Friday , Mar , 17 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Tar Heels begin defense of national title against Racers

(Sports Network) – The defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels shocked
the nation this season with their solid play and come into this
tournament with a legitimate chance at making another run for the title.
However, to do so, UNC will have to get past the 14th-seeded Murray State
Racers in the first round.

After losing the majority of their offense from the 2005 title team, the Tar
Heels were supposed to struggle throughout this season, but that was not the
case. North Carolina finished the regular season with a solid 22-7 record,
including a 12-4 mark in the ACC, which was good enough for second place
behind Duke. The Tar Heels fell to Boston College in the ACC Tournament,
85-82, but despite the early exit, UNC comes into the NCAA tourney as a third-
seed. North Carolina is no stranger to the “Big Dance”, as the Tar Heels have
advanced to the Final Four 16 times, which is the most in NCAA history. Out of
those 16 Final Four appearances, the Tar Heels have won four national titles
with the most recent coming last season. North Carolina is second all-time in
NCAA history with 88 victories, behind only Kentucky (96).

At the other end of the spectrum is the 14th-seeded Murray State Racers. The
Racers finished the year with a 24-6 overall ledger and captured the regular-
season title and the tournament title in the Ohio Valley Conference, en
route to their 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Murray State is
hoping for more success this time around, as the team is a dreadful 1-12 in
its previous 12 showings in the postseason. The only previous meeting
between the two schools came back in 1995 during the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina collected an 80-70 victory over the Racers in the opening

The Racers’ relied on their tremendous defensive play through the regular
season, and the conference tournament, and if the team plans on going deep in
the NCAA Tournament it will have to continue to play stingy defense. On the
season, Murray State surrendered a meager 61.1 ppg, while holding the
opposition to a terrible 39.7 percent shooting effort from the floor, which
included an equally atrocious 30.9 percent showing from long range. Murray
State also forced 14.7 turnovers per contest, and collected around eight
steals per game. While the Racers were sensational at the defensive end during
the season, the team’s offensive play should not be ignored, as the Racers
averaged 71.3 ppg on the season, while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor.
The team only committed 12.4 miscues per outing, and averaged 3.1 more rpg
over the opposition. Shawn Witherspoon and Trey Pearson are the only two
players producing double figures for the Racers, as Witherspoon is posting
10.8 ppg to go along with 7.8 rpg, while Pearson is scoring 10.0 ppg. Although
the team does not have a legitimate threat at the offensive end, the Racers do
have nine players averaging over 10 minutes per game, which should definitely
work in their favor in the tournament.

Coming into this season, no one gave the Tar Heels a chance. With the majority
of last season’s team gone, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for
Coach Roy Williams and his Tar Heels. However, that was not the case, as UNC
improved game after game, finishing the season ranked 10th in the nation. The
team surrendered just 68.9 ppg on the season, while holding the opposition to
a lackluster 41.3 percent shooting effort from the field. While the team was
solid defensively, it was even better at the other end of the court. UNC
averaged a whopping 80.4 ppg on the year, shooting 48.2 percent from the
field, while dominating the boards by close to nine rpg. The Tar Heels did
commit 16.6 turnovers per game, but considering their inexperience that should
be expected. The main reason for the success has been the quick development of
Tyler Hansbrough. The freshman made an instant impact for the Tar Heels this
season, and quickly became a dominant force in the tough ACC. Hansbrough
averaged 19.1 ppg to go along with 7.8 rpg. Because of his outstanding play
throughout the season, Hansbrough became just the sixth freshman in ACC
history to be selected to the All-ACC First Team, and the first-ever to make
the squad by a unanimous decision. Hansbrough also became the seventh Tar Heel
to win Freshman of the Year in the ACC, and just like the All-ACC team, he was
the first-ever ACC rookie to win the award by a unanimous vote. While
Hansbrough was the talk of Chapel Hill all season, he did not carry this team
by himself, as he received help from Reyshawn Terry and David Noel. Terry
finished the season averaging 14.7 ppg to go along with 6.0 rpg, while Noel
added 12.8 ppg, 101 assists and 6.8 rpg.