Here’s our latest collaborative Q&A, a Wisconsin-North Carolina preview with Fansided’s Keeping It Heel.
Earlier this week, we teamed up with Fansided’s Keeping it Heel – and their editor, John Bauman – to get some specifics and offer a Wisconsin-North Carolina preview.
Here’s what Bauman had to say about the Badgers-Tar Heels match up.
BoH: What’s the status of Kennedy Meek’s injury, and should he be unable to play or be limited Thursday night, what’s North Carolina’s back up plan?
KiH: Carolina has a pretty big backup plan in case Kennedy Meeks can’t go — 6’10”, 260 pound center Joel James. James has played well this season, especially in the second half of the year. Kennedy Meeks is more of an offensive player, and I don’t think James will be able to replicate Meeks’ impact on the offensive end. However, James does add some value on the defensive end. He is a really big body and has given traditional post players, like Jahlil Okafor and Montrezl Harrell, issues in the past because of his length and size.
North Carolina’s backup plan might not work against Wisconsin though. Frank Kaminsky is more than comfortable stepping out from behind the arc, and James is not a nimble being and could struggle if he has to chase Kaminsky around the arc. This problem applies to all UNC’s bigs tho.
BoH: Teams in the tournament so far have opted to double team Frank Kaminsky in the paint. How do you expect North Carolina to guard the big man?
KiH: Against Jahlil Okafor, UNC used a mix of defenses to counter the big man in the paint. UNC didn’t double a whole lot against him, though, and I would expect the Tar Heels to play Kaminsky straight up, even when he is in the paint. UNC’s issue with Kaminsky isn’t guarding him in the paint. It’s guarding him behind the arc, where his three-point shooting ability gives the Heels a lot of matchup problems.
UNC will probably try to put Brice Johnson on Kaminsky and have him chase Kaminsky around the arc. A double team will come if Kaminsky really starts to dominate, but I expect at least to start the game that UNC will play him 1 v. 1.
Mar 21, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) blocks the shot of Arkansas Razorbacks forward Alandise Harris (2) in the first half of a game in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
BoH: Wisconsin is known for its stingy defense, giving up less than 60 points per game. What challenges will North Carolina’s offense pose for the Badgers, and who do you expect North Carolina to turn to when they need a big basket?
KiH: North Carolina is an elite offensive rebounding team, and Carolina’s ability on the offense glass give teams a lot of trouble. However, Wisconsin is also an excellent defensive rebounding team and they do a good job of limiting teams on the offense glass. UNC will be in trouble if they can’t find a way to gain extra possessions via offensive boards.
UNC’s ability to score the ball inside could also cause problems. Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks are two big men with above average post up games, and Joel James and Kennedy Meeks, if he plays, each have a few moves down low as well. If UNC can establish good position in the post and really attack the Wisconsin big men in the paint, that could also pose a big challenge for Wisconsin, especially if Wisconsin gets in foul trouble.
When UNC needs a bucket, they will turn to star point guard Marcus Paige, who is playing much better now that he is free from the shackles of a lingering ankle injury that has plagued him for most of the season. Wisconsin fans should not underestimate Paige’s ability to take the game over and win the game all by himself Thursday night.
BoH: Give me “sleeper pick” for a Tar Heel who no one’s expecting to, but who could have a big game Thursday night?
KiH: My sleeper pick is J.P. Tokoto. Tokoto isn’t known for his offensive ability, but I could see him having a big game on Thursday because of what this game means to him. Tokoto is from Wisconsin and I’m sure is fired up to play this game against a team from his home state.
Tokoto will have a big impact on the defensive end no matter what, but if he attacks the basket offensively and is able to hit a couple jump shots, 15 or so points and a big game is not out of the realm of possibility.
I think Wisconsin is a terrible matchup for UNC. They are a mix of Notre Dame’s shooting and spacing and Virginia’s pace and defense. UNC struggled against both those teams this year, and I don’t expect UNC to have a lot of success against a better version of those two teams.
BoH: Care to offer a prediction?
KiH: I’m picking Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin is a terrible matchup for UNC. They are a mix of Notre Dame’s shooting and spacing and Virginia’s pace and defense. UNC struggled against both those teams this year, and I don’t expect UNC to have a lot of success against a better version of those two teams.
Frank the Tank has 20 points, UNC can’t get going offensively and Wisconsin wins easily by 12.
Thanks again, John, and best of luck to the Tar Heels.