A pair of teams that received at-large bids square off in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at the Sprint Center on Friday night, as the ninth-seeded Villanova Wildcats tangle with the eighth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels.
The survivor of this South Region matchup will advance to Sunday's third round to take on the winner of the Kansas/Western Kentucky encounter.
Villanova dropped its quarterfinal-round matchup in the Big East Conference Tournament to eventual-champion Louisville (74-55), but it nonetheless earned its keep in arguably the nation's toughest league this season with a 20-13 overall record and signature wins over Georgetown, Marquette, Syracuse and Louisville, all of which impressed the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Wildcats have made 33 appearances in the Big Dance, including seven in nine years under current head coach Jay Wright, highlighted by a Final Four run in 2009. Villanova won its only national title back in 1985.
For North Carolina's incredibly high standards, it got off to a rather sluggish start as it sat at 10-5 in mid-January, but the team got its act together down the stretch with wins in eight of nine games before falling to Miami-Florida in the ACC Tournament championship game, 87-77. In addition to piecing together a strong campaign, the Tar Heels also have an incredible pedigree on their side, as they rank among the all-time leaders in NCAA Tournament appearance (44), wins (108), winning percentage (.725), Final Fours (18) and national titles (five). In a tournament so predicated on strong coaching, UNC has one of the best in Roy Williams, who is making his 23rd appearance.
These two teams most recently met in the 2009 Final Four, with the Tar Heels downing the Wildcats, 83-69. UNC leads the all-time series, 10-4.
Despite its impressive season, Villanova's team statistics are modest at best, as it nets 67.8 ppg while surrendering 64.7 ppg, although the Wildcats have been strong on the glass (+3.0 rebounding margin) and they possess a stellar field goal percentage defense (.402). Serving as the team's top scoring threat is JayVaughn Pinkston, who pours in 13.1 ppg on 46 percent efficiency from the field. Ryan Arcidiacono (12.0 ppg) has dropped in a team-best 70 3-pointers, although he has needed 209 attempts to get there (.331). Darrun Hilliard adds 11.2 ppg, while Mouphtaou Yarou mans the paint with 9.7 ppg and 7.8 rpg.
Although the Tar Heels are often vulnerable at the defensive end (69.1 ppg allowed), they are able to more than make up for it with one of the best offensive attacks in the country (77.2 ppg, 7.5 3-pointers per contest at a 37.4 percent clip). James Michael McAdoo leads the way with 14.4 ppg to go with a team-high 7.4 rpg, while Reggie Bullock is hot on his heels with 14.3 ppg, doing so on 85-of-193 accuracy from beyond the arc (.440). P.J. Hairston makes it a trio of scorers capable of carrying UNC on any given night, netting 14.2 ppg on 38.6 percent from downtown. Rounding out the balanced attack are a pair of outstanding passers in Dexter Strickland and Marcus Paige, who both score 8.0 ppg, and have combined to hand out 297 assists (9.0 pg).