FAYETTEVILLE - Multiply Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado by an entire team and you about have what the North Carolina Tar Heels have against Arkansas on the boards Sunday.
The eighth-seeded Razorbacks, 77-71 NCAA Tournament South Regional first-round victors over the ninth-seeded Seton Hall Pirates Friday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., and the No. 1 seeded Tar Heels, annihilating 16th-seed Texas Southern, 103-64 in Greenville, meet at 5:10 p.m. CDT on TNT in Greenville in the South Regional’s second round.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks, third in the SEC, bring a 26-9 record into today’s game while coach Roy Williams’ ACC champion Tar Heels stand 28-7. But records are meaningless once the NCAA Tournament begins with the sole objective survive and advance.
To keep their hopes from getting nailed on the boards, the Razorbacks know they likely must muster the game of the rebounding game of their lives today.
Led by 6-10 individual national rebounding leader Delgado and his 13 boards Friday, Seton Hall outrebounded Arkansas, 46-32.
The disparity potentially looms even larger against North Carolina.
As a team, the Tar Heels lead the nation averaging 43.5 rebounds per game. Friday they doubled Texas Southern on the boards.
"We had a huge rebound margin, 54-27," Williams said during Friday’s postgame. "And points in the paint, 52-28. We’re bigger and you’ve got to take advantage of that. Just a great job by these guys."
Even with Arkansas starting 6-10 Moses Kingsley and 6-8 Dustin Thomas up front and bringing Trey Thompson, 6-9 and Arlando Cook, 6-8 off the bench, the Tar Heels stand much larger than Arkansas.
The Razorbacks start three 6-3 guards, Jaylen Barford, Dusty Hannahs and Manny Watkins and usually still play with three guards while bringing Daryl Macon, 6-3, and Anton Beard, 6-0, off the bench.
The Tar Heels start four forwards, the smallest, Theo Pinson, stands 6-6. The others, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, stand 6-8, 6-9 and 6-10 and play huge in the paint scoring and rebounding. North Carolina’s backup big men, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye, stand 6-11 and 6-8. Against Texas Southern, the backup big men combined for 22 points and 15 boards while starters Jackson and Meeks went 21 and 7 and 13 and 6 for points and rebounds.
They pose not just a tall order but an immensely talented and aggressive one on the boards.
"We’ve got to get better at it," Anderson said of rebounding. "We’ve got to to get much, much better at it."
But the Razorbacks went minus 14 rebounding hole against Seton Hall yet won the game forcing 15 Seton Hall turnovers while their depth wore down Seton Hall’s seven-man rotation.
"We’ve done it before," Anderson said.
"We’ve got to attack them back," Williams said. "They do want to speed you up and we want to play at that pace ourselves. We want to go fast but we’ve got to take care of the basketball. They’re very aggressive and play very hard on the defensive end."