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March 13, 2014

ACCT: Pitt-UNC Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC didn't end the season they would have liked when they dropped the season finale on the road against Duke to end their 12-game winning streak. The Heels would have much-preferred to sweep their rivals and go into the postseason with the longest current streak in the ACC.

But that simply wasn't in the cards. Instead they come into the tournament with a one-game losing streak which may prove helpful in the long run if Roy Williams' assessment of getting his teams focus is accurate.

"It is amazing that everyone, human nature, not just kids, but everybody's going about bounce back, do more, work harder and invest more, whatever, after a loss than you do after a win," said Williams earlier this week. "I wish it was not that way for my team. I don't care if it's that way for the other teams. But yeah, you get their focus even a little bit better."

Will UNC get back on track and find themselves playing this weekend? Let's take a look at that and some other storylines heading into Friday's game against Pittsburgh.

James Michael McAdoo

James Michael McAdoo is often the guy that sets the hustle-tone for UNC but recently he's had trouble staying on the court. In recent games against Florida State and Duke, McAdoo was unable to give a meaningful effort due to early foul trouble and his missing production was sorely missed in both contests.

Against Duke, McAdoo's absence was doubly missed because Kennedy Meeks was ill and couldn't provide much for UNC on the court either. That left Brice Johnson to pick up a lot of the slack and forced Williams to go smaller with his line-ups.

McAdoo and Meeks are the two guys down low that can provide the most on both ends of the court and if they can't stay on the floor then Williams has to go with Johnson, who is almost exclusively an offensive player, or Desmond Hubert, whose primary usefulness is on the defensive end. It creates holes at either end of the court and forces UNC to play 4-on-5 basketball.

UNC has lost, or won by less than double-digits, in all of the games since the start of February in which McAdoo has drawn four or more personal fouls. His production on offense is an obvious need for the Heels but his ability to stay aggressive late in games on the defensive end late in games can't be comprised by silly fouls early in the game.

J.P. Tokoto

J.P. Tokoto made the ACC's defensive first team and for good reason. His athletic ability has a Dwyane Wade-like feel to it and his offensive game has gotten steadily better the longer he's been in Chapel Hill. His mid-range shot has never been more reliable and he's a ferocious attacker of the rim on the fastbreak.

Tokoto's greatest contribution to UNC's efforts against Pittsburgh will be guarding top-5 ACC scorer Lamar Patterson. Patterson had 24 points against Wake Forest during the Panther's 84-55 win Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-5 senior from Lancaster is one of Pittsburgh's only reliable shooters from outside and can create his own shot as well as anybody else in the conference. Tokoto's long arms and athleticism match-up well with Patterson's skill set but Tokoto can't get careless and reach for steals. If he does, Patterson is savvy enough to get Tokoto into foul trouble and send him to the bench.

Tokoto should be in full Jackie Manuel mode for this one and should focus all his efforts on being the outside stopper UNC will need.

Focus

As mentioned in the opening statement, Williams believes he'll have his teams' full attention this week after they finally lost a game for the first time in a long time.

Williams wants to win every time out and is constant search of the perfect game but don't expect him to sacrifice everything just to win the ACC tournament. Williams has made statements this week that he doesn't place a huge importance on winning the tournament, although surely he would love to, but rather he wants his team to play well enough to have momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament.

UNC had been so up-and-down this year that just about any scenario that plays out this week and beyond probably won't surprise anyone. This week won't be so much about how far they can go in Greensboro but how they look going where they're going. If they come out flat then maybe UNC peaked too early. If they come out looking like the team that everyone saw prior to Durham, then the loss to Duke was probably a one-time thing that happens to ever basketball team comprised mostly of teenagers.

Pittsburgh
(24-8, 11-7)
vs.
#15/15 North Carolina
(23-8, 13-5)

Game Day
Date:
Friday, March 14, 2014
Time: 2:30 PM EST
Venue: Greensboro Coliseum (23,500)
TV: ESPN2/ACC Network

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 85/XM 85)
Series: Carolina leads the all-time series with Pitt, 8-1
Last Meeting: Carolina beat Pitt, 75-71, on February 15 in Chapel Hill.

2013-2014 ACC Standings

Pitt at a glance
Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Nickname: Panthers
Colors: Blue & Gold
Conference: ACC
Arena: Peterson Events Center (12,508)
2012-2013 Record: 24-9 (12-6)
Last Game: Pitt opened its first ACC Tournament on Thursday with an 84-55 win over Wake Forest.
More on the Panthers:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Wake Forest)


F - Lamar Patterson
F - Talib Zanna
F - Michael Young
G - James Robinson

G - Cameron Wright

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Lamar Patterson (17.8 PPG) Talib Zanna (12.6 PPG)

Rebounding: Talib Zanna (8.4 RPG) Lamar Patterson (4.7 RPG)

Assists: Lamar Patterson (4.4 APG) James Robinson (4 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
73.0
Rebounds Per Game: 36.1
Assist Per Game: 15.9
Field Goal Percentage: .462
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .360

North Carolina at a glance
Last starting line-up
(against Duke)

F - James Michael McAdoo
F - Kennedy Meeks
F - J.P. Tokoto
G - Marcus Paige

G - Leslie McDonald

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (17.1 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (14.2 PPG)

Rebounding: James Michael McAdoo (6.6 RPG) Kennedy Meeks (6.2 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.5 APG) J.P. Tokoto (2.9 APG)

Team Statistics
P
oints Per Game: 76.4
Rebounds Per Game: 39.9
Assist Per Game: 15.7
Field Goal Percentage: .465
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .339

Game Notes: Pitt | UNC

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