South Region: No. 1 North Carolina (28-4) vs. No. 16 Radford (21-11)
When: Thursday, 2:50 p.m., EDT
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
1) No Time to Stop When last we saw the Tarheels, they were losing to Florida State while their coach stubbornly refused to call any timeouts in the final two minutes. When last we saw the Tarheels in the NCAA tournament, they were losing to Kansas while their coach stubbornly refused to call any timeouts until the lead was 26 points and a grumpy old bastard was declaring the game over. Head Coach Roy Williams aka Soulja Roy has places to go. It's hard to maintain a perfect orange tan, master all of the southern colloquialisms for dirty words, and recruit top-notch talent if you're busy extending games. Roy has called only 45 timeouts in 32 games this season (1.4 per game), but the number skyrockets to 2.75 per game during the team's four losses. The 2.75 average would be an even 2 if it weren't for the Wake Forest loss, the lone game where the team used their full compliment of timeouts this season. Unused timeouts at first glance have very little value, but Coach Williams has been collecting them in a two-liter bottle to help pay for dialysis for local children. Matriculating at the Dean Smith school of coaching, Williams is more than willing to endure a tough stretch to keep his timeouts for late game situations and isn't above not calling a timeout to teach his team a lesson, but effective use of timeouts may be the Achilles ... could prove vitally important for a deep run.
2) The Fresh Factor In 2005, when the Tarheels won their fourth tournament championship they were led by a core of upperclassmen, but talented freshman forward Marvin Williams also played a crucial role. Marvin's most memorable shot capped a furious comeback against Duke in the Dean Dome, but he also scored the go-ahead tip-in in the closing moments against Illinois in the Championship game. This time around, Carolina's led by a quartet of upperclassmen, but with another freshman forward, Ed Davis, playing a vital role. Davis, like Williams before him, is second on the team in rebounds per game, but he also leads the team in blocks (1.8 per) while only averaging 18 minutes a game. His father, Terry, played ten seasons in the NBA with four different teams (Marvin's dad played in the NAIA). Davis may be the most athletic player on the roster and like Williams could be drafted higher than all of his more tenured teammates, possibly after winning a ring ... again, like Williams.
3) Be Quick, But Don't Hurry Not since Neil Fingleton's back has an injury been as closely monitored in Chapel Hill as Ty Lawson's big toe. Lawson leads the nation's 2nd highest scoring team, while maintaining the nation's 3rd highest assist/turnover ratio (3.3). With Lawson in the lineup the Heels were held to less than 80 points only four times this season, but with him hurt Carolina scored 79 or fewer in three straight games. Most importantly, all but one of the team's losses came with the team scoring less than 80 points (in regulation). While Lawson leads the charge (the other Ty leads in charges taken), all of the UNC guards: Bobby Frasor, Larry Drew II, Wayne Ellington and forward Danny 'Tiny Dancer' Green boast an A/TO ratio of better than 1.5, but in the team's four losses the collective ratio drops to -0.91. If Lawson is able to play effectively, Carolina has a chance to capture their 5th tournament championship. If not, he'll likely become the 5th point guard in school history, joining Phil Ford (2 times), Steve Hale, Kenny Smith, and Derrick Phelps to suffer an injury that short-circuited a legitimate shot at cutting down the nets.
Bonus Fact: Assistant coach Steve Robinson graduated from Radford in 1981. He was twice a basketball captain and is a member of the school's Hall of Fame. No word on whether or not he'll be wearing a Radford sticker during the game. — Colin Hoggard (Amphibious Sports Duo)
1) Family Ties Radford head coach Brad Greenberg was hired at Radford in 2007. For three years prior to his ascension to head man, he was top assistant to his brother, Seth, whose Virginia Tech Hokies fell off the bubble this year. It wasn't a very big move for Brad, however. The two schools are a whopping nine miles apart.
2) Finish Strong The Highlanders had a rough start to the season, starting out 5-9 with losses to teams of varying strength, all the way from a 20-point drubbing from lowly William & Mary to a 34-point drubbing at West Virginia. Once Big South play began, however, Radford was on point, losing just three games and running the table in the conference tourney to end up at 21-11.
3) He Had a Bit Part in Rochelle, Rochelle The key to Radford's surge this season has been the developing post play of Junior transfer Artsiom Parakhouski. The 6'10", 240-lb. center is a native of Minsk, Belarus. His (erotic?) journey has taken him to such exotic locales as Twin Falls, Idaho, where he starred at the College of Southern Idaho, and now to Radford, Virginia, where he's putting up 16 points per game on a variety of moves, including stickbacks that result from his 11+ rebounds per. People who struggle with his first name simply call him Art. — Eric Angevine (Storming The Floor)