"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Marquette at North Carolina

R.J. Davis & UNC get a visit from the Golden Eagles Wednesday

Photo by the Associated Press

A month ago, we suggested resume building options a savvy University scheduling department could use breaks in the schedule to bulk up their resume ahead of Selection Sunday. While they didn't follow that exact course, Cracked Sidewalks has learned that Marquette will be traveling to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina on Wednesday, February 24th. Looking at television windows, this game will likely be on ESPN2 at 6:00 pm CST, though neither university has released those specifics yet.

This seems to be a last attempt by Marquette to get into the at-large conversation. UNC sits at #53 in the NET and would be a Quadrant 1 opportunity. If Marquette were able to get this win and improbably win out, a 14-12 record with 5 Quadrant 1 wins would at least get them into the discussion, especially if they added a win or two in the Big East Tournament. While it's unlikely with a current record at 10-12, a game like this is their best hope to get some attention from the Selection Committee.

The two programs last met in the 2011 Sweet 16, with the Tar Heels claiming the 81-63 win. Marquette is 1-4 in the series, but that one win was in the 1977 National Championship game. Expect a lot of video clips and mentions of that game on Wednesday.

From a game perspective, the Tar Heels have an imposing front line of Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, and Day'ron Sharpe. It will be interesting to see if Justin Lewis is ready for this game as Marquette could use the bodies up front. The back court is where Marquette has the edge, with UNC running out a freshmen quartet of Caleb Love, Kerwin Walton, Anthony Harris, and former Marquette recruiting target R.J. Davis. That's a pretty low efficiency group that is almost as turnover prone as the Golden Eagles. Walton is a sharpshooter who does most of his damage from three, but as a group Marquette seems to have the stronger guards.

Unlike Roy Williams' better teams, this is a low efficiency UNC team on offense. Their primary success comes from their offensive rebounding (#2 in the country). They will want to turn up the tempo, which will be a clash with this slower-paced Marquette squad. Where the game will likely be decided is in turnovers and at the arc. Both teams are turnover prone, so expect a couple D.J. Carton runouts, but if Marquette lets the ball slip, UNC could punish them with pace. That said, if Marquette can turn it into a shooting contest, the Tar Heels are poor at both shooting the ball and limiting opponents three point attempts. Marquette has only shot 32.5% from beyond the arc in conference play. If they can get back to the 35.1% they were shooting in the non-con (or a bit better) they might be able to pull off the upset.

North Carolina is coming off a crushing 99-54 win over Louisville in a game where the Tar Heels grabbed nearly half (47.1%) of the available offensive rebounds while holding Louisville to a miserable 6.2% shooting from three. Marquette will need to hold their own on the boards and do more damage from the arc if they want a chance to pull the upset.

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