All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
North Carolina Tar Heels
Date: Saturday, March 21
Time: 8:40 pm Eastern
Location: Jacksonville, FL
North Carolina and Arkansas survived upset bids and now clash to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
North Carolina Arkansas
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #9 Strength: #26
Median play: #10 Median play: #29
Road/Neutral Rank: #8 Road/Neutral Rank: #28
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#9 Sagarin: #26
Pomeroy: #16 Pomeroy: #29
Offense: #12 Offense: #21
Defense: #45 Defense: #81
LRMC: #8 LRMC: #23
BPI: #10 BPI: #21
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #14 2nd half/season: #38
Last 6 games: #18 Last 6 games: #36
Injury correction: #8 Injury correction: #27
Consistency: #292 Consistency: #39
Deep Run Rank: #10 Deep Run Rank: #14
Best Shot: #9 Best Shot: #40
Schedule Strength: #2 Schedule Strength: #62
North Carolina's a very good team, but another one that's up and down from game to game and that's why they've lost 11 games. Arkansas isn't nearly as good they also aren't nearly as up-and-down, and that's why they've only lost 8 games. Well, that and not having the #2 toughest schedule in the country.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (10): Robert Morris+44, =Davidson+18, =UCLA+22, =Ohio St.+8, UAB+31, Louisville+1, @North Carolina St.+2, Louisville+10, Virginia+4, =Harvard+2
- Losses to tournament teams (10): =Butler-8, Iowa-5, @Kentucky-14, Notre Dame-1, @Louisville-OT, Virginia-11, @Duke-OT, North Carolina St.-12, Duke-7, Notre Dame-8
- Other losses (1): @Pittsburgh-13
Key Info: North Carolina played 8 tournament teams outside of the ACC, beating 5 and losing to three—Butler, Iowa, and Kentucky. In this early stretch they played some of their best and worst games, and after a period of relative stability it became worse, as losses to Pitt and NC State were closely followed by blowouts of Georgia Tech by 29 and 32 points. Their back-to-back wins over Louisville and Virginia put them in the ACC final but they lost to Notre Dame.
North Carolina is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation. Point Marcus Paige, now a junior, led the team in scoring again but his average was down to 13.9 from 17.5. He scored 12 against Harvard while forward Justin Jackson had 14.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (6): @SMU+6, Dayton+14, @Georgia+4, @Mississippi+1, =Georgia+11, =Wofford+3
- Losses to tournament teams (5): @Iowa St.-18, Mississippi-14, @Kentucky-17, LSU-3, =Kentucky-15
- Other losses (3): @Clemson-OT, @Tennessee-5, @Florida-1
Key Info: Arkansas didn't really beat any great teams this year. Their five NCAA-team wins include 10-seed Georgia twice and two Play-in teams, Dayton and Mississippi, leaving 6-seed SMU as their top victim. The Razorbacks won 10 of their last 13 games, with two of those losses to Kentucky.
Big forward Bobby Portis and guard Michael Qualls lead in scoring with 17.5 and 15.5 apiece; Portis also leads in rebounding with 8.6. Qualls had 20 to lead all scorers against Wofford.
Game Analysis: Both teams played poorly and almost got beat by inferior teams bent on a first-round upset. Not a good thing. It might not be as worrisome for North Carolina—whom we already knew is all over the place—than Arkansas, who is much more consistent. In other words, we can't look for a pattern in North Carolina, but in Arkansas a bad game might be symptomatic of some lingering problem.
More likely, each team just faced a determined opponent and managed to fend them off—that's a good thing. Now they each face a strong opponent, and how North Carolina plays is probably more significant toward the outcome. Is it time for an off-the-charts performance? Or a third dud in a row?
North Carolina's rebounding is the key to many of their victories, but Bobby Portis is tough to deal with on the inside. He's bigger—and probably better—than all UNC's big men, but the Tar Heels have numbers. If Portis gets in foul trouble it's a big downgrade to his backup.
Arkansas might actually take the game more seriously. The Sweet Sixteen is no big deal for North Carolina but Arkansas hasn't been there since 1996, two years after their only National Championship. The Tar Heels also might not really respect the SEC teams beyond Kentucky.
North Carolina by 5
Power rating: spread
North Carolina by 6.2
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
North Carolina: 66.9%
North Carolina is a moderate favorite by the oddsmakers and our power rating. The game-comparisons system makes them about a 2 to 1 favorite to win. This seems about right, since Arkansas is a weak 5 and UNC a strong 4, and normally the 4 seed only has a 55% chance. This one is less of a tossup, but the range of possible outcomes is big because of the Tar Heels' inconsistency.
Bottom line: Arkansas will have to be a bit inconsistent themselves—on the upside—to beat the Tar Heels, and Portis will have to outduel several big men. But Arkansas could get some fire from their underdog status and reach their first Sweet Sixteen in 19 years.
Final prediction: Arkansas 81, North Carolina 78
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.