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Michigan Wolverines Basketball: North Carolina Preview

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For the first time, No. 11 North Carolina is coming to the Crisler Center to face No. 7 Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game will tip at 9:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.

Michigan is one of four current Big Ten schools at which UNC has not previously played with Minnesota, Nebraska and Penn State being the others.

The two teams faced off last year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with UNC winning in Chapel Hill 86-71. This is Michigan’s 18 appearance in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the Wolverines have a 7-10 record in the event. In the Crisler Center, Michigan is 4-4 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. North Carolina is 10-5 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge under coach Roy Williams.

Against North Carolina, Michigan is 2-4 in the series with four of the six games coming in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels are 6-1 so far this season, with the lone loss coming in the Las Vegas Invitational to Texas 92-89. In that loss, Tar Heel freshman forward Coby White had 33 points and senior forward Cameron Johnson had 16 points. White’s 33 points was the most points by a UNC freshman since Harrison Barnes’ 40 in 2011 against Clemson in the ACC Tournament.

Also in the Las Vegas Invitational, North Carolina defeated UCLA 94-78.

Michigan’s defense will face its toughest test of the season against the Tar Heels. North Carolina has the fourth best offense in the country, per Kenpom, and the Tar Heels have eclipsed 100 points three times this season. UNC is averaging 96.6 points per game, exactly twice as much as Michigan’s defense is allowing its opponents to score.

North Carolina’s offense likes to go fast and run the floor. The Tar Heels have the second lowest average possession length in the country, which is five seconds less than the national average.

Where North Carolina’s offense is at its best is on the offensive glass where the Tar Heels have an offensive rebounding percentage of 40.0, which is eighth best in the country.

The Tar Heels offense is led by Johnson who is their leading scorer at 16.4 points per game. The Pitt transfer is shooting 48.5 percent from three, which is 135th in the nation. Along with his strong shooting from deep, he is one of the most efficient players in the country. Johnson’s offensive rating of 134.8 is the best on the team and the 82nd best in the nation. His effective field goal percentage of 64.5 ranks as the 127th best.

Senior forward Luke Maye had great success against the Wolverines last season. In last year’s game, Maye scored 27 points on 11 field goals. This season, he is averaging 14.4 points and a team high 6.6 rebounds per game.

North Carolina is buoyed by two freshmen who are playing significant minutes for the Tar Heels. White is averaging 15.7 points per game while shooting 43.9 percent from three. Freshman forward Nassir Little is averaging 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Sophomore center Garrison Brooks is one of the best rebounds Michigan will face. His offensive rebounding percentage of 15.0 is the 66thbest in basketball.

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