UNC Basketball: Keys for Tar Heels against Washington in Round of 32

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COLUMBUS, OHIO – MARCH 22: The North Carolina Tar Heels bench reacts to a 3-point shot against the Iona Gaels during the second half of the game in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 22, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

No. 1 UNC Basketball walked away from Friday’s opening round matchup with No. 16 Iona victorious. What do they need do to do against No. 9 Washington to advance to the Sweet 16?

Not every 16-seed is a cakewalk, and No. 1 UNC Basketball found that out the hard way against the surprisingly feisty Iona Gaels in Friday’s Round of 64 opener that saw the Tar Heels claw back from a halftime deficit. A second-half run led the Heels to victory, but nonetheless, it was a close call for a team with lofty aspirations. That’s why they say “survive and advance,” after all.

The Tar Heels will have to face another tough team before they can reach the second weekend and Sweet 16, with the No. 9 Washington Huskies coming fresh off of a 78-61 route over No. 8 Utah State. Washington’s Noah Dickerson (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Jaylen Nowell (19 points, five rebounds, five assists) led the Huskies’ offensive attack, with defensive stalwart Matisse Thybulle racking up routine stocks (five steals, three blocks) in what was a dominant showing over the upstart Aggies.

UNC’s win over Iona saw its seniors Cam Johnson (21 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Luke Maye (16 points, nine rebounds) lead the second-half charge that lifted the Heels over the Gaels, and against an experienced team like the Huskies, another strong showing will be needed.

While the Gaels were more of an offensive-minded team, the Huskies are defense first, second, and third, sporting one of the better defensive units thanks to a zone scheme that has been largely successful for most of the season.

UNC will need to plan accordingly, with a shot at the Sweet 16 on the line. What do the Heels need to focus on if they want to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend?

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