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Louisville-North Carolina preview

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The Cards are back in action Tuesday night against the visiting Tar Heels of UNC.

North Carolina v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (11-10, 5-6) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (15-6, 7-3)

Game Time: 8:05 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst)

Favorite: North Carolina by 3.5

Officials: Roger Ayers, Bill Covington, Jr., Tim Clougherty

Series: North Carolina leads, 16-7

Last Meeting: North Carolina won 99-55 on Feb. 20, 2021 in Chapel Hill

Series History:

Probable North Carolina Starting Lineup:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About North Carolina:

Consistency has been the defining characteristic of Hubert Davis’ first North Carolina Tar Heel team. That’s both a good and a bad thing.

Basically, if the Tar Heels have played a Quadrant 1 game, they’ve lost (0-6). Against everyone else, they’ve won (15-0). While UNC having no bad losses to its name is certainly a positive for Davis and company, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has made it known in recent years that who you’ve beaten matters more than who you’ve lost to. The Heels have just three Quad 2 victories (Furman, Michigan and Virginia), and the opportunities for Quad 1/2 triumphs moving forward are significantly fewer than they have been in pretty much any ACC season before this one.

With that being the case, North Carolina is in a position where it can’t afford to stumble in games like Tuesday night’s at the KFC Yum Center.

The Heels have won three straight after taking back-to-back blowout losses to Miami and Wake Forest in the middle of January. They exploded for their largest scoring output of the season in Saturday’s 100-80 rout of NC State.

But all three of North Carolina’s recent wins came at home, and their last three road games have all been losses, and have come by an average of 18.3 ppg. Overall, UNC is just 3-6 in games played outside of the Dean Dome so far this season.

As was seemingly part of the deal when he was named the heir to Roy Williams’ throne, UNC’s playing style has not changed significantly under Davis. They still want to score off the break and the secondary break, and they enter Tuesday night playing at the 37th fastest pace in the country. They’re also still one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the ACC, although their dominance in that department (107th in the country) isn’t quite as stark as it has been in years past.

Two of the areas where North Carolina struggled the most the past two seasons — turnovers and outside shooting — have both been improved significantly. The Tar Heels are only turning the ball over on 16.7% of their offensive possessions (54th-best in the country), and are shooting 38.1% from three (16th-best in the country) as a team.

Defensively, UNC has been solid, but not spectacular for most of the year. They don’t force turnovers and they’re an average shot blocking team, but they dominate the defensive glass and don’t let opponents beat them at the free-throw line.

Individually, Armando Bacot has been North Carolina’s clear standout performer. The springy 6’10 junior is averaging a double-double (16.3 ppg/12.1 rpg), and earlier this season became the first Tar Heel to score 1,000 points in three seasons since Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson both hit the 1,000-point mark as juniors in 2017. He’s also the one UNC player who has been better away from home this season, averaging 17.5 points and 12.8 rebounds in UNC’s nine road/neutral games.

Former Louisville PG target Caleb Love has stepped up his production as a sophomore, averaging 15.3 points and 3.4 assists per game. He’s been especially stellar during UNC’s current win streak, averaging just a hair under 20.0 ppg and handing out 12 assists against just four turnovers. Love and fellow outside threats RJ Davis and Kerwin Walton are making 42.6% of their threes on the road, but the rest of the team is shooting 26.4% from beyond the arc. UNC is 7-0 this season when Love hits the 20-point mark.

Notable:

—This game was originally scheduled for Jan. 31 but was moved back a day due to other re-scheduled ACC games following previous Covid-related postponements.

—Louisville will be playing without leading scorer/rebounder Malik Williams, who was suspended for Tuesday night’s game by interim head coach Mike Pegues.

—North Carolina leads the ACC in free-throw percentage (75.8%), rebounds per game (40.9), and rebound margin (+9.0).

—Louisville has won seven straight games on Feb. 1 and 18 of its last 19 on this date.

—Louisville knocked off a No. 1 ranked North Carolina team inside the KFC Yum Center on Feb. 1, 2016. Five days later the school announced a self-imposed postseason ban.

—Louisville is 4-7 in games against North Carolina since joining the ACC in 2014-15.

—North Carolina’s last seven games have been decided by 10 or more points, the first time that has occurred since a 10-game stretch of double-digit outcomes to start the 2017-18 season.

—Since a five-point loss at Notre Dame, Carolina has defeated Virginia by 16 and Georgia Tech by 23, lost to Miami by 28 and Wake Forest by 22, and beat Virginia Tech by 10, Boston College by 11 and NC State by 20.

—Louisville has committed single digit turnovers in three straight games and four of their last five.

—UNC is 7-0 this season when point guard Caleb Love scores 20 points or more, and 8-0 when Love has five or more assists.

—The Tar Heels are 9-0 this season when guard Leaky Black has three or more assists.

—Louisville has used 10 different starting lineups in 21 games so far this season.

—This is the first time a Louisville team has dropped at least 10 of its first 21 games since the Cardinals started 8-13 in 2000-01, Denny Crum’s final season as head coach of the Cards.

—Louisville is 10-1 this season when shooting a better field goal percentage than their opponents and also 8-1 when shooting more free-throws than their foes.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Louisville is a 3.5-point underdog in this game. The Cardinals are 3-4 straight up as an underdog so far this season.

—North Carolina is 3-3 in true road games and 3-6 in games away from home this season. They have lost three consecutive road contests.

—North Carolina has finished in the top 10 nationally in rebound margin in each of the last seven seasons.

—Louisville is 216-12 over the last 20 seasons and 13-0 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more.

—Louisville is 166-7 over the past 20 seasons when shooting 50 percent or better and 13-0 over the last three.

—Louisville is 34-3 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 130-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 156 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina). The Cardinals have not been ranked this season.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: North Carolina 75, Louisville 70