I think I may have fully blocked out 2010 at this point. Heck, I may have also forgotten Some Other Kid too.
Regardless of expectations, which can sometimes be incredibly high, I always want UNC to make the Sweet Sixteen as a starting point. The reason being is, it two weeks of being engaged in the tournament. Had UNC lost yesterday we would all be brooding over the loss, apathetic towards the rest of the tournament and living with trepidation that Duke might win another national title. That last one is still alive a kicking but UNC is still dancing after a hard fought win against a very good Washington team. This week for UNC fans is one part being Arizona fans but mostly about moving to the Elite Eight. Of course Arizona beating Duke has a double bonus. It means NC State fans who want Wildcat coach Sean Miller will be tortured a tad longer.
UNC will play their regional semifinal game versus #11 seeded Marquette on Friday night at 7:15 PM on CBS. This will be the first NCAA Tournament meeting between these two teams since the infamous 1977 NCAA championship game. While I was only a scant two years old at the time, for some reason this loss ranks fairly high on the list of heartbreaks for UNC fans. Even random Tar Heel fans I have met through the course of my life who were alive or even at UNC when this game happened have related a level of sadness about this loss strikes me as more gut wrenching than any Final Four defeat since then. UNC has a chance on Friday night to exact a measure of revenge for that loss. It should be noted that Roy Williams has seen Marquette in recent years. Roy's next to last game at Kansas was versus Marquette in the 2003 Final Four when the Golden Eagles had Miami Heat start Dwayne Wade. Kansas won by 30.
A quick primer on Marquette. The Golden Eagles are 22-14 and finished 11th in the bloated and now somewhat less impressive Big East with a 9-9 mark. Marquette two games in the Big East Tournament before getting throttled by Louisville which should be a stark reminder how what happened a week ago or even a few days ago matters very little in NCAA Tournament success. UL barely lost the Big East title game to UConn then got bounced in their first NCAA Tournament game. Here are some quick facts to get your primed for the matchup.
[table id=112 /]
Despite 14 losses, Marquette does not have any truly bad ones with the exception of Seton Hall who is 59th according to KenPom. The Golden Eagles had 10 losses away from home which includes a 2-3 mark on neutral courts. Don't let the seeding fool you, this team can rebound well enough to give UNC fits. This is a team that looks to get points inside the three point arc and from the free throw line. Marquette gets only 20% of its points from the three and its 3PA/FGA is 26% which is 314th. Marquette also proved versus Syracuse that they are willing to get out and run if they need to. They did so versus Syracuse in an effort to score before the Orangmen zone was set up. I would think they would opt to slow down versus UNC but one can never tell.
After last season it feels good to see UNC advance to the second weekend. While I think this will be a tough game, I like the Heels' chances, more so than I would have versus Syracuse though it should be noted that the Orangmen's zone looked less than impressive last night. Still given how poorly UNC has played versus the zone this season I would much rather avoid it altogether. The big challenge for this young Tar Heel team is to stay focused and not fall into the funk they got into following the big win versus Duke in Chapel Hill. The Heels also have a tendency to "play down" which is not meant to disrespect Marquette but by all accounts UNC is the better team and from tip to horn they really need to play like it.