that regard in this game. UNC haven’t needed him to be super efficient recently, although there certainly are games on the horizon where it would be helpful if he was knocking down shots at a better clip.

Limit who gets going for Louisville

If you look back at the Miami game, most of the damage on the offensive end for Louisville came from two players. Michael James led the Cardinals with 26 points, going 8-12 from the floor and 5-6 from three. Closely following him was Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, who dropped 22 points on 9-13 shooting along with nine rebounds.

In total, Louisville have five players who average double-digit points, as those two are joined by Skyy Clark, Tre White, and JJ Traynor (although Traynor is out for the season). If you look at Louisville’s other wins and good performances, they’re often marked by multiple Cardinals’ putting up big offensive nights, and scoring in the 15-20+ point range. On the other hand, a lot of their losses include maybe one player having a good game, but inefficient performances elsewhere on the floor.

Even sub-standard ACC teams have good players, and odds are one is going to have a decent game. However, if UNC limits Louisville to just one-ish solid scoring option on Wednesday night, it’s hard to see any path to victory for the Cardinals.