ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina vs. OhioPosted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012
Before Kendall Marshall‘s injury, this was a very tough match-up for the Bobcats. With Marshall’s injury, it’s still a tough match-up. There are several things going against Ohio in this match-up, but the toughest to overcome is simply size. Reggie Keely is a big body at 6’8″ and 263 pounds, but the rest of the line-up is shorter and lighter. Against the NBA-caliber size of North Carolina, this will be a problem, particularly for a team that struggles with defensive rebounding as it is. Worse, against the foul-drawing bigs of North Carolina, Ohio may quickly find itself in foul trouble. Ohio is easily the most foul-happy team left in the tournament, and Keely fouls 5.1 times per forty minutes and the rest of the front line posts similar marks. If Ohio can’t hold the interior against North Carolina, there is little to stop Tyler Zeller for going off for the game of his life.
Still, despite this distinct mismatch, Ohio comes into this game with a set of skills that could make life miserable for the Tar Heels. As a team, the Bobcats force turnovers on over a quarter of all possessions, and over the season have turned over offenses at the second best rate in the entire country. North Carolina, despite its fast pace, was one of the better ball-control teams in the country this year, and a lot of that credit goes to the masterful generalship of Marshall. Without the team’s 35 MPG point guard (or his back up), the Tar Heel’s of a distinct lack of battle-tested and sure-handed ball-handlers. Stilman White, Justin Watts, and (I suspect) Harrison Barnes are all but certain to endure hellacious ball-pressure as Ohio tries to leverage North Carolina’s inexperienced ball-handler into frequent turnovers and easy fast-break points. The success of both teams likely hinges on the ability of North Carolina to successfully break pressure, play out of traps, and otherwise initiate the Tar Heel offense before the ball hawks of Ohio make the big play.
On defense, North Carolina will have to face one of its old weaknesses: frequent three-point shooting by speedy guards. D.J. Cooper is a terror with the ball, an undersized playmaker with a fearless penchant for taking three-point shots despite his relatively low season percentages. More dangerous to North Carolina are the likely recipients of Cooper’s drive-and-kicks: Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg. Of these two, Offutt is the more balanced scorer and a threat to make his own forays into the paint, but Kellogg is the better outside shooter, averaging 41.8% on three-point attempts this season. These three are all capable of getting hot and putting points on the board in a hurry. Ohio is likely to take the typical underdog approach and shoot threes with impunity. Against the Tar Heels often suspect three-point defense, this isn’t a bad offensive gameplan. If North Carolina isn’t disciplined in covering up shooters, the Bobcats have guys who can really make the Tar Heels pay.
When push comes to shove, Ohio is the weakest team in the field. Without big nights from the perimeter and a ridiculous amount of forced turnovers, it’s going to be very difficult to beat North Carolina with all the size and talent the Tar Heels can bring. Yet, if ever there was a night that turnovers would plague the Tar Heels, it would be the first game without their star point guard and a three-point barrage can happen at any time. Ohio probably could match up with other teams a lot better than North Carolina, but if there is a time when the Bobcats can beat the Tar Heels, it is tonight. I still think Zeller and Barnes are too determined to lose this game, but there is no doubt in my mind that North Carolina is afraid of this game.