UNC men draw No. 8 seed in East Region

By R.L. Bynum

Going to the NCAA men’s tournament is routine for North Carolina but the Tar Heels haven’t had to navigate the dreaded No. 8-seed vs. No. 9-seed matchup very often.

For the second consecutive season, though, the No. 25-ranked Tar Heels (24–9) will have to deal with that assignment.

This time, UNC is the No. 8 seed in the East Region, facing No. 9-seed Marquette (19–12) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas (TBS). Should UNC win, it would likely face No. 1-seed Baylor (26–6), the reigning national champion, which plays No. 16-seed Norfolk State. If Coach Hubert Davis’ team makes it to the second weekend, it would play in Philadelphia.

“It was really emotional,” Davis said of the NCAA berth. “It’s been a great year, and it’s been a long year. Some people think Carolina being in the NCAA tournament is a given, but it isn’t. I am so proud of what these players have done, they’ve earned the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. Their commitment to each other and our program has earned them that chance to compete in the NCAA tournament.”

Davis is excited about the NCAA tournament dynamic.

“I love the urgency and the seriousness of a do-or-die situation,” Davis said. “I love the atmosphere of having a chance to win a national championship. I love the competition of playing against the best teams in the country. I love the opportunity to play against different teams you’ve never seen before. All those things. You go through the ups and downs throughout the year and to have an opportunity to keep playing is really special.”

Carolina is 1–1 against Marquette in the NCAA tournament, defeating Marquette in Newark, N.J., in the 2011 Sweet 16 and losing in the 1977 championship game in Atlanta. Marquette beat UNC in the Smith Center last season 83–70.

This is a different Golden Eagles team than the one that won in Chapel Hill a year ago with Dawson Garcia playing and Steve Wojciechowski coaching. Garcia transferred to Carolina but left the team midseason. Marquette fired Wojciechowski, the former Duke player, in the offseason and hired former Texas and VCU coach Shaka Smart.

Returning from last season for Marquette are forwards Greg Elliott (6–3, 185-pound junior) and Justin Lewis (6–7, 235-pound freshman). Lewis leads the Golden Eagles in scoring (17.9 points) and rebounding (7.9) average, with Darryl Morsell (6–5, 200-pound senior) scoring 13.5 points pergame.

This is UNC’s fifth time as a No. 8 seed. As the No. 8 seed in the South Region last season, an 18–11 UNC team lost to No. 9-seed Wisconsin in West Lafayette, Ind., in what turned out to be Coach Roy Williams’ final game.

When the NCAA put Carolina in that game two other times, it worked out pretty well.

In 1990 as a No. 8 seed, UNC beat No. 9-seed Southwest Missouri State 83–70, then upset No. 1-seed Oklahoma 79–77 on Rick Fox’s driving shot at the buzzer before losing 96–73 in a Midwest Regional semifinal to Arkansas.

In 2000 as a No. 8 seed, Carolina beat No. 9-seed Missouri 84–70, then knocked off No. 1 seed Stanford 60–53. That team made it to the Final Four before losing to Florida 71–59 in a national semifinal.

In 2013 as a No. 8 seed, however, UNC lost to No. 1-seed Kansas 70–58 after knocking off No.9-seed Villanova 78–71.

The ACC only has five NCAA teams, the fewest since 2013 when the league only had 12 schools. Duke, Virginia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame also made the field.

Only two players who transferred from UNC are in the NCAA field and they meet in the first round when Brandon Huffman’s No. 15-seed Jacksonville State team faces Walker Kessler’s No. 2-seed Auburn team in the Midwest Region in Greenville, S.C.

NCAA tournament bracket

NCAA Tournament schedule

First FourTuesday and WednesdayDayton, OhioUD Arena
First/secondThursday and SaturdayBuffaloKeyBank Center
First/secondThursday and SaturdayIndianapolisGainbridge Fieldhouse
First/secondThursday and SaturdayFort Worth, TexasDickies Arena
First/secondThursday and SaturdayPortlandModa Center
First/secondFriday and SundayGreenville, S.C.Bon Secours Wellness Arena
First/SecondFriday and SundayMilwaukeeFiserv Forum
First/secondFriday and SundayPittsburghPPG Paints Arena
First/secondFriday and SundaySan DiegoViejas Arena
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 24 and 26San AntonioAT&T Center
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 24 and 26San FranciscoChase Center
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 25 and 27ChicagoUnited Center
Sweet 16/Elite EightMarch 25 and 27PhiladelphiaWells Fargo Center
Final FourApril 2 and 4New OrleansSuperdome

UNC’s record by seed

No. 1: 63–12 — 1979, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2019
No. 2: 23–9 — 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1995, 2001, 2011 and 2018
No. 3: 3–4 — 1980, 1986, 1999 and 2006
No. 4: 4–2 — 1992 and 2015
No. 6: 3–3 — 1996, 2004 and 2014
No. 8: 7–4 — 1990, 2000, 2013 and 2021
National championship years italicized

UNC season statistics

DateScore, record
time, day, TV
(current rank
November (4–2)
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 9 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3–2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 9 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4–2HomeUNC Asheville
December (5–1, 1–0 ACC)
172–51 win, 5–2HomeX — Michigan
579–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACCRoadGeorgia Tech
1180–63 win, 7–2 ACCHomeElon
1474–61 win, 8–2 ACCHomeFurman
1898–69 loss, 8–3 ACCLas VegasZ — No. 5 Kentucky
2170–50 win, 9–3 ACCHomeAppalachian State
January (6–3, 6–3 ACC)
291–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACCRoadBoston College
578–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACCRoadNotre Dame
874–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACCHomeVirginia
1588–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACCHomeGeorgia Tech
1885–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACCRoadMiami
2298–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACCRoadWake Forest
2478–68 win, 13–6, 5–3 ACCHomeVirginia Tech
2658–47 win, 14–6, 6–3 ACCHomeBoston College
29100–80 win, 15–6, 7–3 ACCHomeN.C. State
February (7–2, 7–2 ACC)
190–82 OT win, 16–6, 8–3 ACCRoadLouisville
587–67 loss, 16–7, 8–4 ACCHomeNo. 7 Duke
879–77 win, 17–7, 9–4 ACCRoadClemson
1294–74 win, 18–7, 10–4 ACCHomeFlorida State
1676–67 loss, 18–8, 10–5 ACCHomePittsburgh
1965–57 win, 19–8, 11–5 ACCRoadVirginia Tech
2170–63 win, 20–8, 12–5 ACCHomeLouisville
2684–74 win, 21–8, 13–5 ACCRoadN.C. State
2888–79 OT win, 22–8, 14–5 ACCHomeSyracuse
March (2–1)
594–81 win, 23–8, 15–5 ACCRoadNo. 7 Duke
— ACC Tournament —
1063–43 win, 24–8BrooklynVirginia
1172–59 loss, 24–9BrooklynVirginia Tech
— NCAA tournament —
174:30, Thursday, TBSFort Worth, TexasMarquette
X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge; Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo courtesy of the ACC


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