North Carolina-Ohio Sweet 16 Preview: Analysis, Prediction, Date and TV Tip Time, Point Spread, and Tickets

With the final set of “Third Round” games finishing up Sunday night, it’s time for the Sweet 16. As we do every year, we will have in-depth previews of each Sweet 16 and Elite 8 matchup this weekend.

In this post, we preview the Midwest Region Sweet 16 matchup between gimpy #1 seed North Carolina and the 13th-seeded Bobcats of Ohio.

North Carolina-Ohio Sweet 16 Game Info

  • Seeds & Region: #1 North Carolina v #13 Ohio in West Region
  • North Carolina-Ohio Date: Friday, 3/23
  • North Carolina-Ohio Tip Time: TBA
  • North Carolina-Ohio Location: St. Louis
  • North Carolina-Ohio TV: TBA
  • North Carolina-Ohio Announcers: TBA
  • North Carolina-Ohio Point Spread: TBA
  • Tickets: Midwest Regional Tickets in St. Louis

North Carolina-Ohio Analysis and Prediction

North Carolina and Ohio will meet in St. Louis on Friday, although both got there in different ways.  The Tar Heels won both of their matchups handily, while the Bobcats won a pair of close games against major conference foes.  On Sunday, the Tar Heels beat Creighton by 14 points thanks to a balanced attack with five players in double figures, led by Kendall Marshall with 18 points and 11 assists.  The Bobcats took down South Florida behind a combined 40 points from guards D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt.

The bigger story out of the UNC game was the fact that Marshall suffered a fractured wrist about midway through the second half.  At this point his status is uncertain for Friday’s game, although it’s worth noting that the injury is to his non-shooting wrist, which presumably would increase his odds of playing.

It certainly doesn’t take a genius to point out the potential impact of Marshall’s absence, which would leave seldom-used Stillman White as the team’s only player with experience at the point this season.  The Heels have already lost Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland to injuries and essentially use a seven-man rotation even with Marshall healthy.

Ohio ranks second in defensive turnover rate this season, and with no other proven ballhandlers on the Carolina roster, the ability to force turnovers is a potential neutralizer for the Bobcats.  For the season, North Carolina has one of the ten lowest turnover rates on offense.

Outside of that, the Heels have the advantage on the offensive end, particularly on the glass, where they rebound roughly 40 percent of their own misses, which ranks in the Top 10.  However, OU ranks 242nd in defensive rebounding percentages, thanks in part to the fact that they play no one over 6-foot-8.  Consequently, the task of containing the likes of Tyler Zeller and John Henson is a tall order for the Bobcats (no pun intended).

Ohio ranks 19th in three-point defense but nearly 200th on two-pointers, which again doesn’t bode well against Carolina’s talented front line.  Surprisingly, the Heels rank outside the Top 100 in two-point shooting, but they still have a marked advantage in this matchup.

In terms of free throw rate, Ohio’s opponents have frequently gotten to the stripe based on their 42.7 defensive free throw rate.  UNC doesn’t have an overly impressive mark offensively, but again, their advantage inside could certainly lead to foul trouble for the Bobcats.

While it would likely surprise most people, North Carolina actually ranks in the Top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency, while Ohio is just outside the Top 100 offensively.  The Bobcats’ strength lies on the offensive glass, where they rank in the Top 75, but offensive boards won’t come easy against a Carolina squad that ranks highly in defensive rebounding percentage.

UNC doesn’t force many turnovers, but they rank first in the nation in opponents’ free throw rate, and are in or around the Top 50 in both two-and three-point defense, thanks in part to the shot-blocking prowess of Henson and Zeller inside.

While the three-point shot can sometimes be the equalizer in matchups like this, Ohio makes under 34 percent from long range, but if Nick Kellogg, who makes nearly 42 percent of his triples can get loose, that certainly would help OU’s case.

Although the Bobcats don’t match up well inside, there are questions as to who from North Carolina can slow down Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper.  Marshall certainly isn’t known as a great defender, but Stillman White isn’t going to fare any better.  It’s certainly an area where Ohio has an advantage and one they will need to exploit if they want to spring the upset.

Despite the fact that UNC may be without Marshall, I still think they will find a way to win thanks to their huge advantage in the frontcourt and on the glass.  I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Marshall try to give it a go, although obviously his effectiveness would be a big question mark.

Predicted Winner: North Carolina


Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, and John Henson all came back to school for one purpose: to win it all. How will Kendall Marshall's injury impact their quest?


North Carolina Tar Heels Team Capsule

  • Conference: ACC
  • Record: 29-5 (14-2 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 9-1
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 9-5
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Long Beach State, Michigan, State, North Carolina State (3), Texas, UNC-Asheville, Virginia (2), Wisconsin
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Florida State (2), Kentucky, UNLV
  • Player to Watch: Tyler Zeller (7’0” F, Sr.) – 16.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 55.5 FG%

North Carolina Bottoms Line:

The Tar Heels came into the season as one of the favorites to win it all, and they hung onto a one seed despite losing to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game on Sunday.  For the year, they ranked 13th in offensive efficiency and 12th on the defense end, the latter of which probably surprises people.  They posted the lowest opponents’ free throw rate in the country and ranked inside the Top 30 in effective field goal percentage defense and defense rebounding percentage.  Just don’t count the Heels forcing many turnovers.  You also shouldn’t count on them turning it over at a high rate, as they rank ninth in the country there.

They are also ninth in offensive rebounding percentage, led to by the duo of Tyler Zeller and John Henson.  Zeller was second on the team in points, rebounds, and blocked shots while hitting over 55 percent from the field, and he earned ACC Player of the Year honors as well.  Henson injured his wrist in the ACC Tournament, but I would imagine he plays in the NCAAs.  He averaged a double-double for the season and blocked 2.9 shots per game as well.  Both guys posted strong rebounding rates on both ends of the floor, with Zeller finishing with the superior free throw rate.

Point guard Kendall Marshall doled out nearly 10 assists per game and finished with one of the top assist rates in the country.  Last year’s top incoming freshman Harrison Barnes led the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game to go with 5.2 rebounds.  Multiple backcourt injuries have placed more pressure on Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston, and both have shown flashes this season.  If Henson is healthy, the Heels have more than enough talent to get to the Final Four.

Ohio Bobcats Team Capsule

  • Conference: MAC
  • Record: 27-7 (11-5 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 2-1
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Lamar, UNC-Asheville
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Louisville
  • Player to Watch: D.J. Cooper (5’11” G, Jr.) – 14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.4 spg

Ohio Bottoms Line:

The Bobcats finished third in a loaded MAC East, but they knocked off the top two teams in Cleveland to win the MAC Tournament.  Ohio ranks in the Top Five in defensive turnover rate and steal percentage, and they have also done a great job at shutting down opposing three-point shooters.  Offensively, their numbers don’t jump off the page, but they have been effective on the offensive glass.  The Bobcats have nine players who log at least 11 minutes per game, with five of them scoring at least 8.9 points as well.

D.J. Cooper makes this team go, leading the squad in points, assists, and steals and ranking among the nation’s leaders in assist rate and steal percentage.  Ohio State transfer Walter Offutt is the team’s other double figure scorer, while Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic anchor the front line and combine for 18.2 points and 10.2 rebounds.  Nick Kellogg, son of former NBA player and current broadcaster Clark, is the team’s top shooter and hits 41.8 percent from three-point range and 90.9 percent from the stripe.


Midwest Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Spreads

Game Matchup Date Time Location Announcers TV Spread
  FIRST ROUND            
  Vermont def Lamar 71-59 Wed, 3/15 6:40 ET Dayton Eagle-Spanarkel truTV LAM -3
  Cal v South Florida Wed, 3/15 9:05 ET Dayon Eagle-Spanarkel truTV CAL -2.5
  SECOND ROUND            
1 #1 North Carolina def #16 Vermont 77-58 Fri, 3/16 4:05 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg TBS TBA
2 #8 Creighton def #9 Alabama 58-57 Fri, 3/16 1:40 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg TBS ALA -1.5
3 #13 Ohio def #4 Michigan 65-60 Fri, 3/16 7:30 ET Nashville Eagle-Spanarkel TNT MICH -6
4 #12 South Florida def #5 Temple 58-44 Fri, 3/16 9:55 ET Nashville Eagle-Spanarkel TNT TBA
5 #2 Kansas def #15 Detroit 65-50 Fri, 3/16 9:52 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager truTV KU -15
6 #10 Purdue def #7 St. Mary's 72-59 Fri, 3/16 7:27 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager truTV PU -2
7 #3 Georgetown def #14 Belmont 74-59 Fri, 3/16 3:05 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski truTV GU -3.5
8 #11 NC State def #6 San Diego State 79-65 Fri, 3/16 12:40 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski truTV NCST -1.5
  THIRD ROUND            
9 #1 North Carolina def #8 Creighton 87-73 Sun, 3/18 5:15 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg CBS  
10 #13 Ohio def #12 South Florida 62-56 Sun, 3/18 7:10 ET Nashville Eagle-Spanarkel TBS  
11 #2 Kansas def #10 Purdue 63-60 Sun, 3/18 8:40 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager TNT  
12 #11 NC State def #3 Georgetown 66-63 Sun, 3/18 12:15 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski CBS  
  SWEET 16            
13 #1 North Carolina v #13 Ohio Fri, 3/23   St. Louis     UNC -10.5
14 #2 Kansas v #11 NC State Fri, 3/23   St. Louis     KU -8
  ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL            
15 Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner Sun, 3/23   St. Louis      

About the Author

Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms