UNC, Kansas highlight Midwest Region

North Carolina began the 2011-12 college basketball season and-down year, the Tar Heels have earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels, who lost to UNLV, were throttled by 33 points at Florida State and collapsed against Duke earlier this year, closed the season strong by winning nine straight games before falling to the Seminoles in the ACC Tournament title game.

"We are extremely disappointed that we lost to Florida State today and did not win the ACC Tournament, but we are also extremely pleased that the NCAA selection committee felt we deserved a No. 1 seed," UNC head coach Roy Williams said

UNC possesses as much talent as anyone in the country, and when Kendall Marshall is effectively running the fastbreak, the Tar Heels are a tough team to knock off. Tyler Zeller and John Henson headline a terrific frontcourt and Harrison Barnes is a go-to-guy on the offensive end.

Henson, who injured his left wrist against Maryland in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, will most likely play in the tourney.

UNC opens play with a second-round game against the victor of a first-round game between Lamar and Vermont.

If the Tar Heels reach the Midwest Regional final, it could set up a highly anticipated matchup between UNC and Williams' former squad in second-seeded Kansas.

The Jayhawks defeated Williams and the Tar Heels in the Final Four of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, 84-66, en route to their third national championship.

A year later, UNC won its fifth national title in dominant fashion as it won each of its tournament games by at least 12 points.

Led by Big 12 Player of the Year Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks were hoping for a top seed heading into the week, but settled for the No. 2 seed after failing to capture their third consecutive Big 12 Tournament title. They lost to Baylor in the semifinals.

"I think there are times when we play really, really tough and I think there are times when we don't. I thought in Kansas City, we did not. I didn't think we guarded the two days we were over there," Kansas head coach Bill Self said, referring to the conference tourney. "We're certainly going to have to tighten a few things up in that area because I think when we really do guard and rebound our team takes a whole different dimension than when we don't. I think we have the potential to be a very tough team and we just have to be very tough in every phase going forward instead of picking and choosing like we have been doing the last couple weeks."

The Jayhawks will face off against 15th-seeded Detroit in their second-round game.

Georgetown landed the No. 3 seed and will play Belmont on Friday, while No. 4 seed Michigan will tussle with MAC Champion Ohio, also on Friday.

The other Thursday games pit No. 5 Temple against the first-round winner between California and South Florida and No. 6 San Diego State against North Carolina State. The 8-9 game between Missouri Valley champion Creighton and Alabama will be Thursday, as will No. 7 seed and West Coast Conference champ Saint Mary's going up against Purdue.

The Midwest's Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games will be played at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on March 23 and 25.