UNC Basketball: Why Tar Heels Will Survive Nail-Biter Against Villanova

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2013

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 23:  James Michael McAdoo #43 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after forcing  the North Carolina State Wolfpack into a shot clock violation during play at the Dean Smith Center on February 23, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 76-65.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There are few matchups that have given me more headaches than the upcoming Round of 64 tilt between North Carolina and Villanova for the right to play No. 1-seeded Kansas.

But I ended up selecting the Tar Heels in a game I think will come down to the wire and be one of the second round's most memorable finishes.

Here's how I got there.

I'll start with what I like about Villanova. The Wildcats have proven they can beat any team they face, with victories over Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse.

They have excellent depth, pressure teams into turnovers (a big reason why they are 24th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com), flourish in transition and have strong guard play. The Wildcats play for easy buckets and open looks. They are excellent at getting to the free-throw line, and will turn your mistakes into points. 

But Villanova is not without its flaws. For as deep as they go, they are extremely inexperienced. The Wildcats turn the ball over way too often, and you never really know which team you're going to get. 

They'll also be running into a North Carolina team that not only runs a similar, up-tempo style, but has more players with experience and talent doing so.

It all starts with James Michael McAdoo, the best player in this game (Tourney tip: When you simply can't decide between two teams, take the team with the best player). The Wildcats won't have an answer inside for McAdoo (14.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG).

But the Tar Heels are fast. Like, crazy fast. They push the pace offensively and absolutely blow past teams in transition. Freshman point guard Marcus Paige could be mistaken for Sonic the Hedgehog on the break.

They are also surprisingly efficient on both sides of the floor (28th in offensive efficiency and 46th defensive efficiency, according to KenPom) despite utilizing a small-ball approach that is uncommon for a North Carolina team.

And unlike Nova, this is a North Carolina team that is experienced and has battled the rigors of the tournament before.

As much as Nova will try to hassle the man on the ball, I think North Carolina will torch them with the outside shooting of P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, while Paige and Dexter Strickland will protect the ball and set up teammates for easy buckets.

Look, this game could go either way. If Ryan Arcidiacono gets open looks and drains them, or Mouphtaou Yarou and JayVaughn Pinkston control the game on the block, the Wildcats can certainly steal the win (and would be a really tough matchup for a Kansas team that doesn't have a true point guard capable of handling the press).

But in a game that should go down to the wire, I'm going to go with a more experienced North Carolina side to steal the win. 

No matter who you think will win, one thing is for certain—this game will be a blast to watch.


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