Many Carolina fans are already looking ahead to the round of 32—when the Heels would likely take on Kansas—but Andrew Jones of FoxSportsCarolinas.com says the Wildcats present a major challenge of their own.
Still, Carolina enters the tourney riding high: since switching to its smaller lineup in February, the Heels have lost only three games—all to Duke and Miami, both of which are ranked in the top 10.
That late-season run had many observers projecting UNC as a six- or seven-seed in the tournament. Receiving a no. 8 seed was something of a disappointment—especially with the prospect of a matchup with Kansas, Roy Williams’ former team, in Kansas City on Sunday.
Jones says the Heels deserved better.
“To be an 8 (seed), and then to put them in that situation (having to face the Jayhawks in Kansas), I think is just wrong,” he says. “I think UNC got screwed–I think all four ACC teams (in the tournament) got screwed.”
Nevertheless, Jones says he’s picking Carolina to win narrowly on Friday. The Tar Heels enter the game with three players scoring more than 14 points a game—James Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, and Reggie Bullock. Villanova’s leading scorer is sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston, with 13.1 points per game—and Villanova’s three leading scorers are all freshmen and sophomores, so Carolina may have a rare edge in experience as well.
And while Kansas still looms large as a possible opponent on Sunday, Jones says even that’s not a done deal: the Jayhawks have to get past sixteenth-seeded Western Kentucky first, and Jones says that’s a taller order than it may appear.
“If there ever was a 16 seed that’s going to beat a 1, this would be the kind of game where it could happen,” he says. “Kansas lost to TCU earlier, and I’d be willing to bet that Western Kentucky’s better than TCU.”
UNC tips off against Villanova Friday at 7:20 in Kansas City. Coverage on WCHL begins at 5:00 with Countdown to Tipoff, presented by Harrington Bank.
Roy Williams has never lost as a head coach in the round of 64—he’s 22-0 in more than two decades with Kansas and UNC—and if he can keep that streak going this year, it could bode well for Carolina’s long-term chances. UNC and Villanova have met five times in the NCAA tournament—and all five times, the victor has gone on to the Final Four, winning the national championship all but once.