Syracuse locked up the most improbable Final Four berth in school history with a 68-62 win over Virginia on Sunday night.On Saturday night, in Houston, the Orange will play another ACC foe who has had their number in recent match-ups, the North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC, like Virginia, is a one-seed and among the best teams in the nation. However, the Heels play a very different style of basketball and adjusting to their next opponent will determine if the Orange have a chance to continue their miracle run.
Virginia is an incredibly talented team that wins by suffocating their opponent’s offense. For thirty minutes, the Cavaliers were able to nearly shutdown the Orange offense. Only in the last ten minutes or so did Syracuse figure out a way through that famous “packline” defense and erase the large deficit. UNC is certainly capable on the defensive end but they are arguably the most dynamic offensive team in the nation.
One does not have look further than the two guys who have led the Tar Heels for much of the past four years. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson may not have the NBA prospects that someone like Oklahoma’s Buddy Heild has. but they are fantastic college basketball players.
Paige is averaging over 12 points and almost 4 assists per game. He may not put up staggering numbers but he is the heart of the UNC offense. Johnson is big man who can pretty much do everything. He has three straight games of 20 points and 10 rebounds which is a tournament record. Think of him as a more seasoned, more consistent Tyler Lydon.
In short, Carolina is a very different team than the one that the Orange just dispatched but are the toughest test yet. UNC has beat all four of their opponents by double digits in the tournament, scoring more than 80 points in every game. They put up over 100 points in their Sweet 16 victory over Indiana.
With that said, the Orange will have the chance to score points. UNC’s defense isn’t bad by any stretch, but after playing Virginia, UNC’s defense should not seem so daunting. It is hard to see the Orange out-scoring the Heels, but this entire run has been filled with the improbable. Saturday’s game could just come down to whose shooters get hot early.