Tomorrow under the blazing lights of Madison Square Garden, Carolina will get its first test of the season against No. 15 Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic.
The matchup will be tricky as the Heels are a frontcourt-heavy team, and Ohio State is guard-laden — star guard-laden.
The Buckeyes’ point guard, in case you hadn’t heard of him, is Evan Turner, and he might challenge for National Player of the Year. If you get a chance — which if you read this blog, you probably will tomorrow night — you should watch this guy play. At 6’7″, he’s OSU’s point guard and fifth tallest player. He chalked up a triple double in the Buckeyes’ first game of the season, with 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, and followed it up with 24 points and 17 rebounds against James Madison last Thursday. As you probably inferred from that stat line, the guy is active on the glass, and once he gets a defensive rebound the ball is consequently in the hands of OSU’s point guard, making the outlet pass a threat.
Other than Turner, they’ve got David Lighty, William Buford and John Diebler, who are all 6’5″ or 6’6″, play guard and log starter’s minutes. After watching the James Madison game, it appears Turner and Lighty look to drive first, but are certainly not shy about popping a trey. Diebler and Buford seemed more perimeter oriented. As a team, they don’t take a ton of threes, but don’t leave them open because they can shoot them at a good percentage.
Sounds like a pretty dangerous team right?
Here’s where the matchup gets interesting. Of the four players taller than Turner (6’8″ and up), only two of them play significant minutes. At 6’9″, Kyle Madsen has been starting and last year’s starting center, 6’8″ Dallas Lauderdale, has been coming off the bench while he recovers from a broken bone in his hand. Against JMU, Madsen played 19 minutes and Lauderdale 13. OSU doesn’t really depend on its post play.
Carolina, however, does.
It’s widely accepted that UNC’s frontcourt is certainly the deepest and possibly the most talented in the nation. It will be interesting to see how Thad Matta decides to defend the Heels. If he plays man-to-man, mismatches will result out the wookie, allowing the likes of Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller and John Henson to dominate down low. I’m guessing he’ll play some kind of zone, if not for the whole game, at least large portions of it. This would challenge UNC’s guards in getting the ball inside and also require them to make plays they might not normally make.
The thing I could see hurting the Buckeyes is foul trouble. Their top six players, maybe seven, are talented enough to play with the Heels, but after that, I’m not so sure they have the depth. Another observation, is that the Bucks’ best player is also one of their tallest on the floor many times. If OSU decides to match up size-wise, Turner would end up banging down low more often than not, possibly tiring him out.
Prediction: OSU’s shooting will suffer because of Carolina’s size on defense. UNC will win the rebounding, not often giving up more than one shot. Evan Turner will have 20 points and 11 rebounds, but his efforts will be in vain. Carolina is too deep and by the time the game’s over, Turner is worn out and his teammates are frustrated because they couldn’t get their offense going.
Final Score: UNC 82 OSU 70