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Arkansas vs North Carolina NCAA Tournament Preview

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Who's going to LA?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How To Watch

When: 7:40 pm CST

Channel: TNT

Let's Meet The Tar Heels

Record: 25-11 - finished 5th in the ACC.

North Carolina has lost a lot of games for a 4-seed, but their losses are almost all to really good teams such as Kentucky, Duke (twice), Virginia, and Notre Dame (twice). They do have some uglier losses, such as at home to NC State and at Pittsburgh. Their best wins are over Virginia in the ACC Tournament, Louisville (twice), Ohio State and UCLA.

Much like Arkansas, North Carolina narrowly escaped out of the 1st round. Harvard had a late two-point lead after converting a 4-point play, but the Tar Heels quickly took it back. Harvard still had a chance to win at the end but missed a three at the buzzer.

Players to watch: Junior PG Marcus Paige is their leader. He averages 13.9 points and 4.7 assists per game while only turning the ball over 1.9 times. He's a good three-point shooter, knocking down 38.8% of those shots and 45.7% inside the arc - not to mention 86% from the free throw line.

The Tar Heels start a pair of 6'9" big men in Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. They both shoot over 56% from the field and average nearly 25 points per game combined. Both also bring down over 7.5 rebounds each outing. They'll be enough for Bobby Portis and Alandise Harris to keep busy. Justin Jackson isn't far behind them. He plays the 3-spot at 6'8" and shoots 55% from inside the three point line. He's not a good three point shooter (28.7%) which brings down his total shooting percentage, but he does average 10.5 points per game.

How Will The Game Go?

This will not look like the Wofford game. North Carolina led the ACC in tempo (although they're still not quite as fast as Arkansas) so look for a much higher-scoring game.

Other than Paige, the Tar Heels are not a big three point shooting team. Among the other four starters, only Jackson has taken more than 50 all year. They'll look to do most of their damage inside with Johnson, Meeks, and Jackson. Even their starting 2-guard, J.P. Tokoto, has only taken 32 threes all year compared to 224 2-point shots and he makes 43.8% of those.

North Carolina is vulnerable to turnovers, much moreso than Wofford. The Tar Heels ranked toward the bottom of the ACC in holding onto the ball and didn't force too many turnovers either. That being said, they're a decent defensive team. They held opponents to about 48% shooting on two-point attempts and 33.2% from three in conference play. However, they weren't the most efficient team, allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions in the ACC, worse than Arkansas' rate in the SEC. The Tar Heels definitely try to outscore their opponents.

Despite Carolina's tendency to go inside, they don't get to the free throw line any more than average, and other than Paige, they're not a great free throw shooting team. The other four starters all shoot between 60-68%. If the officials call a tight game it could be a big advantage for Arkansas because four of the Hogs' starters average over 72%.

According to the season's stats, Carolina's single biggest advantage over Arkansas is in rebounding. The Tar Heels led the ACC in offensive rebounding rate, grabbing 37.3% of possible second-chances. Arkansas' rebounding, as we all know, has been incredibly inconsistent all season. They didn't have a great night against Wofford, but if the Hogs can regroup for Carolina and stop them from getting extra chances, it will be huge.

Keys To The Game

Bobby Portis should treat this like a showcase game. The Tar Heels have a great frontcourt and if Portis has a great game, it will be be incredibly impressive because of the quality of opponent. Portis hasn't quite been himself since the first half of the Tennessee game in Nashville, but he'll probably have to be closer to the Portis we've gotten spoiled by this year. Let's be clear, the frustration against Wofford wasn't in his final totals - 15 points and 13 rebounds are great - it was in his efficiency. His percentages were well below his season averages. Arkansas will likely need him to be at least closer to that level.

Force turnovers, get rebounds, make free throws. This is pretty much standard for every Razorback game, but after subpar performances in all three categories against Wofford (forced 10 turnovers, lost rebounding battle, only made 9-16 free throws), Arkansas will have to have a bounce-back game to beat Carolina.

Anton Beard and/or Anthlon Bell has to make an appearance. Both went scoreless against Wofford. It's no secret the Razorbacks had their best runs of the season when one or both of those two players were in the groove and putting up points. The bench only scored 9 points against Wofford, and as long as Mike Anderson is insistent on giving the bench as many minutes as he does, they need more production from the unit in which Bell is the most dangerous scorer.

Basically, I would argue Qualls and Harris were the only two Razorbacks who played up to their usual standards against Wofford. If the Hogs are to make the Sweet 16, they'll need more players stepping up. They can do it, as they once followed up a 61-point game with a 101-point game earlier this season, but that's their challenge.