Many, including myself, expected to see the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC tournament final against the Miami Hurricanes, but the Maryland Terrapins had other plans. The Terps nearly took down the state's other powerhouse on Saturday when they narrowly fell to North Carolina 79-76.
The Tar Heels survived, and now they must face the Hurricanes in the title game.
The two matchups in the regular season didn't go well for the Tar Heels. They were swept and must make adjustments if they hope to win the third meeting.
Here are the highlights from the regular-season matchups.
Even though the Hurricanes have handled the Heels easily, Roy Williams' bunch is vastly improved over the last month, and it is always tough to beat a good team three times in the same season.
Here's what the Canes need to do to maintain supremacy over the Heels, and what the Heels must do to claim this important third meeting.
Tar Heels' Keys to Victory
Guard the Arc
In the first meeting, the Canes bombed the Heels from distance. They made 15-of-26 three-point shots in that game and that led to a lopsided 87-61 win. The onslaught was led by five made threes from point guard Shane Larkin.
The sophomore had 18 points and was the biggest impact player in the game.
Larkin isn't the only major threat from deep, though. The Canes' big man Kenny Kadji is perhaps the most dangerous long-distance gunner.
The big man causes matchup problems for teams because he's a frontcourt player that can make the perimeter shot. He connected on three treys in the first game, and made 5-of-10 from deep in both regular-season matchups combined.
The Heels must focus on contesting shots on the perimeter to win.
Get in Transition
North Carolina has great athletes in the open floor like James Michael McAdoo, and the team is great when it gets in transition.
The Canes have bulk and experience on the inside with seniors Kadji, Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson, but they can't run with the Heels.
The challenge for North Carolina is actually getting into the situations that allow it to run. They have to rebound and force turnovers to get in transition. In my opinion, this is the most important key for the Heels.
Hurricanes' Keys to Victory
Take Care of the Ball
The Canes are one of the best teams in the nation, but they must take care of the ball against the Heels defense.
Larkin had a big game in the blowout win over the Heels, but he turned the ball over four times in both regular-season meetings.
He wasn't made to pay for his carelessness in those games, but the Heels have won eight of nine, and they are finding themselves as a team.
They are much better equipped to make the Canes pay for excessive turnovers this time around.
With the ability to get hot from deep, the Canes must guard against the dangers of taking bad shots.
The team has so many options from distance, if they are bombing away and missing, it will create long rebounds and transition opportunities.
If the game is played at a slower tempo, the Heels don't have much of a chance to win, but wild shots from distance will take the Canes' inside advantage away and put North Carolina in transition.
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