Representing the 4th and 5th seeds the UNC Tar Heels and Arkansas Razorbacks will meet on Saturday night in the second round after both surviving against inferior opponents to move on. The 4th seeded Tar Heels blew a 16 point second half lead and hung on to beat the 13th seeded Harvard Crimson 65-63. The 5th seeded Razorbacks never led by more than 5 points against the 12th seeded Woodford Terriers and avoided the upset by hanging on to win 56-53. Both teams can make improvements and for North Carolina that starts with hanging on to the ball. Against Harvard, they committed 17 turnovers while only forcing 7 on the defensive end. Arkansas needs to a better job at rebounding the basketball as they were out rebounded by Wofford 37-35. Not only were they out rebounded, they let Wofford grab 14 offensive rebounds while they only grabbed 8.
The Tar Heels didn’t have any All-ACC first team selections but have found success with a balanced offensive which includes 3 payers who averaged double digits in scoring. They are led by junior guard Marcus Paige who averaged 14 points and 3 assists per game. Right behind him is forward Brice Johnson (13 points and 7.7 rebounds) and Kennedy Meeks (12 points and 7.5 rebounds). The biggest problem the Tar Heels have could be them-selves as several times this year they have blown big leads and seem to just simply lose focus. The fact that their second half meltdown occurred in the first round against a much weaker opponent was both fortunate and perhaps motivational. They moved on and can now work on being more disciplined over the course of a 40 minute game. Overall this year North Carolina went 19-15 against the spread.
Arkansas has the SEC player of the year in Bobby Portis who came up huge against Wofford by scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He was dominant down low as he scored all 15 points in the paint. He received a big boost from guard Michael Qualls who led the team with a very efficient 20 points. He made 8 out of 9 field goals and has been a consistent second option for the Razorbacks all year as he has averaged 15.6 points and 5 assists per game. Arkansas likes to press and if they can force Carolina into forcing turnovers they have a good chance to pull off the upset. The Razorbacks are 20-0 when forcing the opposing team to commit 15 or more turnovers this year. Their defense has forced their opponents into committing 20 or more turnovers 8 times this season. Overall this year, Arkansas is 17-17 against the spread.
The Tar Heels are battle tested having played 17 games against teams that are in the top 50 in the RPI. However, they have blown big leads against Notre Dame, Duke and Louisville this year which all resulted in a loss. Arkansas has a dangerous inside out combination with Qualls and Portis who each can carry their team to victory on any given night. These teams are pretty evenly matched and the game can easily come down to the wire.
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