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Three reasons I think North Carolina doesn't match up well with KU
Team: North Carolina
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 25
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted.
• Ball security: North Carolina has turned it over on just 17.3 percent of its possessions this year, which ranks 36th nationally. The Tar Heels actually have been even more secure in ACC play, lowering their offensive turnover percentage to 16.5 percent. KU isn't a team that forces many turnovers either, as the Jayhawks rank 246th nationally in defensive turnover percentage (18.6 percent).
• Creating steals: UNC doesn't always press, but it will almost always pressure the ball, which creates lots of opportunities for steals. The Tar Heels are 73rd nationally in steal percentage, coming away with swipes on 11.2 percent of their defensive possessions. Going primarily with a four-guard look during ACC play, UNC also led all ACC teams in steal percentage.
• Avoiding fouls: UNC coach Roy Williams has historically had teams that have done an excellent job of keeping opponents off the free throw line, and this year is no different. The Tar Heels rank 16th nationally in defensive free throw rate, as despite playing at the nation's 18th-fastest pace, they have allowed just 16 free throw attempts per game to opponents.
• Getting to the free throw line: North Carolina is primarily a jump-shooting team and because of that, it hardly ever draws fouls. The Har Heels are 329th nationally in offensive free throw rate, putting up 645 free throws this year compared to 2,248 field-goal attempts. UNC averages just 18.4 free-throw tries per game.
• Two-point shooting: The Tar Heels' infatuation with two-point jump shots also has hurt their two-point shooting percentage, as they have made just 46.9 percent of its shots inside the arc (199th nationally). According to Hoop-Math.com, 41 percent of UNC's shots are two-point jump shots (NCAA average is 33 percent).
• Defensive rebounding: Since going to a four-guard lineup, defensive rebounding has been a struggle for UNC against bigger teams like KU. In each of their last three losses, the Tar Heels allowed Duke (twice) and Miami (Fla.) to grab at least 40 percent of the available offensive rebounds (NCAA average is 31.8 percent). This will be an interesting area to watch, as KU tied for its worst offensive rebounding effort in the Bill Self era against Western Kentucky on Friday (14.8 percent offensive rebounding percentage).
3 Players to Watch
• Much like Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash, UNC's 6-foot-9 forward James Michael McAdoo (No. 43) is a former McDonald's All-American whose reputation is much better than his statistics. The sophomore finished the regular season is in the top 50 in field goal attempts (451) despite putting up numbers that shouldn't warrant that kind of role.
McAdoo is a well-below-average two-point shooter, making just 45.3 percent of those shots in the regular season (198 of 437). His shot selection is mostly to blame, as a whopping 67 percent of his shots this year have been two-point jumpers — statistically the worst shot in basketball. He's not a good jump-shooter, either, as he made 33 percent of his two-point jump shots (NCAA average is 35 percent), has missed both of his three-pointers this year and is just a 57.3-percent free-throw shooter.
McAdoo's biggest strength is his defense, as he is 302nd in defensive rebounding percentage and 466th in steal percentage — a stat that big men usually don't specialize in. Offensively, he also is UNC's best player at drawing fouls (5.2 per 40 minutes, 215th nationally).
• Six-foot-5 guard P.J. Hairston (No. 15) was inserted into the starting lineup mid-season, and for good reason.
The sophomore was UNC's highest volume shooter in the regular season (taking 28.5 percent of the shots when he's in; 152nd nationally) while remaining exceptionally efficient. Hairston is best from three-point range, making 38.9 percent (81 of 208), but he also is an above-average two-point shooter with 77.8-percent accuracy from the free-throw stripe. Hairston also rarely turns it over (75th nationally in turnover rate), is decent at drawing fouls (4.7 per 40 minutes) and is a good perimeter defender (332nd in steal percentage). Statistically, he's UNC's best player.
• Think of 6-foot-7 guard/forward Reggie Bullock (No. 35 and has a mohawk) as UNC's version of Iowa State's Tyrus McGee.
If you remember, McGee combines great three-point shooting with a microscopic turnover rate, and Bullock is the same way. In the regular season, the junior made 43.8 percent of his threes (84 of 192) while posting the nation's 62nd-best turnover rate. Though he doesn't shoot as many twos, Bullock is accurate from there as well, making 55.7 percent of those shots, which includes 39-percent accuracy on two-point jump shots (NCAA average is 35 percent). Bullock isn't as strong of a defender as McGee is (Bullock's 2.3 percent steal percentage is about average for a guard), but he's still an elite player because of his offense. If you see a UNC player with a mohawk firing an open three, just know there's a great chance it's going in.
North Carolina has played much better since going to its four-guard lineup, making an impressive jump from 44th to 25th in the KenPom rankings in just over a month.
Having said that, I think there are a lot of reasons that this is a great matchup for KU.
1. Pace: UNC plays the 18th-fastest pace nationally, and KU is a team that plays much better offensively when it can get into a running game. UNC coach Roy Williams said Saturday his team wasn't going to change its style against KU, which means the Tar Heels are likely to play a high-possession game against a better team.
2. James Michael McAdoo: A lot of people have been concerned that the four-guard lineup could give KU's defense problems, but there is one big difference between UNC's small lineup and Iowa State's: UNC has an anchor in the middle in McAdoo. The sophomore has only shot two threes all year, and while he has shot a lot of jumpers (unsuccessfully), his range won't be enough to take KU center Jeff Withey away from the bucket. Much like Kansas State forwards Thomas Gipson or Jordan Henriquez, McAdoo should allow KU to "anchor" Withey in the lane defensively, which is where he is at his best blocking shots and rotating as a help defender.
UNC will have stretch 4s in Bullock and Hairston, but KU has a better lineup to counter that this year compared to last. A season ago, a four-guard look was tough because KU had two true post players in Thomas Robinson and Withey. Robinson is gone now, and Kevin Young is one of KU's best players at closing out on three-point shooters.
3. UNC's struggles against big teams: Since going to the four-guard lineup, North Carolina's worst games have come against bigger teams in Duke and Miami. As mentioned above, UNC was dominated on the glass in those games, and KU also should have success scoring if it's able to get the ball inside to allow Withey, Young and Perry Ellis to go after undersized defenders.
The one wildcard is UNC's three-point shooting, but barring a Wichita State-like effort there, I see KU — in front of a fired-up crowd — winning this one going away.
Kansas 79, North Carolina 63
Hawk to Rock
Kevin Young is a big key for KU, as he will have to get out to three-point shooters while also making good decisions and passes when he receives the ball close to the rim. Against an inconsistent rebounding team, I see Young having a big game, as his versatility should help him play well on both ends while allowing KU to adapt to UNC's offense.
28-7 record, 412 points off (11.8 points off/game)
Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (5th)
Kansas State: Naadir Tharpe (3rd)
Texas: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (7th)
TCU: Travis Releford (4th)
Iowa State: Jeff Withey (4th)
West Virginia: Perry Ellis (10th)
Texas Tech: Jeff Withey (1st)
Baylor: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Texas Tech: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (7th)
Kansas State: Jeff Withey (1st)
Western Kentucky: Jeff Withey (1st)
Average: 4th in KUsports.com ratings