North Carolina vs. Villanova 7:20 p.m. Friday, TNT

Roy 'confused, stunned' about UNC's low seed in NCAA tournament

acarter@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2013 

— Two days later, North Carolina coach Roy Williams was still confused about how his team received a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament.

After a strong finish to the regular season and a run to the ACC tournament championship game, Williams and the Tar Heels believed they would earn a more favorable seed.

“It was a confusing show,” he said Tuesday of the NCAA tournament selection show, which he and his players watched at his house Sunday. “And I am still confused. And I’m a fairly intelligent person.”

They didn’t have to wait long to see the words “North Carolina” show up on the screen. But beside those words was the number eight, and it took a moment for it to register, Williams said.

“I don’t mind telling you,” he said. “I was stunned. I saw North Carolina and the number eight, I was stunned. And so then it took me a couple seconds, ‘Hey, that’s us. It’s not somebody else – that’s us.’ ”

The Tar Heels, seeded eighth in the South Region, will play No. 9 seed Villanova on Friday night in Kansas City. The winner likely will play Kansas, the region’s No. 1 seed, on Sunday.

Williams spent 15 seasons as Kansas’ coach before he returned to North Carolina, his alma mater, in 2003. The prospect of facing his former program in the round of 32 surprised him, too.

“It’s the same kind of thing,” he said. “You say, ‘Wow.’ But I’m thinking about Villanova. I really am. It was a surprise, being No. 8, and it was a little surprise going to play in Kansas City (against Kansas), if we win one game.

“But if you start thinking about playing Kansas in Kansas City, you forget about the biggest duty, and that’s to win a game to even get there.”

The NCAA tournament selection committee routinely rejects the notion that the field is seeded based on potential matchups that might receive high TV ratings, which a North Carolina-Kansas game would.

Williams paused and shook his head slightly when asked if he bought the committee’s claim.

“I’m not much of a buyer right now, guys,” he said.

Like Williams, UNC’s players reacted with disappointment during the show.

The Tar Heels will enter the NCAA tournament with an RPI of 17, though Williams acknowledged RPI might be less significant than it once was.

“I think the RPI at one point was probably – probably – more important than it is now,” Williams said. “But again, guys, our RPI was 17 … I’m good at math. Divide that by four, you don’t get that eight.”

A poor showing against top-50 teams in the RPI didn’t help UNC’s seeding. The Tar Heels were 2-8 and they beat no team more highly ranked than No. 23 Nevada-Las Vegas.

Even so, Williams and his players believe they deserved better.

“I was kind of disappointed,” senior guard Dexter Strickland said. “Of course, we wanted a higher seed. But I think it kind of helped us also, because it kind of put anger in everybody to go down there (to Kansas City) and to prove to everybody that we deserved a higher seed.”

Williams’ confusion about tournament seeding isn’t limited to North Carolina’s place in the field. He also has expressed disappointment that just four ACC teams received bids.

Miami and Duke got No. 2 seeds and N.C. State, like North Carolina, is a No. 8. Miami is the first team not to receive a No. 1 seed after winning the ACC tournament and finishing the regular season in sole possession of first place.

“I was disappointed for our league,” Williams said. “Two twos and two eights. I didn’t think that was good for our league. I didn’t think it was necessarily fair for our league.”

Williams acknowledged his critical comments might be met with derision.

“Everything you say right now gets blown out of proportion,” he said, “and everybody says you’re whining and all that stuff.”

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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