North Carolina players are aware of the reputation NRG Stadium has for stifling shooters, and they are not afraid.
The Tar Heels do their best work in the paint, so this could be the one time this season when their inconsistent outside shooting works in their favor.
“It might possibly give us a slight advantage, because we get so many of our points at the basket,” senior guard Marcus Paige said. “It’s easier to make a layup in a different environment than a 3.”
North Carolina has scored 61.1 percent of its points this season inside the arc. That ranks fifth nationally, according to Ken Pomeroy. The Tar Heels get 19.9 percent of their points from behind the 3-point line, which ranks 345th out of 351 Division I teams, according to Pomeroy.
UNC coach Roy Williams said he has seen few exceptions to a team winning a national championship by “taking 35 3s.”
“Everybody has always had somebody inside that you can play,” Williams said.
Whether it’s the setting or the cavernous feel to the court, which essentially is placed at what would be the stadium’s 50-yard-line, NRG Stadium has turned shooters into throwers.
“As a shooter, you just try to get used to the background,” Paige said. “It’s weird. Even playing at Duke is different than playing [in Chapel Hill] because it’s kind of a smaller setting. You’ve got to get used to the lighting.”
NRG Stadium played host to three games in the South Regional last season, including the regional final, in which Duke shot 8-of-19 from 3-point range against Gonzaga. In the two other games, both in the Sweet 16, Duke, Utah, UCLA and Gonzaga combined to shoot 15-of-67 (22 percent) from 3-point range.
Carolina’s only stadium experience has been playing at Syracuse.
“Which is kind of fitting I guess,” Justin Jackson said. “You have to get used to the depth perception, which is good we’re getting there early so we can get used to the situation.”