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Louisville at North Carolina preview

The ACC’s ultimate challenge sits in front of Louisville Wednesday night.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 18 Div I Women’s Championship - St. John’s vs North Carolina Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (6-10, 1-4) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (13-3, 5-0)

Game Time: 9 p.m.

Location: Dean E. Smith Center: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst)

Favorite: North Carolina by 21

Series: North Carolina leads, 19-7

Last Meeting: North Carolina won 80-59 on Jan. 14, 2023

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Louisville

  • G Skyy Clark (6-3, 205, So.)
  • G Hercy Miller (6-3, 175, Jr.)
  • G/F Mike James (6-5, 200, R-So.)
  • F Danilo Jovanovich (6-8, 220, So.)
  • F Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (6-10, 240, Jr.)

North Carolina

  • G R.J. Davis (6-0, 180, Sr.)
  • G Elliot Cadeau (6-1, 180, Fr.)
  • G Cormac Ryan (6-5, 195, Gr.)
  • F Harrison Ingram (6-7, 225, Jr.)
  • F/C Armando Bacot (6-11, 240, Gr.)

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About North Carolina:

At the quarter pole of the conference season, Huber Davis’ North Carolina Tar Heels appear to have established themselves as the class of the ACC.

The Tar Heels are the only unbeaten team remaining in league play, and enter Wednesday night’s home contest against Louisville ranked No. 4 in the current AP top 25 poll. UNC has won six consecutive games, and they’ve won each of them by double-digits.

While North Carolina has typically been a program led by its offense in strong years, this Tar Heel group is winning primarily with defense. UNC is No. 5 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, and is holding its opponents to 28.9 percent shooting from three-point range, on track to be the lowest ever by the opponents in a season (previous low is 30.0% in 2014-15). Additionally, the Heels are limiting their opponents to 39.5 percent shooting from the floor, its best defensive percentage since 2011-12 (39.4%).

Offensively, veteran guard RJ Davis has been the straw that stirs the drink. He comes into Wednesday night as the ACC’s leading scorer at 20.4 ppg. The inside/outside assassin has scored at least 13 points in every game but one so far this season.

Yes, Armando Bacot is still in school. Yes, he’s still a walking double-double.

Freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau — a former Louisville recruit — has cooled a bit after a sizzling start, but when he’s on the floor, he still runs the show with a maturity not often seen in floor generals his age. His best asset might be his ability to spot capable shooters like Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan the moment they’re given a foot on the perimeter.

Carolina still wants to push pace and they still want to utilize the secondary break to generate a heavy chunk of their offense. If Louisville isn’t more alert and engaged with their transition defense than they’ve been for most of the past two seasons, then this one could get away from them quickly.

Notable:

—Louisville is 7-19 all-time against the Tar Heels, with a 1-5 record on the road. North Carolina has won four straight in the series.

—This is the first time Carolina has begun ACC play 5-0 since an 8-0 start in 2015-16. Their first loss in league play that season came on the road against Louisville.

—UNC forward Jae’Lyn Withers played three seasons for Louisville from 2020-23, appearing in 81 games with 64 starts. He was a team captain for U of L last season and an ACC All-Freshman Team selection in 2021.

—North Carolina is coming off a dominant 103-67 home win over Syracuse on Saturday. This marks the first time UNC has played consecutive home games since November 29 (Tennessee) and December 2 (Florida State).

—Over the last three games, the Cardinals are 28-for-59 (48.7%) from 3-point range. Louisville is also averaging 14.0 assists per game over its last six outings after not tallying more than 13 assists in any of the first 10 games.

—UNC’s Armando Bacot has averaged 13.2 points and 14.2 rebounds in five previous games against Louisville.

—Bacot has double-doubles in each of his last three games against Louisville (19/22, 12/15 and 14/16).

—Louisville is 3-23 in ACC games under the direction of head coach Kenny Payne.

—Hubert Davis is 3-0 as a head coach in games against Louisville.

—Louisville is 223-15 over the last 20 seasons and 20-3 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more. The Cards are 4-1 in such games this season.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 129-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

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

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: North Carolina 89, Louisville 65