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TALE OF THE TAPE

Round Of 64 Matchup: #6 North Carolina Vs. #11 Providence

#6 North Carolina
#11 Providence
(credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Coaching
Winner What more can be said about Roy Williams that hasn’t already been said? He is sixth all-time for winning percentage in the entire NCAA and has more tournament experience than many other teams' coaches combined. He’s the fourth active coach and 13th overall to win multiple National Championships and despite a lopsided year, it’s hard to doubt Williams in the Big Dance.
Friars head coach and Providence, Rhode Island native Ed Cooley is currently sailing on a bed of support from the Friars fan base for his efforts to get the team back to the tournament this year. His players love him and are willing to do whatever is necessary to win… but it has been 10 years since Providence has seen the likes of the tournament.
Offense
It’s been a complete toss-up as to which UNC team will show up to any given game this season. First, there’s the indomitable Tar Heels force that took down the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 teams in the AP poll (a first in NCAA history). Then there’s the Tar Heels team that lost to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest, and Miami. Consistency—good or bad—has not been a friend to UNC this season.
Winner The Friars success can be summed up in two words: Bryce Cotton. Providence paraded through the Big East tournament thanks to Cotton and his 21.3 points per game average, giving him carte blanche as the team’s go-to leader this season. A win in Madison Square Garden taking the Big East title for the first time since 1994 was all this team needed to prove their offense (or, rather, Cotton) was a force to be reckoned with.
Defense
The Tar Heels have allowed just over 69 points per game this season, which isn’t exactly as impressive as the UNC teams of years past. They’ve proven that they can slow down some of the nation’s top teams, though, with wins over Michigan State, Louisville, Kentucky and Duke. Like their offense, the Tar Heels defense can be upside-down at times, too, giving a winning edge to lower tier teams at times.
Winner Providence’s defense was electric during the Big East tournament, allowing for Cotton to ebb and flow on offense, which was key for a Friars victory. Help can be found from 6-foot-6 junior forward LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts—both average over seven rebounds a game and can help keep the ball in Cotton’s hands.
Bench Depth
Winner Known in recent history for their depth, the Tar Heels enter this tournament with an incredible number of players ready to step up to the plate. From sophomore guard Marcus Paige, who has been everything from jaw-dropping (scoring 35 against NC State and 32 against Louisville) to non-existent, to James Michael McAdoo, who can be dominant when aggressive, the talent is there. It’s just whether or not North Carolina can turn it on when they need to.
The Friars have all, if not most, of their eggs in one basket here with Cotton. They do have some other talent in the starting lineup with Henton and Batts' ability to make plays, but when it comes to the bench, the Friars are left wanting. Case in point, Cotton averages 39.9 minutes a game. He’s a workhorse like none other, but he’s also their only hope in the NCAA tournament.

We'll Just Call it a Tie

This one may just be too close to call. The idea of North Carolina going out in the first round may seem sacrilegious because of their coaching and experience, but if a player like Cotton can give one of his best performances of his career for the Friars and put the team on his back, then UNC just may not have the ability to stop him.

-Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in creative writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in near Ann Arbor, MI. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.

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