Turnovers are expected to be a crucial when No. 4-seeded North Carolina (25-11; 11-7) face No. 5-seeded Arkansas (27-8; 13-5) in a third-round West region matchup on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. UNC will look to bounce back against the Razorbacks after barely escaping the Harvard Crimson on Thursday.
The Tar Heels barely edged Harvard, 67-65, in the Round of 64, and will go up against an Arkansas squad that received a scare from No. 12 seed Wofford, 56-53. UNC turned the ball over 17 times against Harvard in an error-prone game the Tar Heels won’t want to repeat against an Arkansas squad that plays a hard-press defense.
"We've got to stay away from the silly turnovers,” North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said in a press conference. The two-time championship winner knows what his team needs to improve in March Madness.
"We've got to turn up our intensity higher than it's been all year long," Williams said. "We've got to turn up our toughness because you're going to be double-teamed, you're going to be triple-teamed, you can't start crying for mama to come help you."
North Carolina relies heavily on junior guard Marcus Paige to power their team. He scores 13.9 points per game. Paige scored 10 with six assists against Harvard. Freshman swingman Justin Jackson was the hero of the day, leading the team with 14 points, including the late baskets that sealed a Tar Heel victory.
Arkansas will likely try to put pressure on a North Carolina squad that is prone to turning the ball over. When the Razorbacks have the ball, they’ll like rely on sophomore forward Bobby Portis and junior guard Michael Qualls to do a good portion of the scoring. Portis has averaged 17.5 ppg, and dropped 15 alongside 13 rebounds against Wofford. Qualls has averaged 15 .6 points and scored a game-best 20 against Wofford.
The Razorbacks enter the game knowing their style of play might match up well with the long and athletic North Carolina team. Forcing turnovers might just be crucial for Arkansas' success.
“One of the things we do strive on is trying to apply pressure to teams,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said in a press conference. “We cannot sit and play a half-court game against a North Carolina team. So we’ve got to hopefully cause some chaos with our defense. Hopefully we can get some turnovers.”
Start Time: 8:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream: Watch Online at March Madness Live
Odds: North Carolina is a five-point favorite, according to bovada.lv.
Prediction: The first game jitters are out of the way for both teams now. North Carolina proved in the ACC tournament that they can limit turnovers and play a clean game when it matters. Arkansas will certainly be a challenge, but the experienced Paige should provide enough of a lift to help the Heels advance.
North Carolina over Arkansas, 78-71