By Adam Lucas
MEMPHIS—Roy Williams has spent most of this season—and his tenure at Carolina—emphasizing the importance of the rebounding battle. He’s coached the 2017 Tar Heels to be one of the best rebounding clubs in the country, but history suggests they’ll have a formidable task against Butler on Friday night.
Carolina was also one of the best rebounding teams in the country in 2013 and 2015, but the Bulldogs held a 39-29 advantage on the glass in the Nov. 2012 meeting, and a 57-40 edge in the Nov. 2014 contest. Not coincidentally, Butler won both of those games.
Andrew Chrabascz played in that 2014 game. “In a lot of their offense, the bigs float around the basket,” he said. “We have to have early contact with them. Our guards will be huge for rebounding. We have to make sure Hicks and Meeks don’t get as many of them.”
Carolina is 0-3 this season when it is outrebounded, with losses to Kentucky, at Miami and at Duke.
“They do present problems for us in the post,” Roy Williams said. “Their big guys do some things out on the floor when they are on offense that take away some advantages we have when we’re out there trying to guard them.”
Berry update: Carolina went through an open practice Thursday afternoon at the FedEx Forum. The real workout, however, came earlier in the day in a full practice session away from the game arena. The big news from that practice was the health of Joel Berry, who suffered an ankle injury in the win over Texas Southern on Friday in Greenville. “I went through the whole practice,” Berry said. “It feels pretty good. I’m close to 100 percent. There’s still a little bruising but that’s the only thing that’s bothering me.”
Berry is 3-for-21 from the field in the NCAA Tournament, and 0-for-7 from two-point range in the two games. In a tidbit that received little attention, Williams mentioned on his radio show Monday night with Jones Angell that the Tar Heels drove Berry to Charlotte on the Saturday between the Texas Southern and Arkansas games to be seen by an ankle specialist who came highly recommended from Marvin Williams and Tyler Hansbrough.
“He looks better,” Williams said. “But he’s still not Joel yet. Somehow, between now and gametime, he’s got to get to be the Joel Berry that we've seen all year and who has played great for us.”
Briefly: Great quote from Butler guard Avery Woodson, who transferred from Memphis to Butler and therefore got numerous questions from the Memphis media about comparing the two programs. “It’s like comparing barbecue and Olive Garden,” Woodson said. “You can’t do it. It’s two completely different things.”…Theo Pinson highlighted the importance of Carolina’s screening against the Bulldogs, a team that ranks in the national top 15 in limiting opponents’ assists per made field goal. In an interview with the Tar Heel Sports Network, Butler coach Chris Holtmann credited that defense to close attention to the scouting report and an awareness of which opposing players are the biggest offensive threats. Pinson said the UNC scouting report has a very simple take on the Bulldogs: “Don’t think you’re not going to be guarded. They’ll be there every time.”…
The style of officiating will be important on Friday night. Butler wants and needs to play a physical game, but if that results in a Tar Heel parade to the free throw line, that will dramatically change the game…As much as Roy Williams has talked about ribs from Rendezvous this week, it’s probably not a surprise to find out he plans to take his Tar Heels to the legendary Memphis restaurant on Thursday night…Vice President Mike Pence, whose wife has two degrees from Butler, will attend Friday night’s game to support the Bulldogs...The highlight of Carolina's open practice came when Pinson invaded a courtside conversation between Roy Williams, Steve Robinson and CBS commentator Bill Raftery. Pinson, with an arm around Raftery, said, "Can I get a, 'Send it in, Pinson?' if I get a dunk?" With the whole group laughing, Williams, ever quick with a response, replied, "Well, you haven't had one in a month."