1 UNC vs 5 IND
Time: Mar 25, 9:57 PM (ET) – TBS
Spread: UNC -5.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The North Carolina Tar Heels disposed of No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast 83-67 in its tourney opener and won 85-66 over No. 9 seeded Providence in the round of 32. The Tar Heels will now face a tough Indiana Hoosiers team coming minted off a huge win over the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Tar Heels are still 5.5 point favorites in the game which will air at 10 PM Eastern on TBS Friday night in Sweet 16 action.
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North Carolina got another big game from its star forward Brice Johnson. Johnson was coming off an eight block performance in the opening round, and he followed it with 21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Johnson connected on 7 of 9 from the field and 7 of 7 from the line and the Tar Heels shot 52.5 percent from the field as a team while connecting on 19 of 21 from the free throw line.
Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II both shot 6 of 13 from the floor for 15 points apiece, and the Tar Heels put five scorers in double figures.
Johnson is a 6’9” senior and is expected to be a lottery pick in the June NBA Draft. He averaged 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks/steals per game this season for the Tar Heels and he is a true game changer on both ends of the court. He had five blocks in the 88-71 win over Pittsburgh on Mar 10, and he has had a block in four of the past five games.
Johnson shot 61.9 percent from the field this season and he has shot 72 percent or better in three of the past five games. In this tournament Johnson has knocked down 14 of 20 (70 percent) while also hitting 11 of 13 from the free throw line. He shot 77.8 percent from the line this season, which will of course factor big if this game is as close as NCAA basketball oddsmakers project.
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Berry II and Jackson both averaged 12 points per game, as did senior point guard Marcus Paige. Paige struggled shooting the ball this season, hitting just 38.9 percent from the field, his lowest mark since his freshman year. He shot 7 of 21 (33 percent) from the field in the opening two games, but he did knock down 5 of 12 from three-point range.
Paige averaged 3.7 assists per game this season, but he kept his turnovers down to just 1.2 per game and he came up with 1.2 steals per game. His play is absolutely vital in this tournament for the Tar Heels, and he is going to have to knock down a higher clip than he typically has, even if UNC has had few problems scoring the ball.
Indiana looked so tough against Kentucky in its 73-67 victory in Round of 32 action. Six-foot-ten freshman center Thomas Bryant had 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting while also grabbing five rebounds in just 24 minutes of play. Bryant had averaged just 11.5 points per game in the Hoosiers previous four contests, but he was a low usage player this season attempting just 6.5 field goals per game, while knocking down an outstanding 68.9 percent of them.
The Hoosiers’ big draw is 6’1” senior guard Yogi Ferrell. He averaged 17.1 points, 5.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game this season while knocking down 45.9 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three. He had 18 points in the win over Kentucky, knocking down 6 of 13 from the field and also finishing with five rebounds and four assists. His performance in the opening round win over Chattanooga was stellar too: 20 points and 10 assists with four made triples.
Ferrell has been good this tournament, but if he steps up to help knock off a top seeded UNC team his legend will rise to the next level and an Elite 8 berth for the Hoosiers.