But that reality doesn't intimidate Arkansas sophomore Patrick Beverley. He realizes the second-round matchup will feel more like a trip to Gainesville, Lexington or Starkville than an NCAA Tournament game.
"We understand that the majority of the crowd ain't going to be cheering for us, that's for sure," Beverley said. "But it's just another game. ... Playing in the SEC, you play against a lot of hostile crowds and hostile environments. That's something we've gotten used to."
The task of defeating No. 1 North Carolina is hard enough in front of an impartial audience. North Carolina has five McDonald's All-Americans on its roster, led by likely national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough and future pros such as sophomore guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. Arkansas has no high school All-Americans.
Yet the Tar Heels hold a further advantage because the NCAA Tournament committee placed them here in Raleigh for the East Regional, just 22 miles from their campus in Chapel Hill. During the first half of North Carolina's 39-point, first-round victory on Friday, the Razorbacks watched in amazement as the Tar Heels fed off their raucous supporters.
"This will not be the typical NCAA neutral-site game," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "This will be a road game for us. I mean, I don't think anybody is going to dispute that. We understand that. We don't have a whole lot of choice in the matter. It's not like it was a scheduled game for us."
"It is what it is."
North Carolina is 22-1 in NCAA Tournament games played in its home state. And Lawson didn't hide his opinion that the RBC Center felt like the Dean Dome when North Carolina blistered Mount Saint Mary's.
"It felt like a home game (Friday)," Lawson said. "The whole place was filled with Carolina blue, and it got very loud when we scored."
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams scoffed a bit Saturday when asked about a possible home-court advantage. He joked that teams should lobby the NCAA to determine seedlings and sites and then "not play the games, go have a party and move on the people who play closest to home."
In particular, Williams remembered his 1995 Kansas team that won first- and second-round games to advance to the Sweet 16 at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. Less than an hour from their campus in Lawrence, Kan., the top-seeded Jayhawks were beaten by fourth-seeded Virginia.
"You've still got to play the game," Williams said. "I was a pretty dadgum good student, and I know a lot about geography. Virginia is nowhere near Kansas City and they beat our ass in that building, and those fans didn't help us win."
Still, the Razorbacks know what kind of atmosphere they'll encounter. They refuse, however, to be intimidated.
"I'm excited to be in an environment like this, and I'm not discouraged or fearful about it at all," Pelphrey said. "It doesn't scare me, and it doesn't scare our players. This is what makes this whole thing special."
Today's March Madness Ticket
NCAA East Regional
No. 1 North Carolina vs. Arkansas
WHEN: 4:15 p.m.
TV: CBS (Cox channel 5).
WHERE: RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3.
SEEDS, RECORDS: No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels, 33-2; No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks, 23-11.
COACHES: North Carolina, Roy Williams (140-32, 5th season; 558-133 overall, 20 seasons); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (23-11, 1st season; 103-78 overall, 6 seasons).
LAST GAME: North Carolina defeated No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary's 113-74 on Friday in the 1st round of the East Regional in the NCAA Tournament; Arkansas defeated No. 8 seed Indiana 86-72.
SERIES: Tied 3-3, all at neutral sites (1-2 in NCAA Tournament play).
LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 75-67 in the 1995 Final Four at Seattle.
UNC NOTEABLE: North Carolina is 6-1 during its five NCAA Tournament appearances in Raleigh (1968-77-79-82-2008). … The Tar Heels are making their 1st NCAA Tournament appearance in Raleigh since 1982 and have advanced to the Final Four in 1968, 1977 and 1982 after playing NCAA Tournament games here. … Williams has 46 all-time NCAA Tournament wins, 2nd among all active coaches and tied for 4th all-time. His NCAA Tournament winning percentage of .730 ranks 6th among active coaches (minimum of 10 NCAA Tournament games).
LINE: North Carolina by 11.
AT A GLANCE
Arkansas and North Carolina have played six times in the schools' histories, competing on neutral courts all six times. The Razorbacks have won three, and the Tar Heels have won three.
Season Winner Score Site
1978-79 North Carolina 63-57 Greensboro, N.C.
1980-81 North Carolina 64-58 Anchorage, Alaska.
1983-84 Arkansas 65-64 Pine Bluff
1989-90 Arkansas 76-73 Dallas*
1992-93 North Carolina 80-74 East Rutherford, N.J.*
1994-95 Arkansas 75-67 **Seattle*
*NCAA Tournament games
**NCAA Final Four
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