What to Expect: UNC’s Weekend at the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City


kansas city

 

Beautiful Kansas City. The land of barbecue and fading jazz music. And of course some regional NCAA tournament action featuring the UNC Tar Heels. We just got super excited typing that sentence.

Like you, we don’t love the seeding Carolina received. That ACC Tournament was enough to move off the 8 line, at least we thought it was. No need to run that topic back, we’re looking forward. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” We got some thing to take care of.

villanova retro logo

Our main complaint with UNC’s seeding and placement was definitely the early potential match-up with Kansas. It’s hard to argue that the NCAA selection committee does not take such factors into seeding when this happens so early. Crazy thing is though, we’ve played our first round opponent (we’re not calling it the second round) in this year’s NCAA just as many times in the Roy Williams era as we have played Kansas, albeit with better results.

It’s easy to remember beating the Villanova Wildcats in the 2009 tourney on the way to a national championship, and it’s hard to forget a frightful Sweet 16 showdown in 2005 in route to another national title. That Villanova team led by Allan Ray and Randy Foye and playing a four-guard lineup almost ruined what turned into a glorious run.

Did something sound familiar in the last paragraph? Maybe the four-guard lineup that UNC has adopted this season? We at Rafters HQ have associated the small, four-guard lineup with that 2005 Villanova team since that Sweet 16 game. And it’s funny that in a year where Roy Williams breaks out of his comfort zone and goes small we’re paired with a school known for playing this way. And the Wildcats have the second best-dressed man in college basketball (behind Roy Williams) in Jay Wright as their coach. And these teams have a tourney history.

But the NCAA doesn’t take storylines into its seeding.

Villanova is again playing this year without a true inside presence. The Philadelphia school is also very young. Near the beginning of the season it did not look like ‘Nova would make the Big Dance. Seriously, could these teams be more alike?

Here’s what you can expect from this game:

  • Villanova will look rattled. It does not play well away from its friendly confines. The Wildcats pulled off big wins at home against Georgetown, Syracuse and Louisville but lost on the road to teams such as Seton Hall and Providence, and Alabama on a neutral court.
  • ‘Nova sports some height, with three players over 6’10” getting significant minutes. To that end, the Wildcats’ (what exactly is a wildcat anyway?) rotation goes nine deep, so they won’t be afraid to run with the Heels. This could be helpful or hurtful.
  • While JayVaughn Pinkston is their leading scorer at 13 ppg., Villanova also has two other players averaging double digits and two others hovering around 9 ppg, so there isn’t a traditional “star” on which UNC can put all its defensive focus. It does mean the ‘Cats have a balanced attach, however unexplosive it is. Again, this could be helpful or hurtful.
  • Villanova plays decent D (65 ppg) making them something like 12-1 in games in which they score 70+ points.

Should the Heels make it to the second round, the’ll find another familiar foe.

kansas retro logo

Let’s be real. Kansas isn’t going to lose to a 16 seed. If UNC makes it through, they’ll be playing the Jayhawks, who handled the Big 12 yet again en route to a No. 1 seed. The major issue here is obviously Roy Williams conflicted nature with playing his old club. He clearly doesn’t like how things went sour with the KU fanbase and has tried his dagnabbitest to make amends to no avail. The other factor that heavily favors Kansas is the game being played in Kansas City, a mere 40 miles from Lawrence.

  • Kansas plays good defense, with four players averaging more than one steal per game and Jeff Withey blocking a lot of shots. Ironically this UNC team doesn’t depend on low-post scoring, so the Withey factor could be nullified, but ball security will be key.
  • Elijah Johnson has been a liability at times at point guard. UNC will need to exploit him if they want to have a chance in this game. If they can take away his ability to facilitate McLemore and Withey, they have a shot.
  • Speaking of McLemore, dude can ball. Dude shoots 50% from the floor and averages about 16 points. Dude is going to be a lottery pick this summer. Dude needs to be stopped.
  • We don’t think we can handle losing to Kansas again in the tourney. Especially because you know they’ll be doing this in the locker room after.

Going into the season we said making it out of the first weekend of the tourney would be great. The path to the Sweet 16 has been made a little more difficult but we’d feel the same way.

Go Heels, Go America.