The North Carolina men's basketball team has been playing some of its most complete games of the last two years headed into March. The Tar Heels' final push, including late wins against Florida State and Virginia Tech, has secured them an eight-seed and a chance to once again dance in March.
On Friday, March 19, the Tar Heels will face Wisconsin, which was once ranked as high as No. 4 nationally before struggles against a competitive Big Ten schedule knocked the Badgers out of the top-25.
This competition will be only the second time that a Tar Heel team led by Roy Williams has entered the Big Dance seeded seven or lower. The other instance was a 2013 match-up against Villanova, where P.J. Hairston led eighth-seeded UNC to a first-round win and Williams' 700th career victory. Here are the keys to North Carolina repeating that success this year.
Stay Big, Bruh
The Tar Heels' success has undoubtedly come from inside the paint this season. Early on, the trio of Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day'Ron Sharpe offered UNC's offense consistent scoring as their young guards adjusted to the speed of play.
Now, recent breakout performances by 7-foot-1 first-year Walker Kessler, including a near triple-double against Notre Dame, have just added more gas to the frontcourt fire. This lethal combination of size and depth is the Tar Heels' biggest weapon, but Wisconsin's frontcourt has size of its own, with four players 6-foot-9 or taller averaging 10 minutes or more in their frontcourt rotation.
UNC will need to stay dominant in the paint and continue to feed its big men, despite the Badgers' size, with two of their top three scorers in Bacot and Brooks playing down low. The Tar Heels have also had great success on the offensive glass and will look to continue that against a Wisconsin team with a rebounding margin of -1.0.
It's no secret that the Tar Heels have struggled with 3-point defense all season — they rank 228th in the country in 3-point field goal defense, with their opponents shooting 34.5 percent from beyond the arc. This sloppiness defending the perimeter is even more dangerous against the Wisconsin team that knocks down an average of 36 percent of their shots from 3-point land.