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Indiana takes on the Tar Heels in the 2022 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Photos courtesy Maggie Hobson/UNC Athletics.

Spaletto's Scouting Report: Hoosiers host North Carolina in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Indiana's depth could prove to be a major advantage

Wednesday night is a night Hoosier basketball fans have been looking forward to for a long time, as the North Carolina Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers. The game will air at 9:15 p.m. on ESPN.

The environment at Assembly Hall is sure to be electric for Wednesday’s contest, as both teams are looking to grab a signature win early in the season. It will not be an easy test for Indiana, as UNC cannot afford to lose three games in a row this early. Here’s a scouting report of North Carolina.

Taking a look at the Tar Heels

If you watched the NCAA Tournament last year, you know that Hubert Davis and company made a phenomenal run and lost a heartbreaking game in the national championship to Kansas. Well, guess what. Four of the five starters from that Tar Heels team return for this season to try and make another run at the title.

However, the biggest looming story is whether or not Preseason first-team All-American Armando Bacot will be able to suit up Wednesday. Bacot is a rebounding machine, averaging 11.3 rebounds per game. He also is a huge reason why North Carolina scores as many points as it does, as he along with fellow forward and Northwestern transfer Pete Nance are constantly crashing the offensive glass.

As good as Nance and Bacot are down low, I think the real X-factor for the Tar Heels is their backcourt with Caleb Love and RJ Davis. Love is the team leader in points per game with 20, but Davis can put up big numbers as well if defenses aren’t careful. Both of these guards love to get out in transition, so it will be quite the task for Indiana to slow down this very talented North Carolina starting five.

Keys for the Hoosiers

Going off of Davis and Love, the play from IU’s backcourt is going to be essential in this one. We’ve seen what Xavier Johnson can do this season, but the Hoosiers are going to need a counterpart to Johnson in order to be able to win Wednesday. Jalen Hood-Schifino has also shown flashes of being an elite guard to go along with Johnson, and I think IU will need a big game out of him.

Secondly, making shots early in the game will be crucial as well. Not only will it send Assembly Hall into a frenzy and really give Indiana that home-court advantage, but making shots overall has killed North Carolina in its two previous losses to Iowa State and Alabama. On the flip side, if the Hoosiers struggle to make shots early on, they may find themselves in a hole too deep to get themselves out of.

And finally, bench play will be huge. North Carolina’s bench has not produced a lot of scoring early in the season, forcing Hubert Davis to give his starters some extra minutes. But with Indiana having the advantage of being able to go nine or 10 deep with good scoring production, that could very well help Indiana win a crucial non-conference matchup at Assembly Hall.

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