Coach: Roy Williams (640-162 overall, 222-61 in eight seasons at North Carolina)
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2009
All-time NCAA record: 55-18
Player to watch: Freshman forward Harrison Barnes has found his groove. Barnes was a bit off against Duke in the ACC tournament final, but still managed to score 16 points. He went for 40 points against Clemson in an overtime win in the ACC semifinal. Barnes will still be a tough matchup for Long Island and every other team in this bracket as long as the Tar Heels advance.
ABOUT THE BLACKBIRDS
Coach: Jim Ferry (225-158 overall in 13 seasons, 125-139 in nine seasons at LIU)
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1997
All-time NCAA record: 0-3
Player to watch:Julian Boyd. The sophomore forward didn’t play last season due to a heart condition. But Boyd has played like a seasoned vet this season for the Blackbirds. He had 11 double-doubles this season with 12.9 points and 8.8 rebounds on average.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. The Carolina break: UNC point guard Kendall Marshall is going to be pushing the basketball from the opening tip. LIU can’t run with North Carolina. The Blackbirds are 4th in the country in scoring, but it would be a major mistake if they try to match the speed and quickness of UNC. The Blackbirds also can’t hang with the Tar Heel bigs.
2. John Henson: Tyler Zeller had a solid past few weeks of the regular season. But for the Tar Heels to win a national title they must get more out of Henson. He can be a tough matchup defensively, but he has to do a bit more on the offensive end. Carolina needs one more offensive option.
3. The crowd: Charlotte is UNC territory. This may be the loudest home court of any of the eight-regional sites. North Carolina may have a 99-1 ratio in the nightcap crowd after Duke plays in the afternoon.
Coach: Lorenzo Romar (287-189 in 15 years, 194-101 in nine years at UW)
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2010
All-time NCAA record: 17-16
Player to watch:Isaiah Thomas. The Pac-10 tourney’s most outstanding player didn’t hesitate to take ,and then make, a game-winning 3-pointer to beat Arizona in the Pac-10 title Saturday. Thomas has emerged as the Huskies’ go-to player for the big-stage moment. He was the headline player going into the season but it took some time for him to dominate like he did in the Pac-10 tournament.
ABOUT THE BULLDOGS
Coach: Mark Fox (158-71 in seven seasons, 35-28 in two seasons)
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2008
All-time NCAA record: 7-10
Player to watch: Trey Thompkins. Thompkins was the SEC player of the year -- in the preseason. A high-ankle sprain hurt his development and prevented him from a bust-out season. He still is a force and has a chance to be a double-double performer. But his Bulldogs teammates sometime still forget too often that he’s in the post.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Pace. The Huskies are going to want to push the pace. Georgia would rather get the game in the half court, and that would benefit Thompkins much more. If Thomas is running the point and creating havoc, Georgia could be in trouble, even though the Bulldogs have high-flyers like Travis Leslie to finish on the break.
2. Point guard play: Thomas is a scoring point. The Bulldogs have a scoring point as well in Gerald Robinson Jr., but he’s not as explosive as Thomas. The question will be which one of the two will be a better playmaker and get their teams into the offense.
3. Sleepers:C.J. Wilcox has proven to be a break-out scorer for Washington. If he is on his game that could spell trouble for Georgia. The Bulldogs could have a sleeper in Jeremy Price, who is the only Bulldog who has tournament experience.