Both Arkansas and North Carolina were able to survive their first game on Thursday by a combined 5 points. Any win in the tourney is a good win though, especially on a first day when four double-digit seeds were able to win. This is a match-up that pits teams that are 16th and 17th in the nation in scoring per game. This looks to be one of the better games of the third round action. The last time the Razorbacks made the tournament was in 2008 when the Tar Heels put them out. The game tips at 8:40 ET on TNT.
Key to the Game
Arkansas plays a full court press on defense and is seventh in the nation in turnover margin. Arkansas will try to force North Carolina into turnovers or make them put up bad shots. If successful, Arkansas will be pleased with the outcome. If North Carolina is able to move the ball efficiently down the court and catch the defense out of position, then the Tar Heels will be moving on to the Sweet 16. North Carolina has proven they can move the ball as they rank second in the nation in assists.
Arkansas can’t let Marcus Paige drift open in the press or he can make them pay heavily for it.
Bobby Portis is the man for Arkansas. The SEC Player of the Year is averaging 17.5 points per game, the highest by any player in this game. Portis has been solid for the Razorbacks all season and will need to carry the team again in this one. Portis will need to assert himself down low and get some easy shots to help the Razorback offense. The sophomore forward will need to pull down as many boards as he can as North Carolina is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. He has also shown he can hit the rare 3-pointer as he is 13-28 on the year from deep. North Carolina will look to shut him down and make sure the points that the Razorbacks score come from second options. If the Tar Heel defense is successful with that, then the Razorbacks will struggle to stay in this one.
I think that the Razorbacks will come out firing in this one and take a very close lead into the second half. Portis will not want to see his tournament run end here and will put up his numbers. Even if Portis is dominant, I see North Carolina finding answers for every run Arkansas will give them. Roy Williams has been here before. I see his Tar Heels persevering and winning this one by a score of 70-61.