The North Carolina Tar Heels are preparing to play with or without starting point guard Kendall Marshall this Friday night against a pesky Ohio Bobcats team that defeated Michigan and South Florida in the second and third round of the NCAA tournament.
And despite the fact that the Bobcats are a No. 13 seed, their tough, confident guards will present a challenge to the backcourt defenders from UNC.
TarHeelIllustrated.com takes a look at the dangerous guard duo of D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt, Ohio's best two players.
FACTS AND STATS
Simply put, Cooper and Offutt are the two most explosive players on the floor for Ohio. In their most recent win over South Florida to get to the round of 16, Offutt lead the way with 21 points while Cooper dropped in a cool 19 points in a 62-56 win.
So for you guys keeping score at home, the backcourt duo scored 40 of the Bobcats 62 points.
The petite but quick Cooper leads the team in many categories from the point guard positions. He averages 14.9 points per game, and dishes out 5.7 assists per contest. He also leads the team with 2.3 steals per game and shoots 74% from the free throw line.
Cooper logs an average of 32 minutes per game and is likely to log even more against the ACC powerhouse from Chapel Hill. In short, he will be on the floor for most of, if not all, of the entire game.
The 5-11 floor general grabs 3.8 rebounds per game and shoots 31% from the three-point-line.
Offutt, is the team's second leading scorer at 12 points per game. He logs 29 minutes per game and grabs 3.6 rebounds from his wing guard position. He shoots a respectable 71% from the charity stripe and 36% from the arc. He also averages 1.6 steals per game.
Clearly, Cooper and Offutt are the top two players to watch for the 29-7 Bobcats.
Watching Cooper in action, he's the guy who will dominate the ball a lot for Ohio University. He is quick and constantly keeps his defender off balance by changing speeds and directions. He loves to get into the lane where he whips clever passes to spot up shooters and backdoor cutters.
He's a smooth left-hander, who is on the smaller side at 5-11, but he utilizes an effective floater in the lane to get shots up over outstretched arms near the rim.
Cooper likes to shoot the basketball and even though his numbers aren't terribly impressive, from a percentage standpoint, he can get hot from the outside. He shoots more three pointers than anyone else on his squad -- but he also sets up his teammates nicely with crisp sharp passes.
On defense, Cooper leads the team in steals and has excellent reactionary reflexes and great anticipation. Watching him in action, this might be his most impressive area. If UNC isn't careful with their passes, Cooper will snag them out of mid-air.
The key for UNC will be to keep Cooper in front of them and force him to shoot over the taller Tar Heel Defenders. UNC will have a major size advantage inside, so containing Cooper's penetration will be one of the most important concerns on Friday night in St. Louis.
Offutt, who stands at a long 6-3, is Ohio's best perimeter slasher and most intense player. His teammates describe him as their tough guy and he's known for playing with a huge chip on his shoulder.
His story is one to like, as he's fought through numerous knee injuries and was a transfer from Ohio State, due to playing time.
He plays and defends with passion and really gets after it on BOTH sides of the ball. He's a combination of athleticism, strength and an impressive all around motor. He oozes with confidence and does a great job getting by defenders and getting to the basket.
He's also a respectable shooter who hits a high percentage of his three-pointers. And he loves to take over in close games, taking the big shot with the game on the line.
Whoever defends Offutt---whether it's Harrison Barnes, P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock or Kendall Marshall---will have to match his level of intensity.
Offutt loves the big stage and he doesn't hesitate. Ever.
If UNC can contain these two backcourt aces, they should move on to the Elite Eight on Sunday, where they'd play either Kansas or N.C. State with a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans at stake.