Despite an arguably under seed, the No. 8 Tar Heels have been gearing up for a tough post season road ahead.
Head Coach Roy Williams feels like he and his staff are prepared for tough competition.
“I’ve been in the eight-nine game at least once,” says Williams. “I’ve been on the one end when you had to play eight and nine and even lost, so there are not a lot of scenarios that our staff has not been through, and there are not a lot of scenarios that our players have been through because they’re so young, so they’re just going to have to stick with it.”
Even with freshman point guard Marcus Paige’s tournament inexperience, Williams says he has confidence in his ability to perform.
“Like I said in the pre-season I thought our team would get better and better and better,” says Williams. “Some people were worried, complaining, or wondering why about Marcus and I kept saying he was going to get better and better and better and I think he has done that. I am pretty dog-gone comfortable with my point guard.”
Junior guard Reggie Bullock says the eight seed has brought on more motivation for him and his teammates going into the tournament.
“Of course we wanted a higher seed,” says Bullock. “I think it kind of helped us also because it put anger in everybody to go down there and prove to everybody that we deserve a higher seed. We’re looking forward to playing Villanova. We didn’t think about it too much as how we should have been this seed or that seed, we just have to focus on our next game.”
Senior guard Dexter Strickland, a Tar Heel who has experienced the NCAA tournament three times prior, gives advice to his younger teammates.
“If I were to tell the young guys I would just tell them to go down there and try to play at your full potential. Just give it your all and lose yourself out there on the floor because it might be your last game.”
On the season, sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo leads North Carolina with 14.4 points per game and 7.4 rebounds. Sophomore guard P.J. Hairston follows closely with an average of 14.3 points per game. Bullock averages 14.2 with a 43.8 three-point percentage. Paige leads the team in assists with 4.7, and free-throw percentage with 83.6. Paige averages 8.0 points per game, tied with Strickland.
For Villanova, sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston leads in points per game with 13.1. He is followed by teammate freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono with 12.0 points per game. Arcidiacono averages 3.5 assists and is 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.
Going into the tournament, the Tar Heels are 24-10 overall and 12-6 in the ACC. Villanova is 20-13 overall and 10-8 in the Big East conference.
Tipoff is set for 7:20 p.m. on Friday in Kansas City, M.O.