With the Indiana Hoosiers moving past Kentucky to the Sweet 16 over the weekend, the team will now prepare to face arguably its toughest test of the season. Indiana gets a matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday with an Elite Eight appearance on the line in a game that features two of college basketball's royalty.
The game should be a thriller, but what should fans expect out of the Tar Heels? Obviously, North Carolina is a talented team, but there will be some interesting things to watch for heading into Friday.
Here's an early look at three of the biggest things to watch for North Carolina against Indiana..
1. The Tar Heels Are Big.
So far this season, North Carolina has relied extensively on its frontcourt and its size to get the job done. KenPom ranks the Tar Heels at No. 59 nationally in height and North Carolina is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, coming in at No. 4 nationally in offensive rebounding rate. It's a punishing team inside that can score, rebound, and defend the paint.
The key players for North Carolina upfront are Isaiah HIcks, Brice Johnson, and Kennedy Meeks. All three players have offensive ratings over 110 and rank in the top 10 in the ACC in offensive rebounding rate. If Indiana is going to have a chance to come out on top against North Carolina, slowing down these three has to be the first priority.
2. North Carolina Is Weakest Outside The Arc.
Of course, like any team, North Carolina has its weaknesses as well. Although the Tar Heels are monstorous inside and will pose some pretty substantial problems there, one area where the team isn't quite as deadly is outside the arc. North Carolina ranks just No. 308 nationally in three point percentage and No. 345 in percentage of team points off three point field goals, so it's not a team that relies a lot on its jump shooting.
Indiana's defensive focus is going to be upfront in this one, but not having to worry that much about the perimeter and closing out could be a real blessing. In fact, the only player who has been consistent from long range all season is Joey Berry and he shot just 37.4 percent on the year.
If the Hoosiers get lucky and nobody from North Carolina massively outperforms their season numbers, things should get much simpler on the defensive end.
3. Brice Johnson Is A Legitimate Star.
Coming into the year, Marcus Paige was the Tar Heel to get all the attention, but the one who has emerged the most is Brice Johnson. He has been dynamic in the frontcourt and is averaging 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He's also efficient with a 126.2 offensive rating, a 61.9 effective field goal percentage, and a 65.1 true shooting percentage.
Indiana has its own star in Yogi Ferrell, but much of this game will be determined by how the Hoosiers attempt to slow down Johnson. Notably, Johnson has been playing red hot this month as well. He has scored double-digits in his last 12 games and had an offensive rating of at least 120 in each of his last seven games.
The big players to watch will be Max Bielfeldt, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Williams, who will all try to use their athleticism and strength to slow down Johnson inside.