Two power conference teams square off in second round of the South regional when North Carolina meets Villanova. The first half of the season was not kind to the Tar Heels, but that can all be washed away with a run to the Final Four. Villanova is seeking its fifth Final Four trip, having finished eighth in a very deep Big East this season.
As the year has progressed, North Carolina (24-10, 12-6 ACC) has gone from "disappointment" to "surprising upstart." A team seeking its sixth national title, Roy Williams has his Tar Heels playing their best ball of late, nearly winning the ACC Tournament before being bounced by Miami in the final. UNC lost just four of its last 15 games, each to Duke and Miami, who finished first and second in the conference during the regular season. Sophomore James Michael McAdoo should be the most talented player on the floor in this game, and the Tar Heels have upperclassmen Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock to provide leadership.
Villanova (20-13, 10-8 Big East) enters the tournament with wins against some of the toughest teams in the nation. In a four-day period, the Wildcats toppled Louisville and Syracuse, and added wins against Marquette and Georgetown to their resume. Jay Wright likes to play his bench, with nine Wildcats averaging more than 12 minutes per game. To compare, Roy Williams only has six players that spend that much time on the court. Villanova will need to step out on Bullock's three-point attempts and deal with McAdoo's athleticism in the paint, or the Tar Heels will continue their run at another title.
The winner of this game will likely play No. 1 Kansas in the Round of 32 on March 23.
Game time, TV: 7:20 p.m. ET, TNT
Location: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.