Previewing Villanova

No. 8 seed North Carolina opens NCAA Tournament play on Friday against No. 9 seed Villanova. Tip-off at the Sprint Center is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. and will be televised by TNT.

North Carolina (24-10) vs. Villanova (20-13)
Kansas City, Mo. -- Sprint Center
Friday, 7:20 p.m.
TNT (Marv Albert, Steve Kerr)


"We try to focus on what we do as a team and sticking to our core values. Some of those losses that you wouldn't think we would have is from not executing what we do well enough to get the job done. With our inconsistencies, that's what we try to focus on, not letting that happen, playing together, playing off of each other. If we do that, we believe we'll be successful." – Villanova wing James Bell on avoiding inconsistency play

"They definitely shoot the ball well. In practice earlier today we were working on it, that's what we've been trying to do these past couple days, just trying to get better at defending the three point line." – Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono

"That is an area we have struggled all year - defending the three point line. So, of course, this is the way it works. Who do you get in the NCAA tournament? The only Carolina team that ever has relied strictly on a three point line. That's the way it works." – Villanova head coach Jay Wright


Season to Date: No. 9 seed Villanova enters Friday's contest with a 20-13 (10-8 Big East) record. Inconsistency has defined the Wildcats' season, as wins over Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown have been matched with losses to Columbia, La Salle and Seton Hall. Jay Wright's squad lost five of seven games from Jan. 12 through Feb. 3. The wins during that stretch? Louisville and Syracuse.

Pinkston Leading the Cats: Red-shirt sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston has elevated his play down the stretch in helping Villanova win seven of its last 11 games. An All-Big East third-team member, he has scored in double figures in 11 straight games, including a 16.5-points-per-game average in the Big East Tournament. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder is averaging 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds on the season.

Granting Charity Beyond the Arc: Villanova's opponents are shooting 36.6 percent from long range (234-of-640) this season, good for 294th nationally. The Wildcats allowed opponents to connect on 10 or more 3-pointers in nine games, including a season-high 13 by Seton Hall on Feb. 25.

Size & Strength: It's hard to miss senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou on the basketball court. Standing 6-foot-10 and weighing in at 250 pounds, the Benin native represents a difficult challenge for the Tar Heels in the post. Yarou is averaging 9.7 points and 7.8 rebounds, while his 100 career blocks ranks 10th all-time in school history.

Player to Watch: Junior wing James Bell. While he may be the fifth scoring option in the starting five, Villanova is an impressive 11-2 when he scores in double figures. According to Villanova's sports information department, the Orlando, Fla. product is shooting 52.9 percent from 3-point range (18-of-34) in the last seven minutes of regulation and overtime this season.

Stat Crunch: Villanova ranks 55th nationally in field goal percentage defense (40.2). 72nd in steals (7.7) and 85th in rebound margin (plus-30), but has struggled in various other statistical categories. The Wildcats rank 261st in field goal percentage (41.5), 189th in 3-point field goal percentage (33.6), 291st in assist-turnover ratio (0.79), 323rd in turnovers (15.7) and 212th in turnover margin (minus-0.5).

Familiar Name: Junior point guard Tony Chennault is fourth on the team in assists (51) and sixth in minutes (18.5) and has played a valuable role off the bench. The Philadelphia, Pa. native started all 31 games at point guard for Wake Forest last season, averaging 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He transferred to Villanova last May and was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA that allowed him to play this season.

Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated Villanova, 83-69, on Apr. 4, 2009 in the Final Four in Detroit. Ty Lawson had 22 points and eight assists while Wayne Ellington added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels. UNC jumped out to a 19-8 lead and shot 40.3 percent to Villanova's 32.9 percent.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Villanova, 10-4. The Tar Heels have won six of the last eight dating back to the 1989-90 season. UNC is 4-1 against the Wildcats in NCAA Tournament play.

Projected Starters:
15 Ryan Arcidiacono (6-3, 195, Fr.) - 12.0 ppg, 3.5 apg
4 Darrun Hilliard (6-6, 205, So.) - 11.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg
32 James Bell (6-6, 225, Jr.) - 8.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg
22 JayVaughn Pinkston (6-6, 240, So.) - 13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg
13 Mouphtaou Yarou (6-10, 255, Sr.) - 9.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg

Top Reserves:
23 Daniel Ochefu (6-11, 245, Fr.) - 3.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
5 Tony Chennault (6-2, 195, Jr.) - 3.6 ppg, 1.5 apg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports Images)

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