Texas Southern-North Carolina Preview
North Carolina is back as a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament, looking for another deep run in an effort to finish one spot better than a year ago.
The 2016 runner-up will begin its quest Friday afternoon against 16th-seeded Texas Southern at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
North Carolina (27-7) is the No. 1 seed in the South Region.
“I’m very pleased with what our team accomplished, because they don’t give those things (No. 1 seeds) away, you have to earn them,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I think we’re a top seed for the body of work during the course of the season, winning the ACC regular season by two full games and playing a very good schedule out of conference.”
North Carolina is a No. 1 seed for the 16th time, the most for any men’s team. This is the seventh time in 14 seasons under Williams that the Tar Heels hold a top regional seed.
Of course, there are bigger goals than holding a nice seed. Coming up a victory short last spring could serve as an inspiration for the Tar Heels.
“I think they should use that as motivation,” Williams said of his players. “They know how good it felt (to win postseason games), so use that as motivation. And then if you happen to get lucky and still be playing that last Monday night, then you really can use last year as motivation. The biggest thing to me is for them to understand how much fun this time of year can be.”
North Carolina went 2-2 across its last four games, falling to Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The Tar Heels are led by ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. The junior forward averages 18.9 points per game.
Texas Southern (23-11), winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament, also was a regular-season league champion.
“This time of year everybody is giving maximum effort out there on the floor,” said Texas Southern coach Mike Davis, a former coach at Indiana and Alabama-Birmingham.
The Tigers are seeking their first NCAA Tournament victory in seven tries. However, the team is playing in the postseason for the fourth season in a row, last year competing in the NIT.
Davis said he wants more from the Tigers than simply appearing in the NCAA Tournament.
“Everybody thinks, you’re in the NCAA Tournament, feel good about it. … Make us proud,” Davis said, pointing out he’ll be proud when the team advances.
The SWAC Player of the Year is Zach Lofton, a junior guard for Texas Southern. Center Marvin Jones, a graduate student, was the Most Valuable Player of the SWAC Tournament.
This will be North Carolina’s first NCAA Tournament game in the state of South Carolina. The Greenville site wasn’t originally slated to be on the NCAA Tournament list this year. But the NCAA removed games from the Greensboro Coliseum because of North Carolina’s controversial transgender bathroom law commonly called HB2. Greenville was selected as the replacement location.
The session’s first game pits Arkansas against Seton Hall, with the winner meeting the North Carolina-Texas Southern winner Sunday.