NCAA Tournament Preview: (4) North Carolina vs. (1) Wisconsin
After an opening weekend that appropriately summed up the craziness that has been the 2014-15 season, the North Carolina Tar Heels are Sweet 16 bound, and will meet the one-seeded Wisconsin Badgers in Los Angeles.
This is a scary Wisconsin team, led by senior Frank Kaminsky, a National Player of the Year candidate and stretch power forward. Kaminsky is a 7-footer who is shooting 41-percent from the 3-point line this year, and poses a match-up nightmare for the Tar Heels. Brice Johnson simply can’t go out onto the perimeter to guard Kaminsky, and while Roy Williams has a few options, none of them are a surefire way to stop him:
- Williams can put Isaiah Hicks in as power forward to guard Kaminsky, and move Brice Johnson down to center. This is a move that would give Kennedy Meeks valuable rest (if he plays), and it makes a little sense in that Hicks played his entire freshman season as small forward, so he does have some experience stepping out to the perimeter.
- Williams can go extremely small and move J.P. Tokoto down to power forward to guard Kaminsky. While Kaminsky has a distinct height advantage, Tokoto’s length and jumping ability will help him disrupt Kaminsky’s shot from deep, although he would have a much tougher time guarding in the post. Plus, Tokoto is playing against his home state’s school, so we’ll likely see an even more motivated J.P. than we already have this tournament.
- Williams can implement a 3-2 zone to limit Kaminsky’s outside shooting. The Tar Heels have implemented more zones over the last few years, and a 3-2 zone would be a potential solution to Kaminsky killing North Carolina from deep. But, #ZoneIsForCowards, so this is my least favorite option.
Of course, Frank Kaminsky isn’t the only reason Wisconsin is so good. Bo Ryan’s team is first in the nation at offensive efficiency, almost entirely from the Badgers’ half-court game. North Carolina absolutely has to force Wisconsin to play fast, and even then, the Badgers are still efficient. If the game slows down and goes into a half-court setting, though, the Tar Heels will find themselves in a dangerous spot.
Carolina absolutely has to look at this Wisconsin team as a more offensively sound Virginia. They’re going to limit possessions, and they’re going to do everything possible to slow the Tar Heels down. If North Carolina can somehow limit Kaminsky’s production, while forcing the Badgers to pick up the pace, it has a slight chance.
That being said, this Wisconsin team might be the most dangerous in the country not named “Kentucky.” It’s an experienced unit, and Frank Kaminsky should get honored with the Naismith Trophy. North Carolina will put up a fight, but Wisconsin will likely go one step further in the Big
The Verdict: Wisconsin defeats North Carolina to advance to the Elite 8, 77-69.