5 W's: Arkansas-North Carolina

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Saturday, March 18, 2017
North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) reacts after making a three-point basket against Texas Southern during the first half in a first-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Friday, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Photo by Associated Press
North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) reacts after making a three-point basket against Texas Southern during the first half in a first-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Friday, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

— The who, what, when, where and why of Arkansas' second-round NCAA Tournament matchup with top-seeded North Carolina.

When? 

Arkansas Razorbacks (26-9) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (28-7): March 19, 5:10 p.m. CT 

Where?

Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C. 

What type of game should Arkansas fans expect?

Very fast. Arkansas ranks 32nd in the nation in offensive tempo, averaging just 15.7 seconds per possession. North Carolina is even faster, ranking 22nd with an average of 15.4.

Both teams like to get out and run. North Carolina is borderline elite in the halfcourt, averaging 94.7 points per 100 halfcourt possessions per Synergy Sports, a figure that ranks them in the 86th percentile nationally. But the Tar Heels can be devastating in the open court because of their marked athletic advantage against most teams.

North Carolina is somewhat similar to Kentucky in that the Tar Heels like to play the same style as Arkansas, only they do it at a higher level with better athletes. The Razorbacks have one of the best offenses in the nation, to be sure, averaging an adjusted 116.7 points per 100. North Carolina is No. 5 in the country, averaging 122.1.

North Carolina possesses the athletic advantages, but the Hogs are statistically better in transition. UNC averages 100.7 per 100 in transition. Arkansas is in the 85th percentile, averaging 112.4.

Arkansas isn’t going to slow down. But it may be a tough task to out-Carolina a locked-in Carolina.

Who is the North Carolina player Arkansas will have the hardest time matching up with? 

The Tar Heels present a lot of matchup problems. They have length and athleticism across the board. From a size standpoint, North Carolina has a massive advantage over Arkansas. The Tar Heels are longer than Kentucky and longer than Florida, teams that bothered Arkansas with their size. Point guard Joel Berry is 6-foot, the only UNC starter shorter than 6-6.

Junior small forward Justin Jackson is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. He’s a 6-foot-8 sharpshooter with good athleticism and a long 6-11 wingspan, traits that have him projected as a late lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

He is averaging a team-best 18.1 points per game and shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range on more than 7 attempts a game. He’s coming off a 21-point outing that included 5 3-pointers in North Carolina’s first-round win over Texas Southern.

Arkansas has no one that can match up with him. The Razorbacks have a group of 6-3 guards and no long wings in the rotation. While they did a nice job containing Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez, holding him to 4 of 17 shooting, Rodriguez is 2 inches shorter than Jackson, doesn’t have the same wingspan and isn’t as skilled a scorer.

The Tar Heels feature Jackson and work to get him open looks. Arkansas will have its hands full.

Why rebounding will play a huge role.

Seton Hall came into its matchup with Arkansas ranked in the top 25 nationally in offensive rebounding, grabbing one-third of its misses. The Pirates finished with 21 offensive rebounds, pulling down 46.7 percent of their misfires, the second-higest rate Arkansas has allowed this year.

A potentially scary reality: North Carolina is the best offensive rebounding team in the nation. The Tar Heels grab an astounding 42.2 percent of their own missed shots, using their collective size to beat teams up on the board for easy second-chance points. Arkansas, on the other hand, ranks 330th out of 351 Division I teams, allowing opposing teams to board 34 percent of misses.

Arkansas survived against Seton Hall in part because the Pirates couldn’t turn their offensive boards into second-chance points at a high rate (just 14). Seton Hall missed free throws and layups, a combination that wound up being its undoing.

North Carolina is bigger, more athletic and better than Seton Hall.

Arkansas has proven it can hang with elite rebounding teams on the boards at times, like when it outrebounded Texas A&M, at that point the leading rebounding team in the SEC, 36-32 in a win in College Station in January. The Hogs hung with the Aggies on the boards, losing 35-33, in the second meeting. Rebounding was obviously a point of great emphasis coming in to both games and the Hogs responded with a solid effort in both cases.

North Carolina is bigger, more athletic and better than Texas A&M. Arkansas may need to have its best outing on the glass to hang with the Tar Heels.

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