USA TODAY Sports
For only the third time in school history, North Carolina enters the NCAA Tournament as a #8 seed.
NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
North Carolina(24-10) vs Villanova(20-13), 7:20 PM, TNT
There are a variety of storylines that go with this game from UNC and Villanova's NCAA Tournament history to the Tar Heels' history if performing well as a #8 seed. The possibility of playing Kansas looms large and has overshadowed this game to some extent which could fuel the Wildcats a little since they might feel disrespected by the media in general talking about a potential third game between Roy Williams and his former team. Knowing Williams and how he approaches games, the focus has been on Villanova and winning the first game before talking about any that could come after that.
The match-up itself is an interesting one. UNC and Villanova essentially start the same type of lineup with the Wildcats projecting slightly more size at the four and five positions. They also have the reputation of being a physical team and lead the nation in free throws as a percentage of their offense. Outside of that, on paper this is a team that does not shoot the ball well ranking 257th in 2-point FG% and only hitting 33.7% of their threes. Since the Tar Heels are not a team prone to fouling a ton, if that trend continues, it could take away a vital part of how the Wildcats generate points.
Speaking of taking things away, the Wildcats generally do a poor job of taking care of the basketball. Villanova is 314th in TO% at 22.9%. Since the chance to the smaller lineup, UNC has been generating turnovers at a rate of 21.8% or 14.7 takeaways per game. Those turnovers generate offense for North Carolina in transition which is the Tar Heels' calling card. Second to that is three point shooting which, if UNC does like they did in Greensboro, will make them a very dangerous team. Villanova is 300th in 3-point FG defense giving up 36.8% per game. UNC comes into the tournament shooting 38.9% from three in their past 11 games and 41.6% since in the ACC Tournament following the 1-14 outing against Duke. If you exclude that game, the Tar Heels are shooting 40.9% since the lineup change.
Perhaps the biggest difference separating North Carolina and Villanova is the Wildcats actually snagged four wins over teams seeded above them while the Heels have just one and that was against UNLV. Villanova beat Louisville and Syracuse in a five day span back in January and ended the regular season with a 10 point win over Georgetown. When it comes to "big" games Villanova has shown up more than a few times. The Heels, for the most part, have not with the effort against Miami on Sunday being the best showing so far against a highly ranked team. If Villanova brings their "beat Louisville and Georgetown" effort this will be a very tough game requiring the Heels to step up with game the way they did last weekend.
UNC 75 Villanova 69