Ohio State vs. No. 5 North Carolina

When: 1:30 p.m. TODAY

Where: Smoothie King Arena; New Orleans

TV: CBS

Radio: OSU-IMG Sports Network (63 stations), Sirius 135/XM 195, WBNS-FM (97.1), WBNS-AM (1460)

Records: Ohio State 10-3; North Carolina 10-2

Projected starters

OHIO STATE

G C.J. Jackson, 6-1, Jr., 13.0

G Kam Williams, 6-2, Sr., 8.0

G Jae’Sean Tate, 6-4, Sr., 12.9

F Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Jr., 18.2

C Kaleb Wesson, 6-9, Fr., 12.3

Key reserves: C Micah Potter, 6-9, So., 4.6; G Musa Jallow, 6-5, Fr., 4.2; G Andrew Dakich, 6-2, Gr., 3.5; F Andre Wesson, 6-6, So., 2.7; F Kyle Young, 6-8, Fr., 2.5

NORTH CAROLINA

G Joel Berry II, 6-0, Sr., 17.1

G Kenny Williams, 6-4, Jr., 13.2

G/F Theo Pinson, 6-6, Sr., 8.6

F Garrison Brooks, 6-9, Fr., 6.8

F Luke Maye, 6-8, Jr., 19.3

Key reserves: G Cameron Johnson, 6-8, Gr., 10.0; C Sterling Manley, 6-11, Fr., 6.8; G Andrew Platek, 6-3, Fr., 3.7; G Jalek Felton, 6-3, Fr., 3.6; F Brandon Huffman, 6-10, Fr., 3.1

And now here’s something you’ll really like. After winning five straight games against teams that, save for Michigan, have no real hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes get a crack at the reigning national champions in the Tar Heels.

You, of course, also know them from Wednesday night’s shocking upset loss to Wofford. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann knows them for the challenge their veteran guards present.

“We’ve not seen this level of pressure and size and athleticism at all this year,” Holtmann said. “We’ve not seen that defensive pressure, length, size, athleticism across the board. I think Gonzaga was really big, but they don’t pressure at quite the same extent as Carolina does. That’s obviously going to be a real challenge for us to see how we respond after having not faced anything similar to that. I’ll be anxious to see how we collectively respond. I think it’s going to be a group thing in terms of their ball-handling and being able to execute the offensive game plan against the way they defend. Their teams in the past couple of years have defended at a really high level and as the season’s progressed they’ve gotten better and better.”

Tate said Ohio State’s primary keys are how well they handle transition.

“The way they get the ball up the court so fast, even on made baskets, is going to be key,” he said. “Trying to make them play in the half-court is what we’re going to have to try to do. Beat us in the half court.”

The chance to earn what would be a signature win didn’t mean much extra to him.

“It’s always a great opportunity to face the defending champs,” Tate said. “They won the championship last year. North Carolina, with all their success, it’s always an opportunity. To be at a neutral side on a big stage, I think we know the importance of it. The fact that trying to prove something, we’re just looking at it as another opportunity to get another win.”

Pregame reading

After the Wofford win, here's a notebook on that game's impact on the Buckeyes, Holtmann's latest on Andre Wesson's role with the team as well as his own history with the Tar Heels.

In today's Dispatch, the realization that this Ohio State team is rapidly becoming a feel-good story and why that might be the case. It's a pretty rare thing.

This game means a little extra for Manley, a Pickerington native. I caught up with him earlier in the week.

JaQuan Lyle was at the Citadel game Tuesday night. I caught up with him at halftime.

Noteworthy

*The Buckeyes are 1-2 in the CBSSports Classic. The win came in 2015, when they beat No. 4 Kentucky 74-67 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“It was crazy that day,” Bates-Diop said of the win against the Wildcats. “It shows we can compete in this thing. In kind of a down year we beat them. No one’s gone undefeated in this thing. We still feel like we can compete in this thing.”

In the first year of the Classic, the No. 12 Buckeyes lost to No. 24 North Carolina, 82-74, at the United Center in Chicago in 2014. Last year, they lost to No. 2 UCLA, 86-73, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“Coming to this university, we believed that this university was in that top tier of top-five basketball programs,” Tate said. “We’ve had a couple down years but our whole goal is to get Ohio State back on top. It’s just another opportunity to go out there and compete against one of the best basketball programs in the world. We’re fortunate, but it’s always a great opportunity to go out there and play the game you love and have so many people watching and fans around the world locked in.”

*Ohio State hasn’t tasted much success against North Carolina. The Tar Heels lead the series 11-2, but the Buckeyes actually won the first matchup. That came back in 1929, when they won, 43-30. Since then, Ohio State’s only win against North Carolina came on March 27, 1992, in the Sweet Sixteen. The No. 3 Buckeyes beat the No. 18 Tar Heels, 80-73.

Since then, North Carolina has won six straight with an average margin of victory of 10.8 points per game.

*Holtmann said there wasn’t a whole lot to take from Tuesday night’s win against the Citadel because of how the Bulldogs play, and he’s right. Ohio State used a season-low 13 different lineups comprised exclusively of recruited scholarship players and tied a season low with only three new lineups. On this night, those three new lineups were only on the court for a combined 3:53.

Jallow returned to the starting lineup in place of Williams. That group of Jackson, Jallow, Tate, Bates-Diop and Kaleb Wesson started four straight games earlier this year but hadn’t played in the prior three games. Against the Citadel, the starters were plus-16 with 37 points scored and 21 allowed in 12:52.

*This is the 3,000th game in Tar Heels history. They are the fifth team to reach the mark and have won 73.9 percent of their games (2,216-783).

*Ohio State has recorded more assists than turnovers in each of its last six games, their longest such stretch of the season.

What does KenPom say?

According to the advanced statistics of KenPom.com, Ohio State has a 29 percent chance to win today’s game. After climbing two spots to No. 48 in the national rankings following the win against the Citadel, Ohio State is projected to lose to North Carolina by a score of 82-76. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 11 in the country.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy