#4 – North Carolina
The Tar Heels gave it a good run this past weekend in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, falling in the championship game 90-82 to Notre Dame. When all the dust settled from Selection Sunday, UNC earned the four seed after having one of the toughest schedules in the nation. They enter the tournament with a whopping 17 games against teams in the top-50 in the RPI. The heels are paced by Marcus Paige (6’1, 175 lbs., junior), but are void of any All-ACC first-team players. Paige was a second-team selection by the coaches and a third-team selection by the media. Behind leading scorer Paige, the next two leading scorers are Brice Johnson (13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Kennedy Meeks (11.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG), but are a combined 0-1 behind the arc. Therefore, Paige needs guys on the perimeter like J.P. Tokoto (8.3 PPG, 35.5 percent from three) to step up. Justin Jackson burst onto the scene as a freshman for head coach Roy Williams (who is 15th all-time in coaching wins). Jackson caught fire in the ACC tournament semis against top-seed Virginia when he scored 22 points in the upset. If anything, the grueling schedule has prepared Williams and his team as they look to advance past the round of 32 after finishing 1-1 in the tournament each of the last two years.
– Dan Barto
#13 – Harvard
Tommy Amaker has turned Harvard from afterthought to destination, beating out BCS conference schools for coveted recruits (Chris Egi) and winning five consecutive Ivy League championships. This year’s squad checks in at 19-6, 9-2 with an interesting combination of good wins (Houston, UMass) and bad losses (Dartmouth, Cornell). You never know which team will show up but if the Crimson are to relive the opening round success of the past (victory over New Mexico) they will have to control the tempo. Defensively is where they seem to shine, conceding 56.6 PPG (11th in the country) and who would have thought there would be rim protection in the Ivy League (4.8 BPG, 44th) (thank you Steve Moundou-Missi). On the offensive end Wesley Saunders (16.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, four APG, two SPG) has the ball in his hands the majority of the time and he has been one of the best in the Ivy League. His running mate Siyani Chambers (9.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG) creates turnovers and pushes the ball with great pace. With no other double-figure scorers, it’s offense by committee and as long as everyone chips in the Crimson can compete. Keep an eye on Corbin Miller (8.6 PPG, 56 3FGM) who can fill it up from the three-point line. Harvard will need to hit from the perimeter at a high rate if they are to have any hopes of an upset bid (just 0.8677 PPP on the Spot Up). In addition, they will need to prevent easy buckets (1.081 PPP in transition) and win the battle of the boards. It’s hard to say if the slipper fits this year, but if they play their best basketball Tommy Amaker may find his team taking the court on day two.
– Cody Toppert
Yannis Koutroupis: UNC wins
Cody Toppert: UNC wins
Dan Barto: UNC wins
Dan Barto has been with the IMG Academy basketball program since 2003. Prior to becoming the Head Skills Trainer, Barto was the IMG Academy basketball program’s Developmental Head Coach. Dan has trained over 100 current or former NBA players and coached over 40 Division I players. You can follow IMG on Twitter @IMGAcademy or on Facebook here.
Cody Toppert is a former standout player at Cornell University (one of the top three-point shooters in Ivy League history), who played eight years professionally (NBA D-League, Spain, Italy, Germany) and now serves as the Director of Basketball Development at ELEV|8 Sports Institute (Ganon Baker Basketball Academy). He trains professional players (five 2015 NBA Draftees) and coaches prep schoolers for Ganon Baker’s nationally ranked prep school program. Toppert also serves as a contributing writer for FastModel Sports. You can follow Cody and ELEV|8 on social media @Topp33 and @E8hoops.
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