No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Butler
NCAA tournament South Regional semifinal
Game time: 7:09 p.m. Site: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn. Television: CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery). Internet live-stream: NCAA March Madness Live (NCAA.com). Radio: 106.1-WTKK; SiriusXM channel 136.
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North Carolina (29-7)
G Joel Berry 14.4 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Theo Pinson 5.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F Justin Jackson 18.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg
F Isaiah Hicks 12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 12.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
G Kamar Baldwin 10 ppg, 3.7 rpg
G Kethan Savage 8 ppg, 2.7 rpg
G Avery Woodson 8.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg
F Andrew Chrabascz 11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
F Tyler Wideman 7.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Tar Heels seeking improvement everywhere
UNC players repeated it over and over again on Thursday inside their locker room at FedEx Forum: To advance to a regional championship game for the second consecutive season, they have to play lot better than they did on Sunday against Arkansas. The Tar Heels, who trailed by five points with three minutes to play, scored the final 12 points in that comeback victory. UNC would do well the bottle up the defensive intensity that carried them late Sunday and bring it into Friday. And if they can't do that, the Tar Heels would settle for some better shooting. UNC shot 38.1 percent against the Razorbacks.
Third time a charm?
The Tar Heels have played Butler twice in recent years – both in 2012 in the Maui Invitational and in 2014 in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Neither time went well for UNC, which lost both games. Six current UNC players played in the 74-66 loss against Butler in 2014 – a game in which the Bulldogs manhandled the Tar Heels. It was one of those losses that UNC coach Roy Williams used as an example then of his team's lack of toughness. Those UNC players who were around to experience that defeat against Butler two seasons ago remember well the Bulldogs' physicality and discipline.
Nobody is overlooking Butler
At one point on Thursday, a reporter asked Butler coach Chris Holtmann how he'd respond to those who don't give Butler a chance against the Tar Heels on Friday night. But does anyone actually believe the Bulldogs aren't capable of defeating UNC? Indeed, Butler is somewhat the odd school out in a region that includes UNC, Kentucky and UCLA. The Tar Heels, though, are well aware of Butler's recent NCAA tournament success. UNC had its talking points down on Friday about Butler, which during the regular season twice defeated Villanova, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Scouting Butler: The first and perhaps most important thing to know about Butler is that this is a team that rarely beats itself. The Bulldogs are 10th nationally, according to kenpom.com, at avoiding turnovers. Butler, like a lot of teams UNC has faced this season, will pose some match-up problems given that it doesn't use a traditional post-oriented offense. Andrew Chrabascz, Butler's senior forward who will likely be matched up against Isaiah Hicks, is the team's leading assist man, and is a good 3-point shooter. Hicks and even Kennedy Meeks might find themselves defending the perimeter more often than they're comfortable doing. Butler isn't overly reliant on 3-point shooting, but it has made at least 10 3s in seven games this season. UNC players spoke often on Thursday about how “sound” Butler is, and how well-coached. The Bulldogs aren't the biggest team, though, and don't start a player taller than 6-foot-8. Butler's best player and leading scorer, Kelan Martin (16 ppg, 5.8 rpg), comes off the bench. He was a second team All-Big East selection.