GREENVILLE, S.C. — After a 39-point rout of Texas Southern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the North Carolina men's basketball team faces its next challenge Sunday against Arkansas in the Round of 32.
The No. 1 seed Tar Heels (28-7) and No. 8 seed Razorbacks (26-9) have met in the second round in each of Arkansas' past two tournament appearances: two UNC wins in 2008 and 2015.
But the Razorbacks are coming off a 77-71 win over Seton Hall and are looking for their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1996 — which came a year after beating North Carolina in the Final Four.
How do they play?
For Arkansas, it's all about possessions. The Razorbacks will likely try to push the pace to create opportunities for their high-efficiency offense, which is careful with the ball and rebounds 32.2 percent of its misses.
Defensively, Arkansas is stout inside and outside the arc and aggressively denies opportunities in the paint, thanks to 6-foot-10 forward Moses Kingsley. The Razorbacks are prone to sending teams to the free-throw line — but with a lineup that legitimately goes nine deep, Mike Anderson's squad can afford to take chances on defense and go up-tempo on the offensive end.
Who stands out?
Moses Kingsley is Arkansas' best weapon against the Tar Heels.
The 6-foot-10 senior earned Second-Team All-SEC this season, and rightfully so. Kingsley ranks fourth in the conference with 7.8 rebounds per game and leads the SEC with 2.6 blocks per game — posing a problem for a UNC team that is susceptible to getting rejected at the rim.
Kingsley also leads the Razorbacks in free-throw attempts, which could spell trouble for foul-prone forwards Isaiah Hicks, Luke Maye and Tony Bradley.
What's their weakness?
Arkansas' glaring weakness will be impossible to hide.
The Razorbacks rank among the country's worst in defensive rebounding, allowing opponents to grab 34 percent of their missed shots. On the other side, North Carolina leads the nation in offensive rebounding, creating second-chance opportunities on 42.2 percent of its misses.
It's a disaster combination for Arkansas. As difficult as it can be to slow down the Tar Heels' high-octane attack, it's even harder when UNC gets second and third chances. Even if the Razorbacks rack up possessions offensively, they'll give them right back if they can't keep North Carolina off the offensive glass.
How could they win?
Arkansas will almost certainly lose the battle of the boards. But an efficient approach could be enough to pull the upset.
The Tar Heels have struggled to defend the 3-point line and free-throw line, as evidenced in their seven losses this season. The Razorbacks are a top-25 team from the charity stripe, and their two top scorers — Dusty Hannahs and Daryl Macon — shoot at least 38 percent from deep.
If Arkansas can attack UNC's weaknesses in the halfcourt, push the pace on the break and protect the paint like it has all season, the Razorbacks could survive an onslaught on the glass and down the Tar Heels.
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