Tar Heels make short trip to Winston-Salem to take on Colonels
Winston-Salem, NC (Sports Network) – The top-seeded North Carolina Tar
Heels begin play in the NCAA Tournament with a first round game
against the 16th-seeded Eastern Kentucky Colonels. A 16-seed has never
beaten a top seed, and North Carolina is heavily favored in this tilt. The
winner will move on to face either eighth-seeded Marquette or ninth-
seeded Michigan State in the second round on Saturday.
Eastern Kentucky is making its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament
and it is still in search of its first win. The Colonels enter the “Big
Dance” on a major roll, as they have won 11 of their last 13 games,
culminating with an Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship. An upset
victory tonight would give the team 22 wins, a mark that would tie the
program’s all-time record, but knocking off North Carolina is a tall task to
say the least.
The Tar Heels won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles,
and they are a No. 1 seed for the 11th time overall and eighth in the last
17 years. This season, UNC has played 17 games against teams that have
earned NCAA Tournament bids, racking up a 12-5 record in those tilts. The
Tar Heels have won the national championship four times, and they have made
39 appearances in the tourney, second only to Kentucky in that category.
UNC is 89-37 all-time at the “Big Dance”.
Eastern Kentucky won its only previous meeting with North Carolina back
during the 1950-51 campaign.
Eastern Kentucky is the first OVC team since 2000 to win the league
tournament without a first team all-conference player on the roster. The
Colonels are 9-0 this season when shooting 50 percent from the floor and
15-0 when achieving a higher level of efficiency from the field than the
opposition. While Eastern Kentucky scores a rather modest 65.2 ppg, it does
manage to hold foes to 62.6 ppg. Mike Rose is the top offensive performer
for the Colonels, as he is posting 15.2 ppg on the strength of his 39.9
percent shooting from three-point range. Adam Leonard checks in with 12.4
ppg, and Julian Mascoll adds 11.1 ppg. Much more than just a scorer, Mascoll
has racked up 158 assists and 70 steals, but he has turned the ball over 129
times. EKU is not a strong rebounding team, bad news considering North
Carolina’s front line size.
The fact that North Carolina’s four best players are a sophomore and
three freshmen is downright scary. Tyler Hansbrough, the sophomore
forward, is averaging 18.1 ppg and 7.9 rpg, and he continues to wear a
protective mask because of a fractured nose suffered in the final regular
season game. He is joined up front by ACC Tournament MVP Brandan Wright, who
is posting 15.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 57 blocks while shooting 66.2 percent
from the floor. Wayne Ellington is an explosive wing player who is
contributing 12.1 ppg, and rookie point guard Ty Lawson checks in with 10.2
ppg and 5.5 apg. UNC is scoring 86.3 ppg on 50.4 percent shooting from the
field, and the team is limiting opponents to 68.1 ppg on 41 percent
efficiency from the floor. Also worthy of mention is the fact that the Tar
Heels are outrebounding the opposition by 8.2 rpg.