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Preview: Villanova vs. North Carolina

Preview: Villanova vs. North Carolina

North Carolina and Villanova saved their best play for the season's final six weeks and hope to continue their recent winning ways in the second round of the NCAA Tournament South Regional on Friday in Kansas City, Mo. Eighth-seeded North Carolina found itself 3-3 in the ACC on Jan. 27, but winning 11-of-14 games vaulted the Tar Heels into the ACC championship. Ninth-seeded Villanova had won seven of 10 before falling to eventual Big East champion Louisville in the conference quarterfinals.

North Carolina's success is predicated by a balanced offensive attack, with three scorers averaging in double figures. The Tar Heels are third in the nation in assists and tied for 14th in scoring and rebounding. The Wildcats were 13-9 and 4-5 in conference play in early February, but posted victories over Marquette and Georgetown to bolster their case for an at-large bid. The Wildcats are back in the tournament after a seven-year streak of NCAA berths ended last season.

TV: 7:20 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT VILLANOVA (20-13): Sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston earned third-team All-Big East honors and leads the Wildcats in scoring. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was a unanimous selection to the conference's all-rookie squad. Arcidiacono leads the Wildcats in 3-pointers made (70), but shoots 34.9 percent from the field. Coach Jay Wright's team benefited from playing in the Big East as the Wildcats' ranked 51st in RPI and 21st in strength of schedule, and defeated four ranked teams this season.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (24-10): James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston give the Tar Heels three go-to scorers. All are capable of taking over as Hairston did in hitting six 3-pointers and scoring 28 points in Sunday's 87-77 loss to Miami in the ACC title game. Williams, who is one victory away from reaching 700, inserted Hairston into the starting lineup in early February and the Tar Heels took off. Guards Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland are two of the better playmakers in the ACC. Both finished in the top five in the ACC in assists.

TIP-INS

  1. The winner takes on top-seed Kansas or No. 16 seed Western Kentucky in Sunday's third round. A Kansas/North Carolina matchup would pit Tar Heels coach Roy Williams against the program he coached from 1988-2003.

  2. North Carolina and Villanova have met five times in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels are 4-1, including an 83-69 victory in the 2009 Final Four.

  3. Villanova owns more victories as a lower seed (15) than any other school.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 73, Villanova 66