It’s time to welcome the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels to the 2-3 zone of the No. 9 seed Washington Huskies on Sunday afternoon. The last time the Tar Heels faced this exact defense, they defeated the Syracuse Orange, 93-85 in late February.
Well, the Huskies 2-3 zone is just a tad bit better than Carolina’s ACC brethren. One of the main reasons why is the brilliant defensive ability of Matisse Thybulle. As stated before the first-round matchup against Utah State, Thybulle has to be accounted for at all times on the defensive side of the ball. He leads the Huskies in steals (3.5) and blocks (2.2). When you only average 9.3 points per game and you’re the most talked about player, it means you’re doing something incredible.
It’s North Carolina’s mission to not let Thybulle control the game. Therefore, the Tar Heels must be crisp with their passes. Coby White is averaging 2.7 turnovers during his freshman season. He can’t get careless with the ball. Otherwise, the Huskies will get easy baskets on the other end. We know the Tar Heels don’t mind a fast-paced game, but they don’t want the Huskies to play in the open court due to turnovers. The Tar Heels average 13 turnovers per game. If they keep the miscues below that number, they might runaway with the game.
9 Washington Huskies (27-8) vs. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (28-6)
When: Sunday, March 24, 2:40 p.m. EDT
Where: Columbus, Ohio – Nationwide Arena
Betting Line: UNC -11.5 – o/u 148
Washington Huskies Breakdown-
On the surface, the Huskies just don’t score enough points to complete the upset. They average 70 points per game. The last time they played a team with the similar speed, the Oregon Ducks ran the Huskies out of the building in the PAC-12 championship game. Washington would love to get easy baskets in the open court. However, they don’t want the game to be a track meet, especially if the Tar Heels are flourishing offensively.
Defensively, they are holding opponents to 64.3 points per game. Opponents are shooting 41 percent from the field. However, they held the Utah State Aggies to 35 percent shooting and 61 points in the round of 64. Despite dominating most of the game to win by 17, there was a moment when the Aggies stormed back to cut the lead to one point. A full court press cause the Huskies to commit many of their 14 turnovers in the second half.
However, the Huskies forced 21 turnovers on Friday. They average 16.3 forced turnovers per game. It’s a winning formula that must be utilized against the Tar Heels. Moreover, the Huskies are No. 6 in steals with 315. That equates to nine per game. They also blocked the second most shots in college basketball with 199. That’s over 5.6 blocks per contest. The Huskies will challenge you from the 3-point line to the rim without question.
Still, they are 11.5 underdogs. The Huskies are (18-16) against the spread. They are (12-23) vs. the over. The Huskies are (5-3) in neutral site games.
North Carolina Tar Heels Breakdown-
The Tar Heels had a slow start against the Iona Gaels in the first half. They turned a five point deficit into an 88-73 victory. They scored 55 points in the second half. Therefore, the Tar Heels will rely on their offensive explosions throughout the 40 minute game.
Overall, they are averaging 86 points per game. Cameron Johnson leads the way with 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. Luke Maye is producing 14.8 points and a team-leading 10.4 rebounds. Meanwhile, point guard White is scoring 16.1 points and has a team-leading 4.2 assists per game.
The Tar Heels are (3-3) in neutral site games. Two of those losses came to Kentucky and Duke. They are (21-11) against the spread. The Tar Heels are (15-19) vs. the over. Overall, the Tar Heels give up 72.9 points per game. Therefore, the scoring differential is at 13.2 points per game.
Washington Huskies vs North Carolina Pick:
The Tar Heels should have too much offense for the Huskies as long as they get quality shots. If the 3-pointer isn’t falling early, don’t continue to take them without any forays into the paint. You can’t go 0 for 12 without recognizing your shot may be off. That equates to awareness. And the Tar Heels should have enough awareness to advance to the Sweet 16.
North Carolina 85 – Washington 73