The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Two keys to UNC men's basketball's ACC/SEC Challenge clash with No. 10 Tennessee

bacot.png
Then-junior forward/center Armando Bacot (5) shoots the ball during a game versus Tennessee on November 21, 2021, in Uncasville, Connecticut. Photo Courtesy of Maggie Hobson/UNC Athletics.

Following a Thanksgiving break trip to the Bahamas for the 2023 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the No. 17 North Carolina men’s basketball team will make its return to the Dean E. Smith Center on Wednesday for its ACC/SEC Challenge matchup against No. 10 Tennessee.

After losses to current No. 1 Purdue and then-No. 1 Kansas at the Maui Invitational, the Volunteers will be hungry to get back in the win column against the Tar Heels.

Here are two keys for the Tar Heels if they hope to hand Tennessee yet another ranked loss.

Stay out of foul trouble

In its games against Villanova and Arkansas, North Carolina picked up 54 fouls — more than its first four games combined. It goes without saying that if UNC wants to have any sort of chance against Tennessee, they need their star players to be on the court as much as possible.

While UNC head coach Hubert Davis has extended his use of the bench significantly this season, players like fifth-year center Armando Bacot and junior forward Harrison Ingram have been crucial to the success of North Carolina so far this season — Bacot as the longtime cornerstone, Ingram as the jack-of-all-trades transfer. Should the pair find themselves in foul trouble, it hampers the playmaking that the Tar Heels are able to have on the court; Ingram fouled out in regulation against Villanova, who went on to win by two points in overtime.

Additionally, sending Tennessee to the foul line will almost certainly result in two points for the Volunteers, who are are shooting 77.7 percent from the free-throw line — the second-best clip in the SEC, behind only Alabama. Fifth-year guards Dalton Knecht and Santiago Vescovi have capitalized on their trips to the line, with the backcourt tandem each shooting better than 81 percent.

Contain Dalton Knecht

North Carolina was one of several schools to reach out to the coveted Northern Colorado transfer this past offseason.

During Knecht's time with the Bears, he showcased his ability to not only shoot the ball from three-point range but also attack the basket, averaging 20.2 points per game last year. Posing a rare combination of a 6-foot-6 frame with a guard's quickness, Knecht has the speed needed to blow past defenders as well as the ability to finish at the rim, making several highlight-worthy dunks last year.

He hasn't slowed down at Tennessee, either, leading the Volunteers in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Knecht can fly high above the rim and finished an alley-oop off with flair on an inbound pass against Kansas.

Whoever on UNC is assigned to the Colorado native will need to keep a close watch on Knecht, even when he doesn’t have the ball. Only one other Volunteer averages double figures — junior guard Jordan Gainey, who logs nearly 24 minutes a game, scoring 11.7 points.

In short, limiting Knecht's production should make the Tar Heels' night much easier.

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.