Radford (21-11) vs. North Carolina (28-4)
Thursday, March 19th, 2:50 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Greensboro Coliseum (23,500) -- Greensboro, North Carolina. Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: Radford 0-1, North Carolina 96-39. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: A top seed in the NCAA Tournament for an NCAA-record 13th time, the North Carolina Tar Heels will be doing so in their own backyard at the Greensboro Coliseum this afternoon versus the Radford Highlanders in the first round of the South Regional.
UNC, which could be playing without ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson due to injury, has to be a prohibitive favorite nonetheless if for no other reason than the program is 25-1 in the NCAA Tournament when playing in the state of North Carolina over the years. The Tar Heels, second all-time in NCAA Tournament wins with 96, are making their 41st appearance in the event and are trying to get back to the Final Four for the second straight year. UNC finished the season with a record of 28-4 and was 13-3 in conference play, with two of those setbacks coming against Boston College and Wake Forest early on in the league schedule. The Heels took care of Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament in Atlanta six days ago with a 79-76 decision, but then bowed to Florida State the next day, 73-70.
As for the 16th-seeded Highlanders out of the Big South Conference, they are in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history and for the second time the squad is facing off against an ACC powerhouse in the opening round. Back in 1998 Radford, which put together a 21-11 record in 2008-09, was completely dominated by that other basketball behemoth on Tobacco Road, Duke, in a 99-63 decision. The Big South has not had much luck in the NCAA Tournament over the years, sporting a record of just 2-17. The Highlanders had plenty of trouble against non-conference opponents this season, logging a 6-8 mark, but when it counted Big South Conference Coach of the Year Brad Greenberg pushed his squad to victories over High Point, UNC Asheville and VMI in the conference tournament in order to earn the automatic bid to the Big Dance.
The winner of this first-ever meeting will be back in action on Saturday versus the survivor of the Butler/LSU contest in the second round of the 71st annual event.
With 16 double-doubles this season, Artsiom Parakhouski carved out a place for himself with the Highlanders and in doing so was named the Big South Player of the Year. One of only a handful of Division I players to actually average a double-double, Parakhouski put up 16.3 ppg and a healthy 11.2 rpg to pace the squad. A 55.2 percent shooter from the field, Parakhouski also logged a team- best 48 blocked shots along the way. Kenny Thomas, one of the top three-point threats in the league (77-of-198) was responsible for 14.8 ppg and provided support on the glass with almost five rebounds per outing as well. Joey Lynch- Flohr completes the list of active double-digit scorers for the Highlanders with his 13.7 ppg, accounting for another 5.8 rpg for a team that seemingly handled most opponents on the boards with an astounding 41.4 rpg this season. From a defensive standpoint, Radford limited the opposition to just 39.7 percent shooting from the field and 33.1 percent behind the three-point line, yet still allowed a lofty 71 ppg during the campaign.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams seems to be leaning towards keeping Lawson out of the lineup for today's contest, which would be a smart move given that the Tar Heels shouldn't have much trouble getting by the Highlanders. If Lawson is unable to make a go of it, the Heels will have to find a replacement for his 15.9 points and 6.5 assists per contest. But for a team that is well-rounded like UNC, a team that was second in the nation in scoring this season (90.2 ppg) and first in scoring margin (17.4 ppg), filling the void is an easy task in this first round. Giving the ball to All-Amercian Tyler Hansbrough would solve much of dilemma, allowing the veteran to work his way towards his 21.4 ppg which ranked 17th in the country this season. Hansbrough, who is already the leading scorer in UNC history, needs just three more points to break the ACC scoring record held by Duke's JJ Redick (2,769 points). Assume that Wayne Ellington will also get his hands on the ball a bit more frequently today, considering he is now the second scoring option with his 15.2 ppg. Danny Green and Deon Thompson, who averaged 13.3 and 11.2 ppg, respectively, this season, could also see their involvement elevated as well, especially the former who figures to have the ball in his hands quite a bit.
Even without Lawson, this is one of those games that should be decided by halftime, as Hansbrough will use the opportunity to make history with the Tar Heels.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 98, Radford 64
03/19 10:39:06 ET