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Mens Basketball Preview: We’re Talkin’ North Carolina

Big time opportunity against the nations #1 team

Phil Knight Invitational - Iowa State vs Villanova Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

Cyclones Last Time Out

The Cyclones advanced to the semifinal round of the Phil Knight Invitational, beating Villanova by a final score of 81-79 on Thanksgiving. Iowa State was paced by Gabe Kalscheur and by Osun Osunniyi, with the latter dominating the paint. Solid contributions were had from many, including Caleb Grill, Hason Ward, and Rob Jones. Jaren Holmes also contributed across the board, despite a tough shooting night.

North Carolina’s Last Time Out

The Tar Heels survived a strong challenge from Portland in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational, winning by final score of 89 to 81. The Pilots actually lead at various stages throughout the game, including with six minutes left before going cold from the floor for a four minute stretch to end the game. In all they were a tough challenge, and were playing without their leading scorer. Pete Nance and Caleb Love led North Carolina with 28 and 23 points, respectively.

Player to Watch

Without a doubt it is Armando Bacot. The 6’11” 235 pound senior is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds per game. He was a first team all ACC player last year, and is an all American candidate this year. He’s very physical and a load inside, and should provide a difficult test for Iowa State’s front court. North Carolina’s entire roster is loaded, with the likes of Pete Nance, Leaky Black, and Caleb Love all being very good players.

Pick Three

  1. Caleb Grill hits 4 three pointers
  2. Osun records a double-double with 4 blocks
  3. ISU forces 20 turnovers

What Will Happen

This is a very intriguing matchup. The metrics actually like Iowa State in this game, giving them a good chance to come out with an outright victory despite facing the number one team in the nation. North Carolina opens a five point favorite, a margin I assumed would be much higher.

Iowa State’s defense will obviously keep them in most games all season, and this matchup should be no exception. North Carolina has played well in stretches and they have also played poorly in stretches, evidenced again in their win against Portland yesterday. This is an interesting test for UNC, as the Cyclones are the first power five opponent they have faced all season. This is also an interesting test for the Cyclones, as their new front court will be put to the test, and their rebounding will be strained against a sizable Tar Heel front court.

Fans, I’m sorry to do this to you, but this will be another tight and blood pressure raising game. In the end I don’t think it’s Bacot who determines the game but North Carolina’s guards. I predict they put pressure on Iowa State‘s guards, who will struggle to shoot and keep the cyclones on top, ultimately leading to a four point UNC victory. If you were looking for a Cyclone path to victory, it is consistent outside shooting paired with attacking the rim and solid post play from Jones, Ward, and Osunniyi. Sound familiar?

Oh and also we’ll be watching this all day long.