North Carolina-Louisville Preview
Rick Pitino and Roy Williams are tied for fourth all-time with seven Final Four appearances apiece.
While that marquee matchup will be the highlight of Sunday's championship game in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament, neither coach has as much incentive as Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell, a North Carolina native who wasn't recruited by Williams, will face the team he rooted for as a child when his third-ranked Cardinals take on the No. 24 Tar Heels.
Pitino is the only men's coach to win national titles at two schools, but missing from his lengthy resume is a victory over North Carolina. He's 0-4 against the Tar Heels, including an 83-73 loss the last time these tradition-laden programs met in the 2008 East regional final. It marked the only time these coaches met while at their current schools.
Pitino will have one player who won't be lacking in motivation in Harrell, a sophomore forward who is second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game and first in rebounding with an average of 9.8.
Harrell battled through foul trouble for his first career double-double Saturday, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds in a 71-57 victory over Fairfield.
"Right now I'm just locked in on getting my rebounds up," he said. "At halftime I only had two rebounds and I felt, with my mindset, I'm a double-digit rebounder every night. I went back out after halftime and said that's got to be changed."
Pitino wasn't happy with the effort by Louisville (5-0), and he knows that beating North Carolina (3-1) won't be easy with another poor performance.
"This wasn't a close game," Pitino said. "You're going to see close (Sunday). That's if we don't get blown out. If we play this way tomorrow, it won't even be a game. I think their size is going to give us a little trouble. They do a lot of good things defensively and they're long. They offensive rebound very well."
Both teams' leading scorers entering Saturday didn't play their best.
The Cardinals' Russ Smith matched a season low with 10 points, going 3 of 9 from the field. James Michael McAdoo's streak of scoring in double figures ended at 14 games for North Carolina when he was held to nine in Saturday's 82-72 victory over Richmond.
Marcus Paige helped picked up the slack for the Tar Heels with a career-high 26 points, while reserve Brice Johnson also had a career best with 24.
"Marcus and Brice certainly gave something we needed offensively because we've been struggling scoring-wise," Williams said.
North Carolina is still without junior P.J. Hairston, the team's leading scorer last season, and senior guard Leslie McDonald. Neither player traveled to the tournament because of NCAA eligibility concerns. A review of their cases is ongoing.
Saturday marked the Tar Heels' first game since an 83-80 upset loss to Belmont last Sunday, and Williams hinted that he may tinker with his defense after relying more on a zone early in the season.
"We were so bad defensively against Belmont, we've got to try some things," Williams said. "We have been working on the zone more this year than any team that I've had."
The Cardinals could see plenty of zone since they are shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range after going 2 of 14 on Saturday.
North Carolina is 8-3 all-time against Louisville.