Indoor riding arena

Marquette vs North Carolina matches, what to watch in the NCAA tournament

player

Marquette and North Carolina have proud basketball histories, combining for 86 NCAA Tournament nominations.

The programs have come together twice before in March Madness. MU fans need only look to the banner hanging from the rafters of the Fiserv Forum for a reminder of a 67-59 victory over the Tar Heels in the 1977 NCAA Championship game in Atlanta.

The Tar Heels crushed the Golden Eagles, 81-63, in the Sweet 16 in 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.

North Carolina leads the overall series, 4-2.

Here’s a preview of Thursday’s first-round match at Dickies Arena in Forth Worth, Texas:

NCAA Tournament Summary

NORTH CAROLINA (24-9)

NET quadrant recording 1: 3-8. Quadrant 2: 3-0. Quadrant 3: 13-0. Quadrant 4: 5-1.

Worst loss: Pittsburgh at home, 76-67, on Feb. 16.

Best win: Duke en route, 94-81, March 12, spoil Mike Krzyzewski’s last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

MARQUETTE (19-12)

NET quadrant recording 1: 5-7. Quadrant 2: 5-5. Quadrant 3: 4-0. Quadrant 4: 5-0.

The worst losses: DePaul on the road, 91-80, on March 2 and Butler on the road, 85-79, on February 12.

The best win: Illinois at home, 67-66, on Nov. 15 and Villanova on the road, 57-54, on Jan. 19.

Front yard

MU (Kur Kuath, Justin Lewis and Olivier-Maxence Prosper) against North Carolina (Armando Bacot, Brady Manek and Leaky Black)

Bacot is the biggest game problem for the Golden Eagles as one of the top rebounders in the nation at 12.5 per game. Kuath had just two points and a rebound in United’s loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament. Lewis has been named the Big East’s most improved player and the 6-foot-8 Black is a solid defensive player who should see time to guard Lewis. Prosper also acts as an all-around stopper. Manek, who was a teammate with Kuath at Oklahoma, extends defenses as the Tar Heel’s leading three-point shooter at 38.6%.

Advantage: North Carolina

More reading: Inside Kuath’s journey from Sudan to sniper blocker

More reading: How Lewis has put it all together this season

Rear area

MU (Darryl Morsell and Tyler Kolek) against North Carolina (RJ Davis and Caleb Love)

Morsell, Maryland’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season, will be tasked with slowing Love, a streaky shooter who converts all three points at a 37% clip. The lightning-fast Davis has scored more than 20 points in four games this season. After struggling late in the season, Kolek has registered six assists in each of United’s last two games.

Advantage: Same

More reading: Morsell is built like a tough guy in Baltimore

More reading: Kolek is one of the best passers in the country

Bench

United (Greg Elliott, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin and Stevie Mitchell) against North Carolina (Kerwin Walton, Puff Johnson and Justin McCoy)

Elliott and Jones can change the complexion of a game with their shooting, despite being combined 5 for 24 from long range in UT’s last four games. Mitchell and Joplin can provide sparks with defense and shooting, respectively. The Tar Heels don’t rely heavily on their bench, although McCoy has gained more playing time in recent games.

Advantage: Marquette

More reading: Jones could be United’s X factor in March

Coach

MU’s Shaka Smart vs. North Carolina’s Hubert Davis

Smart exceeded expectations in his first season at MU and will be coaching in his ninth NCAA Tournament. Davis, in his first season as head coach after taking over from Roy Williams, put North Carolina back on track, winning six out of seven after an ugly loss to Pittsburgh.

Advantage: Marquette

Four things to watch out for

ACCESS THE BOARDS: United are one of the worst teams in the nation at securing defensive boards, with their 31.4% opposing offensive rebound rate ranking 306th in the nation according to kenpom.com, a basketball statistics website. university. Bacot has 25 double-doubles this season, a North Carolina record. Keeping him out of the glass will be a team-wide task for the Golden Eagles.

GETTING GOOD HITS: The Tar Heels’ defense doesn’t force many turnovers and its .942 points per possession against point shots off pick and rolls ranks below average, according to Synergy Sports. MU, which performs a lot of pick-and-roll action, will likely get plenty of open shots.

THE MOB BENCH: Smart regularly plays against 10 players, often playing the hot hand when it comes to playing time. Starting North Carolina plays the bulk of the minutes. During the Tar Heels’ upset against Duke in the regular season finale, Davis relied on his top five players for the entire second half. If the game is close in the final minutes, will the Golden Eagles have more in the tank?

THE SMART ANGLE: The United manager is 3-0 against the Tar Heels. All of the wins came when Smart was at Texas and were won by a combined seven points. Two of the wins came on last-second shots, by Javan Felix in 2015 and Matt Coleman last season. With the Tar Heels and Golden Eagles tied, it could go to the wire.

Contact Ben Steele at (414) 224-2676 or bmsteele@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenSteeleMJS or Instagram at @bensteele_mjs

THANK YOU: Subscriber support makes this work possible. Help us share knowledge by purchasing a gift subscription.