UNC headed to Kansas City for NCAAs
Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge both guided eight-seeded North Carolina to upsets of No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Now Roy Williams hopes to follow in their footsteps.
The Tar Heels (24-10) received the No. 8 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament Sunday and will play No. 9 Villanova Friday in Kansas City. The winner of that game would likely play No. 1 Kansas, the second overall seed, in Kansas City on Sunday in the Round of 32.
Williams coached at Kansas for 15 years before coming to UNC in 2003. Since that time he’s faced the Jayhawks twice in the NCAAs, losing a regional final last season and a national semifinal in 2008.
UNC’s postseason status was in doubt after the Tar Heels followed unimpressive non-conference results with an 0-2 start to the ACC. But the team won 14 of their last 19 games, finishing third in the conference and making the ACC tournament final, which Miami won 87-77 on Sunday.
“I’m unbelievably proud of what they have accomplished and how far they have come when everybody was abandoning ship earlier,” Williams said after the final. “I’m really proud of my team, and the way they played today. … I feel very lucky to be the coach of my team.”
Their recent success couldn’t keep the Tar Heels from matching their lowest-ever NCAA Tournament seed in 44 appearances, though the No. 8 seed hasn’t stopped them from advancing through the first weekend before.
In 2000 under Guthridge, UNC beat No. 1 Stanford in Birmingham, Ala., en route to the Final Four. In 1990 under Smith, the Tar Heels beat No. 1 Oklahoma in Austin, Texas before falling to No. 4 Arkansas in the regional semifinals.
But first, UNC must get past Villanova (20-13), who went 10-8 in the Big East. The Wildcats went 4-2 against Top 25 RPI teams, including three home wins over AP Top 5 teams. Third-team all-conference forward JayVaughn Pinkson averages 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds, and all-rookie team point guard Ryan Arcidiacano averages 12.0 points and 3.5 assists.
In Kansas City, the Tar Heels are going back to the site of their first NCAA title, when the undefeated 1957 team won consecutive triple-overtime games, including a win over Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in the final
UNC was placed in the South regional and would advance to Arlington, Texas, for the Sweet 16. The other top teams are No. 2 Georgetown, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 VCU.
“We've got to give it our all,” Dexter Strickland, UNC’s only scholarship senior, said after Sunday’s game. “We've got to lose ourselves on the floor, just play to our full potential, everybody have that energy, that sense of urgency. This is my last go around, so I'm going to give it my all and I expect the same from my team.”