Arkansas vs. North Carolina
March 17, 2017
by Chase Gage
GREENSVILLE, SC. — The Razorbacks held off Seton Hall to earn a game against North Carolina in the Round of 32. These teams have become familiar in the Big Dance over the years.
The Hogs and Heels will face off in the tournament for the third time since 2008, with all three meetings coming in the second round. It will be the sixth meeting in the Big Dance for the two schools, with North Carolina holding a 3-2 advantage.
The most recent meeting between the two came in 2015 when 4-seed North Carolina defeated Bobby Portis and his 5th-seeded Razorbacks 87-78. The two met in 2008 in the second round which resulted in a 108-77 domination by Tyler Hansbrough and top-seeded North Carolina. Can the Hogs end the streak?
In fact, the last two times the Razorbacks made the tournament (2008, 2015), they were bounced by North Carolina in the second round. It’s time for the tables to turn.
The Tar Heels have opened as an 11-point favorite in this game, which comes as no surprise. North Carolina is a 1-seed once again, while Arkansas sits as an 8-seed. Though it may be unlikely that the Hogs pull off the upset and keep North Carolina out of the Sweet 16, it is possible. That’s why you play the game.
These teams like to play fast. Both teams play up to nine players deep and focus on speed and defense to win games. Expect a high-scoring, high-intensity track meet from start to finish. The Hogs (26-9) and Tar Heels (28-7) depend on wearing their opponent down in the second half due to their fast-paced game. The Razorbacks are the best second-half team in college basketball, outscoring their opponents by a combined 229 points (first in the NCAA) in the final 20 minutes of games this season. Both the Razorbacks and Tar Heels average over 43 points per game in the second half. North Carolina is ranked 10th in second-half points with 43.3 per game while Arkansas is 12th, sitting at 43.1.
Look for this to be an exciting game. The pressure is off of the Razorbacks. They have met their expectations for the season. From here on out, they’re playing for fun. North Carolina carries an expectation to reach the Final Four, so all the pressure is on them. Win or lose, the Razorbacks have had a stellar season. A win, though, would turn this season into one for the ages.
*Crazy Stat: I predict that one of the schools will score 79 points. My reasoning? In the first meeting between the schools in the NCAA Tournament (1990), the Tar Heels managed 73 points in a losing effort in the Sweet 16. Three years later in 1993, Arkansas scored 74 in a loss in, you guessed it, the Sweet 16. On their way to the championship game in 1995, the Hogs scored 75 to top the Heels in the Final Four. We skipped 76 points, but in 2008 the Razorbacks scored 77 in a second-round loss to North Carolina. Finally, in 2015, the Hogs scored 78 in yet another second-half loss to the Heels. I see a pattern here*