Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Louisville will take part in its first- ever ACC Tournament, as the fourth-seeded Cardinals will take on the fifth- seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in Thursday's quarterfinal-round action at Greensboro Coliseum.
The winner here will take on either ninth-seeded Florida State or top-seeded Virginia in Friday's semifinal round.
Louisville has made a near seamless transition to the ACC this year, finishing the season at 24-7 overall and 12-6 in league play. The team faced some adversity late in the season, but got a real shot in the arm in the regular- season finale, handing Virginia just its second loss of the year, 59-57.
North Carolina finished just outside the top four teams, picking up the five- seed. UNC had a two-game win streak halted in the regular-season finale against rival Duke (84-77), but still finished the year with an impressive 21-10 overall record, including an 11-7 league ledger. The Tar Heels opened tournament play with a lopsided 81-63 victory over Boston College. North Carolina trails only Duke in terms of ACC Tournament success, with a 91-43 record in the event and 17 tournament titles.
These two teams met back on Jan. 10 in Chapel Hill and the contest lived up to its billing, with UNC earning a 72-71 victory over Louisville.
North Carolina has the ability to run teams out of the building. The Tar Heels entered the postseason with solid averages of 78.2 ppg on .473 shooting. All- ACC Third-Team selection Marcus Paige (13.7 ppg) headlines the squad as both the team's top scorer and distributor (4.6 apg). Forwards Brice Johnson (12.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Kennedy Meeks (12.0 ppg, 7.6 ppg) are potent interior performers. Other valuable contributors include Justin Jackson (10.1 ppg) and J.P. Tokoto (8.7 ppg).
Paige came up big in the win over Boston College, just missing out on a double-double, as he finished with 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds to propel the Tar Heels into the quarterfinals. Johnson missed out on a double- double of his own, adding 17 points and nine boards to the cause, while Jackson tacked on 12 points for UNC, which played without Meeks (unknown illness).
Louisville made some roster moves in the second half of the season, namely dismissing talented guard Chris Jones (13.7 ppg, 53 steals) from the program, leaving the Cardinals dangerously thin at both ends of the floor. Despite the lack of overall quality depth, Rick Pitino's squad has remained a dangerous defensive unit and enters the postseason allowing just 59.2 ppg, on a miserly .387 shooting. The team has also done a nice job in forcing turnovers (14.5 per contest)
There is a lack of scoring depth, but the depth that does exist is star- studded. Sophomore guard Terry Rozier (17.0 ppg, 63 steals) has emerged as a rising star in the ACC. Junior forward Montrezl Harrell (15.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is the perfect complement to Rozier with his interior game. Both players earned all-conference second-team honors. The only other reliable threat on the roster in terms of scoring is senior forward Wayne Blackshear (10.7 ppg).