No. 1 seed North Carolina vs No. 4 seed Butler
Friday, March 24th, 7:09 p.m.
North Carolina will be looking to continue their march toward redemption after falling to Villanova in the championship game last year.
Coach Roy Williams’ team boasts a veteran roster, including a starting lineup comprised of all juniors and seniors who were around for the heartbreaking end to their tournament run in 2016.
The 29-7 Tar Heels are the last remaining team from the ACC which produced nine tournament teams this season and they are the number one seed in the South region.
UNC is led by junior forward Justin Jackson who averages 18.1 points per game, but he is one of four players who average double digit points for the Tar Heels. One of those players is their veteran leader and leading rebounder, senior forward Kennedy Meeks, who averages 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Thus far in the tournament, North Carolina has blown out 16-seed Texas Southern 103-64, followed by a nail-biter against Arkansas which they finally won 72-65.
Meanwhile, Butler will be looking to channel the tournament magic they had back in 2010 when they made their first ever Final Four and National Championship appearance in a loss to Duke.
Butler is the 4th seed in the South region and has a 3-2 all-time record against North Carolina, with their last meeting being a 74-66 Butler victory in 2014. The two teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs are one of two Big East teams left in the tournament alongside Xavier, as Creighton lost to Rhode Island in the first round and defending champion Villanova was bounced by Wisconsin in the second.
Butler is led by junior forward Kelan Martin who leads the team in points (16.0) and assists (5.8). In the first round, the Bulldogs defeated 13th seeded Winthrop 76-64 before defeating a popular Cinderella pick, 12th seeded Middle Tennessee State 74-65 in the second round.
The Bulldogs will have their work cut out for them as the top seeded Tar Heels are a well-rounded bunch. UNC is 10th in the nation in points per game (85.1), fourth in assists (18.1), and first in rebounds (43.8).
But it may not matter if Butler can continue to shoot the way they have in the tournament so far. The Bulldogs are shooting 47.1 percent from three through their first two tournament games, much improved from the 36.9 percent clip they shot during the regular season.
Williams will be looking for his third National Championship at North Carolina, while Butler head coach Chris Holtmann will be looking to take his team to the Elite Eight for the first time since taking over for former coach Brad Stevens in 2014.
This story was reported and compiled by Brandon Carney, a journalism student at the University of Connecticut.