The North Carolina Tar Heels did what Kansas State and ACC rival N.C. State couldn’t do on Friday: defeat a Philadelphia opponent. The Tar Heels blew a 20-point lead and survived Villanova with 78-71 win in an 8-9 matchup in the South Region at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
With seven minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina was up 32-12 on Villanova. By halftime, the Wildcats cut the lead to eight. Seven minutes in to the second half, Villanova regained the lead on a Jayvaughn Pinkston free throw. The Tar Heels countered with threes from Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston. James Michael McAdoo upped the lead to nine with four minutes to go, but that lead wasn’t even safe.
The Wildcats came storming back, cutting the lead to two twice. The Wildcats forced a turnover with its full-court press and Pinkston could have cut the lead to two a third time, but his layup attempt fell of the rim in the hands of Hairston. Ryan Arcidiacono was having a cut on his eye bandaged on the sideline, forcing Durran Hillard to bring the ball up. Hillard missed a shot in the lane, and Marcus Paige threw the ball up to Hairston who drew an and-1.
North Carolina lost the battle on the board by nine, espeically on the offensive glass — 15-9. The Tar Heels survived being outrebounded with 11-for-21 3-point shooter. Hairston and Bullock were 5-for-8 and 3-of-6, respectively, from behind the arc. North Carolina’s likely third round opponent will be Kansas, ranked 15th in the nation in rebounding margin.
If Kansas can avoid being the first No. 1 seed to be upset by a No. 16 seed, the third round promises to provide one of the more interesting storylines of this wild NCAA tournament. Roy Williams would be matched up against the team he coached for 15 seasons. Maybe 10 years, a national title and Bill Self is enough to make KU fans forgive Williams for leaving Lawrence for a return Chapel Hill