North Carolina Tar Heels (28-6) vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (21-11)
When: Thursday, 9:40 p.m.
Where: Winston-Salem, NC
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
1. What's in a nickname? Monikers flow in a locker room like coffee in a diner. You're more than familiar with Carolina's first-team All-American, Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough. But can you recall the only player strong enough to hold Hansbrough in check this season? That would be unsung senior Dewey "Biscuits" Burke, who earned acclaim by preserving order in the aftermath of a hard Gerald "G" Henderson Duke foul with a bear hug on the bloodied big man. But Biscuits was already a BMOC (Facebook fan club: "Dewey=Biscuits"), having won his BoBerrylicious tag earlier in the season. Burke converted truly clutch buckets to help the Heels hit 100 points in three different home games, thus enabling fans to head home happy and redeem their ticket stubs for free biscuits at Bojangles' fried-chicken joints the very next day. Where does "Biscuits" Burke rank all-time among the top Tar Heel nicknames? Aside from freshman teammates Wayne "The Rain" Ellington and Brandan "The Condor" Wright, he'll have to contend with Kenny "The Jet" Smith, Billy "The Kangaroo Kid" Cunningham and Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins.
2. Have a Coke and a smile, Ol' Roy. Allegiances run deep in college basketball. Carolina coach Roy Williams still tears up when talking about his 15 years with the rock-chalk Jayhawks. He'll never buy a home in Durham. And you'd better not force him to drink a Pepsi product. While scouting a game during last year's Pepsi-sponsored ACC Tournament in Greensboro, Williams was told by ACC officials that he couldn't chew ice from his red Coke cup. After initially threatening to leave the arena, he eventually complied. This year, Tar Heel team managers brought a stash of Coca-Cola products to the tourney (Diet Sprite for Williams; Diet Coke for assistant coach Joe Halladay, and Coke for assistant coach Steve Robinson). In a TV commercial sure to make the rounds during this year's Big Dance, Williams recounts how his moms used to leave a hard-earned dime out for him to buy a Coke with his friends. Will the ad air often enough to spark a backlash akin to that against Coach K and his cozy AmEx ties?
3. Six Degrees of Wes Miller. Warren Weston Miller — the Carolina senior marksman whose favorite shot is "any lay-up because there haven't been many" — is best friends with Jacksonville Jaguars running back Alvin Pearman, who also grew up in Charlotte. Pearman, of course, is tight with fellow Jaguars offensive weapon Matt Jones, the versatile quarterback-turned-receiver who broke former Razorbacks All-American Corliss Williamson's basketball record for season scoring average (24.5 points per game) at his Arkansas high school. "Big Nasty" Williamson, mind you, is still playing ball professionally for the Sacramento Kings — and was once moved to Toronto in a trade involving former Raptors center Eric Montross. "The Big E," as all Tar Heels know, not only was a first-team All-American at North Carolina but played the 1990-91 season as a freshman alongside senior point guard King Rice ... also known as a backcourt mentor and the favorite former player of one Warren Weston Miller. — Brian Styers and Matt Viser
EASTERN KENTUCKY COLONELS
1. Robert E. Lee's spirit is on their side. Eastern Kentucky University is located in Richmond, Kentucky, site of the Civil War Battle of Richmond. The Battle of Richmond holds the distinction of being the most decisive victory of the war by the Confederate Army over the Union's forces, with the Union being routed by the Confederates and suffering nearly 5000 casualties. Oddly enough, George Mason University, last year's tourney Cinderella, is in Fairfax, VA, site of another embarrassing loss for the Union Army. Of course, in that incident, the Union only lost 33 soldiers. So therefore, by flawless logic, Eastern Kentucky should roll right through to the title this year a couple hundred times more impressively than George Mason got to the Final Four last year.
2. It's not the size that matters. Eastern Kentucky's tallest player is 6'8" junior center Darnell Dials, who's averaging a robust 8.4 points and 4.1 boards on the year. Not so good. However, their three talented starting guards — Mike Rose, Adam Leonard and Julian Mascol — average nearly 60 percent of their total points per game. That's what I call balance. But hey, you know the old saying: Guards win the NCAA tournament. That sound of whimpering you hear in the corner is heralded bigs Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.
3. Your school's not as tough as the Fall Guy's team. Eastern Kentucky boasts as perhaps its most famous alum the Six-Million-Dollar Man himself, tough guy actor Lee Majors. Majors was such a bad-ass that he arrived at Eastern Kentucky after he was expelled from Indiana U. (where he was a football recruit) for kicking a frat brother's ass in a fight. Later, he would go on to hire his body out for pay, hey hey in the Fall Guy, bang Farrah Fawcett when she was at her most smokin' and bag a Playboy Playmate when he had a midlife crisis (forget buying a sports car!). — Arie Bram