North Carolina can refrain from switching against a dominant post-threat like Jackson-Davis. If Bacot is unable to play (or only plays limited minutes) on Wednesday, ball screen coverage for UNC could shift entirely.
Off the ball, North Carolina has blundered this season. The heels allowed 21 combined 3s on consecutive days last week. Some of that was bizarre shooting luck, but a lot of it came from off-ball defensive errors.
Fortunately for North Carolina, Indiana lacks experienced off-ball shooters. Whether it’s through jump shots or timely cuts, the Hoosiers should look to uncover UNC’s weak off-ball defense.
It’s a mystery how the Heels plan to defend Jackson-Davis in the post. It’s been nearly a year since North Carolina faced a threat similar to Jackson-Davis’. So who knows how they will try to protect him.
If I had to guess, I think North Carolina will look to show late help and duplicate teams instead of bombarding him with instant traps. Due to Jackson-Davis’ growth as a passer, teams may be less willing to send tough doubles teams his way.
North Carolina’s defense did well en route to a National Championship appearance last year, but so far 2022-23 has looked vulnerable. The tar heels aren’t particularly long or athletic, which causes problems defensively. UNC rarely forces turnovers, which means the team has to play near-perfect defense.
North Carolina’s margin for error on defense is tiny and IU can score against this team by using their weaknesses against them.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS
No matter what numbers appear next to these teams’ names, this remains a big fight that both sides are desperate to win. Indiana will be a legitimate favorite, but North Carolina is still a talented team.
Defensively, the Hoosiers can’t let the Tar Heels catch fire from downtown. North Carolina has some shaky inside-the-arc scorers, so IU should run them off the line to start the game.
Indiana also needs to remain prepared and principled when it comes to guarding UNC’s ball screens. North Carolina likes to use simultaneous actions to distract helping defenders, so IU won’t be fooled by those plays.
When Indiana has the ball, there are areas of North Carolina’s defense that can be attacked. IU should use lots of off-ball movement and force UNC to defend him properly.
The Hoosiers also shouldn’t be afraid to go to the basket and finish by force, especially when Bacot has an injury. As long as IU makes a few jump shots and plays with flow, I expect offensive quality to show on Wednesday.
Now that Indiana has expectations, they want the team to win games like this. North Carolina is suffering back-to-back losses, one of which was against Alabama in quadruple overtime on Sunday. The team flew straight to Indianapolis from the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, meaning it’s been over a week since the Heels slept in their own beds in Chapel Hill.
With a difficult stretch from home to North Carolina, Indiana must make an early move on UNC. The Hoosiers should be able to conduct business in front of a lively crowd in the meeting hall.