Center Stage: UNC vs UW

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by Craig Yamada

Who: 7 UW (24-10) vs. 2 UNC (27-7)

Where: Charlotte, NC

When: Sunday, 9:15 AM PST

TV: CBS

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. What does it mean to you? For years, UW fans have been waiting for a matchup against a national powerhouse like UNC on a national stage. And our players are no different. A matchup against one of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball is an event you can only dream of as a kid. Growing up idolizing former UNC players like Michael Jordan,  Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter,  and Antawn Jamison, it would be easy to get caught up in the rich tradition of UNC. But make no mistake, the Huskies can ill afford to be caught in the clouds for too long before this current UNC squad gets rolling. UW has longed to be mentioned in the same breath with the best in the country. And on Sunday, they will have their chance to prove it as major underdogs in UNC’s backyard.

UNC could technically change their team to the Hamburglars as all five of their starters were McDonald’s HS All Americans. UNC actually started the season with seven All-Americans, only to lose Reggie Bullock for the season to injury and Larry Drew to transfer. To national pundits, there credentials alone are reason enough to automatically pencil them into the Sweet 16. Lucky for you, this local pundit values blue collar players who make opposing value McDonald’s players look like Dollar menu options. (And for the record, I do still love the actual dollar menu)

UNC 1o1: The Tarheels are coming off a steamrolling effort against Long Island on Friday. They were the only team to score above 100 points in the “second” round of the tourney. They enter the tourney as winners of 9 of their last 10, including a victory over Duke at home.  They can get up and down the floor as well as anyone in the country. Perfect tempo and playing style for UW in my opinion. They boast one of the best front lines in the country headlined by 7 foot center Tyler Zeller and their “Inspector Gadget” forward 6’10 John Henson. Both are a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses as they possess stellar post talent and athleticism. Harrison Barnes, their heralded freshman, is their most explosive player averaging 15.3 ppg (highest on the team) and rounds out a talented front court that accounted for 84 of UNC’s 102 points against LIU. At 6’8″, Barnes can beat you anywhere on the floor. He is simply a scoring prodigy and will be priority #1 for Justin Holiday on Sunday morning. Keeping Barnes off the arc will be the first objective as he leads the team from three point land. He has a quick trigger and will need to be kept in check all game. Kendall Marshall is the motor that runs this team. At 6’3″, Marshall is a true PG who averages 6 assists per game and is key in orchestrating their offense. Marshall really stepped up this year after being placed in the starting lineup following the exit of Larry Drew. Isaiah Thomas and Venoy will need to keep Marshall out of rhythm if they hope to advance. Rounding out the starting five is 6’3 SG Dexter Strickland. Strickland is their 5th option on offense as he average 7.3 ppg. UNC basically runs an 8 man rotation with Leslie McDonald being their key contributor off the bench. UNC plays a lot of man defense which helps aid their fast paced tempo in transition. They are also the #1 rebounding team in the nation.

UNC Starting Line Up:

PG – Kendall Marshall, 6’3″

SG – Dexter Strickland, 6″3″

SF – Harrison Barnes, 6’8″

PF – John Henson, 6’10”

C – Tyler Zeller, 7’0″

Dawgs 1o1: It wasn’t the prettiest win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, but we will take it. With a win or go home mentality, UW has responded to having their backs to the wall this year and will need to respond in fine fashion on Sunday for their biggest game of the year. In a surprise move by Romar, Darnell Gant drew the start against the Bulldogs to help add defensive presence and a bigger offensive threat than Aziz N’Diaye. I would expect Romar to roll with the same lineup as yesterday, with a small possibility of replacing Ross with Wilcox at the SG to help get our outside shooting rolling early.

UW Starting Line Up:

PG – Isaiah Thomas, 5’9″

SG – Terrence Ross, 6’6″

SF – Justin Holiday, 6’6″

PF – Darnell Gant, 6’8″

C – MBA, 6’9″

UW Keys to Victory:

  • Rebounding – Seriously, I mean it this time. Henson and Zeller are rebounding vacuums on both ends of the floor.  A body will need to be put on these guys at all times in order to keep up with the #1 rebounding team in the nation. Expect N’Diaye to get larger minutes tomorrow to battle on the glass
  • Keep Barnes in Check – He is the key and is the kind of player that can go off for 35 points on any given night. Holiday/Gant will need to try and deny ball to this guy all night long to have a chance
  • Get Back on D – Crashing the offensive boards as a 3 point shooter could spell disaster for UW as the Tarheels will look to push the ball in transition all game. They are all athletic and all very capable of keeping pace with our team.
  • Defense – As poorly as we played offensively yesterday, their defense was stellar. We will need to mix both man and zone to keep UNC on their “Tar” heels. Expect some zone early on if Henson and Zeller get going.
  • IT having the game of his life – Well Isaiah, I don’t know how we could ask more of you this season. But we are going to have to rely on you to get us through this game. IT will need a double double for points and assists for us to have a chance tomorrow.
  • MBA being patient – No surprise here, but MBA will need to try and overcome the lanky shot blocking arms of John Henson tomorrow. He looked a little rushed yesterday and will need to pick and choose his spots when he gets the ball. Finding the open man around the arc will be huge tomorrow.
  • Ross/Wilcox/Suggs – Usually I would ask just one of you to step up tomorrow. But tomorrow we will need contributions from all of you. We shot 22% as a team from three point land on Friday. Getting points in the paint will prove difficult tomorrow and we likely need to get a lot of points from deep.

Game Prediction:

Hubert Davis was man enough to pick against his alma mater as he penciled in UW into the next round. I will oblige him and agree with his assessment. With a potential shootout tomorrow, I am expecting UW to get down early and go into the half by 8 or 10. UW will wake up and play the second half of their lifetimes. This game will come down to the last possession. Call me crazy but, UW squeaks this game out 82-80.

Rest up Dawg fans. We will need everyone watching to pull this out tomorrow.