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UNC remains more than capable of producing nightmares for NC State

Odds of an unpleasant experience in Chapel Hill: fair.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In hindsight, perhaps it was just a tad hasty for media members to anoint UNC the preseason No. 1 team after the Tar Heels got hot in late-February. UNC entered the NCAAs at 30 in the Pomeroy Ratings and not even a run to the title game could push them into the top 15.

The Tar Heels are good, no doubt about that, but last March was not a sign that this group had turned a corner. It’s a top-25 team, and plenty good enough to give State a bad time in Chapel Hill, it’s just not a top-five one.

Hubert’s Heels

... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 115.6 (18) 51.6 (115) 15.9 (32) 29.9 (146) 53.6 (59) 32.0 (265)
Defense 98.1 (63) 49.2 (141) 15.9 (331) 24.9 (53) 48.8 (136) 33.3 (158)

UNC has built a top-20 offense around scoring inside the arc, taking care of the basketball, and getting to the free throw line. Armando Bacot (6’11, 235) in particular has been a foul-drawing machine and has been to the stripe 134 times in 18 games. Which I’m sure will not be a factor at all in Chapel Hill tomorrow. Nope, definitely not. Gonna be totally fine.

The overall approach isn’t the prettiest thing in the world to watch, but since the Heels lack shooters, it’s what they’ve got.

UNC’s biggest problem is that Caleb Love (6’4, 200) continues to shoot the ball in bunches despite also missing shots in bunches. Love appeared to be making progress on his jumper last season (36% from three) but has watched it evaporate in 2023 (27.1%) and nevertheless continues to fire up about a half dozen threes per game. The Hoistmaster General is shooting 40.7% inside the arc and 31.1% from three in ACC games.

Both Bacot and RJ Davis (6’0, 175) have been far more efficient as primary scorers, yet it’s Love who continues to handle the team’s largest workload. Davis is the team’s best outside shooter and he’s been exceptional in ACC play, leading the league at 46.2% from deep.

Bacot’s about the same as he ever was, which is a compliment—the dude is as reliable as it gets. He’s shooting 59.1% on twos this year, and as usual, he’s an elite rebounder at both ends. He did suffer an ankle injury recently, but looked no worse for wear against BC on Thursday.

Those three guys will handle the bulk of the offense for the Heels and probably won’t hit the bench often, seeing as UNC is one of the thinner teams in the country. At least we won’t have to worry about them wearing us down any more than we can wear them down.

The Heels do their resting on the defensive end, where they are simply not interested in forcing turnovers. Same deal as last season, though this edition of UNC isn’t as good at defending the paint or grabbing defensive boards.

NC State’s offense ranks eighth nationally in turnover rate and has turned it over only 12.8% of the time in ACC games. So the Pack should get plenty of shots up against this defense. If they’re going in, State’s got a chance.

KenPom likes UNC by five.