The No. 9 Villanova Wildcats and the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels have had some memorable battles in past years. In 1985, Villanova beat North Carolina 56-44 in the Elite Eight. Villanova went to the Final Four and won their first NCAA national championship. In 2005, North Carolina edged a narrow victory against Villanova in the Sweet 16 by the score of 67-66, on their way to a national championship. In 2009, North Carolina manhandled Villanova in the Final Four, 83-69, prior to winning their sixth national championship. History tells us that when these two teams meet in the NCAA Tournament, one of them wins the national championship. However, one thing to remember is that neither one of these teams were a No. 8 or a No. 9 seed in these instances.
Expect tonight’s game to be a close one between these two teams. North Carolina is playing their best basketball of the season, since guard/forward P.J. Hairston has been inserted into the starting lineup. This recent change has opened up their offense. North Carolina continues to have weak output from the low post, but their focal point as of late has been their guard play.
Unlike North Carolina, Villanova has beaten several ranked teams this season (Louisville Cardinals, Syracuse Orangemen, Georgetown Hoyas and the Marquette Golden Eagles). Despite these impressive victories, Villanova has been inconsistent throughout this season. They lost to the Columbia Lions by 18 points, in addition to a 22-point loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Villanova must lean on their core trio of Jay Vaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard. Villanova will have an opportunity to win this game, if they are able to shut down North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock and Hairston.
Likewise, North Carolina must continue to push the ball in transition. Freshman point guard, Marcus Paige, has been sensational this season. Rebounding and scoring a great deal of points are North Carolina’s strengths. They rank 14th overall in the NCAA in both categories. Maintaining high output in these categories will guarantee a win for North Carolina. Although North Carolina has a high-scoring offense, Villanova has better success against ranked teams this season. Expect this game to have a close score.