This year’s national semifinals features two teams making their first ever Final Four, a third making their first appearance in decades, and North Carolina. It might not be a Final Four chock full of historical rematches or storylines, but UNC has played some interesting games against all of the other teams.
When North Carolina and Oregon tip off on Saturday night, it will mark the fifth time the two teams have met. The first two came on back to back days in December 1968.
The first night, they beat the Ducks by 11 in Greensboro, with Charlie Scott going for 34 points and 11 rebounds. The very next day, the two teams met again in Carmichael. The home venue must have provided a little extra boost, as UNC won the second meeting 106-73.
One other Carolina win happened in 1976, before the most recent meeting happened in 2008 in Maui. The Tar Heels won easily in the Maui Invitational semifinals, with Danny Green scoring 21 points. Tyler Hansbrough, meanwhile, had the most Tyler Hansbrough stat line possible, scoring 16 points, despite attempting only four field goals. He went 12-14 from the free throw line.
Gonzaga is the Final Four team that Carolina has played the least in their history. The teams have only met twice, both coming since Gonzaga has become a increasingly relevant part of the college basketball scene.
The two first met in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals in 2006, where the Bulldogs upset North Carolina. Gonzaga shot 52%, and 57% from three (compared to 36% and 23% for UNC) as they beat the Tar Heels by eight.
A little more than two years later, the two met again where UNC got their revenge in the slightly more important game. The Tar Heels beat the Bulldogs by 21 on their way to steamrolling the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
UNC has met former conference rivals South Carolina 51 times, leading the series 37-14.
The most recent meeting came on November 25, 2011 in Las Vegas. Harrison Barnes led the way with 21 points, but P.J. Hairston went 4-6 from three off the bench, scoring 19.
The two have already met in an NCAA Tournament game before back in 1972. UNC destroyed the Gamecocks 92-69 in a regional semifinal. George Karl scored 18 points in 23 minutes to lead the way for UNC. The Tar Heels would fall to Florida State in the Final Four before beating Louisville for third place.
Both teams were ranked in the top five when UNC traveled to Columbia in January 1970. South Carolina won by 13 on their way to a 14-0 ACC regular season under former Tar Heel coach Frank McGuire. However, the Gamecocks were upset in the ACC Tournament final and didn’t get the chance to play in the 1970 NCAA Tournament.
Outside of UNC, this year’s final four isn’t full of “traditional blue bloods.” However, the Tar Heels have played notable games against all three teams.