When the No. 5 seed Auburn Tigers (28-9) tip-off against the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels, we may see the fastest pace of the NCAA Tournament. We may also see the Tar Heels challenged to get into their half court offense.
The Tigers are No. 2 in the nation with 348 steals this season. They have forced the third most turnovers (648), behind an intense ball pressure attack. The Tigers play the passing lanes as well as anyone. However, they are going against an offense that loves to go on the attack as well.
The Tar Heels have the No. 3 scoring offense at 86 points per game. They only give up around 6.7 steals per game. Meaning, the Tar Heels are adept at limiting live ball turnovers. Opponents still forced 14 turnovers per game this season.
Point guard Coby White is the key. The sensational freshman had 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in the win over Washington. He only had two turnovers. However, the Tar Heels still coughed up 15 miscues in the win. But that was against a 2-3 zone. It’s going to be interesting to see how much zone pressure the Tigers use after a score. Remember, North Carolina gets the ball in bounds as quick as any team in basketball.
5 Auburn Tigers (28-9) vs. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (29-6)
When: Friday, March 29 – 7:29 p.m. EDT
Where: Kansas City, MO – Sprint Center
Betting Line: UNC -5.5 o/u 164.5
North Carolina Tar Heels Breakdown –
The North Carolina Tar Heels enter the Sweet 16 matchup with a pair of double digits. They defeated the Iona Gaels, 88-73. Despite a slow start in the first half, the Tar Heels unleashed an offensive explosion in the second half to advance. They had no such trouble in the second round game against the Washington Huskies. They won 81-59 to move into the regional semifinal.
The Tar Heels are averaging 84.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. They are (22-11) against the spread. The Tar Heels are also (15-20) vs. the over. On paper, the Tar Heels are a much better team than the Tigers. They are (14-5) in road or neutral games. Furthermore, the Tar Heels are (19-10-2) as a favorite this season.
They are (17-2) over the last 19 games. The only losses came to fellow No. 1 seeds. The Virginia Cavaliers just advanced to the Elite 8. The Duke Blue Devils play in the late game to vie for a spot in the Elite 8. In other words, the Tar Heels have been rolling.
Auburn Tigers Breakdown –
Meanwhile, the Auburn Tigers seem like they should be an overwhelmed team in the Sweet 16. The Tigers are only (10-10) in road or neutral site games. Therefore, the Tar Heels have done far more damage against the spread. However, this version of the (Auburn) Tigers is a bit different than what we saw a month ago.
Currently, the Tigers are on a 10-game winning streak. They have won 12 of their last 13 games. They earned the SEC tournament title. After surviving the first round contest against the New Mexico State Aggies, 78-77, they really shined in round 2. The Tigers assaulted the Kansas Jayhawks by 14 points. The 89-75 win was a great display of what Auburn could do.
The Tigers were 13 of 30 in the win over Kansas. They were lights out in the first half. Even though there was a cooling off period in the second half, the Tigers still shot 43 percent from beyond the arc. Bryce Brown is the key to the 3-point barrage. He made 7 of 11 3-point attempts in the round 2 win.
Auburn vs UNC Pick
North Carolina 90 – Auburn 82