Game Info / How to Watch:
Who? #13 Indiana Hoosiers (4-1, #21 KenPom) vs. #3 North Carolina Tar Heels (7-0, #3 KenPom)
When? Wednesday, November 30th, 9pm, ESPN
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
Pomeroy? UNC by 3, 39% chance of Indiana victory
Last spring, the Tar Heels ended Indiana's season in the Sweet Sixteen in frustrating fashion. The team that made 32.7% of their three pointers on the season hit 55%, and that kind of shooting paired with their superiority on the boards and getting to the free throw line allowed North Carolina to make quick work of the Hoosiers, and that was that.
Despite playing earlier this year, these two squads arrive at this game with quite a few resonating personnel changes. Gone are Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, who combined for 41 points in that game back in March, while Indiana comes in replacing Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, and Max Bielfeldt, who combined for 61 of Indiana's 86 points.
The Tar Heels have succeeded despite their losses, rattling off seven straight wins to start the season, winning the Maui Invitational, and never really struggling in the process. They're arguably the nation's most impressive team at the moment and their systematic dismantling of a veteran-laden Wisconsin team out on the island seems to show that the team is hardly struggling for talent and leadership despite offseason losses.
Indiana, on the other hand, is showing the kind of up-and-down performances you expect when replacing a four-year starting point guard. Yogi Ferrell's void wasn't evident in a big win over Kansas (also out in the Aloha State) to begin the year, as James Blackmon Jr. and freshman Curtis Jones stepped in. But the absence of Indiana's Dime King was felt in a big way on a late Tuesday night in Fort Wayne, as the Hoosiers struggled to match the intensity of a talented low-major looking to put their stamp on the season. Despite stringing together almost ten minutes worth of stops in the second half, the Hoosiers couldn't hit the big shot that put the Mastodons to bed. No, that task often fell to Yogi, as it was his his patented transition three that consistently yanked Indiana out of offensive slumbers.
But the college basketball season does not wait for you to figure things out. The big games will keep coming whether you're ready for them or not. Indiana has the chance to play through their growing pains and show they're much closer to the team that dispatched of the Jayhawks on a neutral floor than the squad that couldn't score against a Summit League favorite on the road.
At least for this game, they get their opportunity with one of the sport's most hostile atmospheres backing them up.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#11 Adj. Offense)||57.8 (13th)||23.4 (325th)||42.4 (3rd)||39.5 (121st)|
|NORTH CAROLINA (#7 Adj. Defense)||43.0 (24th)||20.3 (120th)||29.1 (159th)||23.5 (19th)|
|INDIANA (#45 Adj. Defense)||43.0 (22nd)||14.6 (333rd)||22.5 (18th)||25.6 (29th)|
|NORTH CAROLINA (#3 Adj. Offense)||56.1 (26th)||19.0 (169th)||46.6 (2nd)||38.2 (138th)|
It seems like just eight short months ago I was writing about how North Carolina is an extremely good team that is difficult to poke a lot of holes in. While some of the faces have changed since that tournament game back in March, the bottom line for the Tar Heels has not. Their statistical profile is befitting of their ranking, as they excel at most things and struggle with nearly nothing. There is no single thing among the four factors that UNC is anything less than average at, and they enjoy top-30 rankings in half of them.
What is amazing about North Carolina is their ability to field the third most efficient offense in America without heavily relying on the three-point shot. As the long distance offenses become more popular and a premium is placed on shooters that can hit threes at absurd rates, the Tar Heels are a throwback, choosing to bully their way to the rim and the free throw line. They hit threes at a fine clip (40.0%, 33rd in the nation) but such attempts make up just 25.8% of their shots (332nd). For reference, Indiana hits 39.8% of their threes (38th) but those shots constitute 41.4% of their offense (72nd). Only forward Justin Jackson (31.0%) and point guard Joel Berry (48.3%) have shot more than 15 threes this season.
Their likely counterparts, (assuming Indiana goes three guards) James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, watched the tournament game with UNC from the bench, each sitting out with leg injuries, both could be on the court tomorrow night. Jimmy Buckets missed Sunday's buy-game with a knee injury, and the program has been tight-lipped on his availability. As of right now, I'd expect to see him out there. Robert Johnson, now fully healthy, has taken the strongest step into the point guard role, leading the team in assist rate and eFG%. That said, his turnover rate of 22.2% is bad in a couple of ways: first of all, it's far too high for a team's primary ball-handler and second of all, there are four guys with worse marks in the rotation right now.
Thankfully, the Tar Heels aren't particularly adept at hanging onto the ball, either, just a fractional tick better than the league average. Unfortunately, Indiana has been horrible at turning their opponents over this year. It's early enough in the season for the Hoosiers to prove they can move past their turnover issues, but I wouldn't expect a huge reversal on Wednesday. In the game against Kansas, the Hoosiers turned it over on 20.5% of their possessions while the Jayhawks only did it on 12.5%, I'd expect similar figures against the Tar Heels, and the Hoosiers will just have to overcome those issues in other areas of the game in order to win. If they can, somehow, keep the mistakes even, it would be a huge boon to Indiana's chance of success but, again, don't hold your breath.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH FOR
- War on the Glass: Both Indiana and North Carolina excel at hitting the offensive glass, while Indiana also has elite marks when it comes to preventing opponent offensive rebounding (also known as Just Rebounding). North Carolina's weakness, and I'm using that term rather loosely, comes in preventing their opponents off the offensive glass, ranking a paltry (for their standards) 159th. With the Hoosiers, in all likelihood, set to lose the turnover battle, they can't afford to give away even more possessions by allowing the Tar Heels extra shot attempts and, perhaps more importantly, have to pull down a fair amount of their own misses to make up for all the times they're likely to cough it up.
- Be Ready for a Track Meet: The Tar Heels are 46th in tempo while Indiana seems to be continuing their trend of slowing things down, ranking 140th (164th last year). We know Tom Crean's teams have never shied away from the hurry-up, particularly in front of a raucous home crowd, but don't expect an increase in pace to rattle North Carolina, who are more than comfortable running up and down the floor. The Hoosiers' transition defense will be key, and balancing getting back down the floor with making a strong effort on the glass (as discussed above) will go a long way in determining how Indiana fares on Wednesday night.
- Thomas Bryant v. Kennedy Meeks: The spring edition of this matchup focused on the battle between two senior point guards in Marcus Paige and Yogi Ferrell, while the fall rematch will center on the two big men down low. Meeks is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country, and Bryant is going to shoulder the heaviest load when it comes to keeping him from extending possessions. On the flip side, Meeks will have to saunter out to defend the perimeter on occasion and make good decisions, as Bryant's jumpshooting and face-up game can be a unique issue for most college big men to defend.
REGRETTABLE TRASH TALK AND PREDICTION
Kennedy Meeks looks like an inflated Jeremy Hollowell. Indiana by 4.