Representing the # 1 and # 5 seeds in the East bracket the 28-6 North Carolina Tar Heels and the 25-7 Indiana Hoosiers will meet in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday night. North Carolina advanced thanks to a big second half against the # 9 seeded Providence Friars when they turned a 4 point halftime lead into a 19 point victory. Indiana moves on thanks to an impressive 73-67 win over the # 4 seeded Kentucky Wildcats. There was some bad news for Indiana as Robert Johnson and Juwan Morgan were injured in the victory and their status for the game against North Carolina is still unknown. Indiana is back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2013 when they were a # 1 seed.
North Carolina is in the Sweet Sixteen for the 27th time since 1975 which is the most by any Division 1 team. Although they had 5 different players score in double figures, they were led again by forward Brice Johnson who scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds. In 2 games so far he has scored 39 points on 14 of 20 shooting to go along with 17 rebounds. Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II each scored 15 and Marcus Paige chipped in with 12. Paige has 1,776 points in his career placing him 13th on the school’s all-time list and he is 12 points away from Tying Michael Jordan for 12th. Defensively, they did a good job defending the three-point line as providence only made 6 of their 23 attempts and forced 11 turnovers. They couldn’t stop Kris Dunn as the Providence guard scored 29 points on just 16 shots.
With the victory over Kentucky, Indiana is back in the Sweet Sixteen since their last appearance in 2012. Thomas Bryant led the team with 19 points but 17 came in the second half including 15 in the final 8 minutes. Yogi Ferrell also had a nice game with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Defensively, they forced Kentucky into 16 turnovers and they only had 8 assists. They also limited Kentucky to just 25 percent from three-point range as they made only 4 of their 16 attempts. If there was a negative, it was that they went 6 for 21 from three-point range which is 28.6 percent after being ranked 5th in the country this year in three-point percentage with 41.6.
North Carolina enters this game on a 7 game win streak which includes wins over tournament teams Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Virginia. Indiana has won 4 of their last 5 and their only loss was to Michigan on a buzzer beater. North Carolina has gone 17-18-1 against the spread this year but is only 1-1 so far in the tournament. Indiana has gone 19-15 against the spread this year and have covered in both of their tournament game so far. North Carolina is a 6 point favorite in this game and the statuses of Morgan and Johnson for Indiana are still unknown.
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