2022 March Madness: North Carolina Road to the Final Four

Tar Heels Lowest Seed Left in Field

North Carolina Tar Heels

Record: 28-9
Head coach: Hubert Davis
Seed: No. 8 seed in East Regional
Up next: Saturday vs Duke in the national semifinal, April 2, 8:49 p.m. ET
North Carolina team prediction: North Carolina (+475) has the longest odds to win the national title among the four remaining teams.
Title odds before the season: North Carolina came into 2021-22 at +2800 to win it all.
How they got here: Defeated Marquette 95-63, Baylor 93-86, UCLA 73-66 and Saint Peter’s 69-49
Previous Final Four appearances: 1946 (finalist); 1957 (national champion); 1967; 1968 (finalist); 1969; 1972; 1977 (finalist); 1981 (finalist); 1982 (national champion); 1991, 1993 (national champion); 1995; 1997; 1998; 2000; 2005 (national champion); 2008; 2009 (national champion); 2016 (finalist); 2017.

Road to the Final Four: North Carolina vs College Spread

When North Carolina lost to Duke at home on Feb. 16, there wasn’t much talk about the Tar Heels’ prospects in the NCAA Tournament because it wasn’t even certain if they would be part of it. North Carolina won four games in a row, including a 13-point win over Duke in Mike Krzyzewski’s final regular-season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Not even a loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tourney could keep North Carolina out of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels opened more than a few eyes with a 95-63 demolition of Marquette when they were favored by four points. Marquette did manage to lead on a couple of occasions but North Carolina led by 28 points at halftime. About the only question in the second half was how many points would North Carolina win by. The 35-point margin of victory matched the number of 3-point attempts.

The next matchup was against a shorthanded Baylor team that was the top seed and defending national champion was still very dangerous.

Brady Manek’s ejection for throwing an elbow seemed like little more than a footnote but Baylor came back from 25 points down to force overtime. The Bears, favored by 5½ points, faded in overtime as the Tar Heels moved onto the regionals with a 93-86 win in a game that obliterated the total of 149.

UCLA, coming off an impressive tournament run a season ago, would put up quite the fight, but the Bruins had no answers for North Carolina sophomore guard Caleb Love, who scored a career-high 30 points.

UCLA led by three points at halftime but Love had 13 points in the final 8 1/2 minutes en route to the 73-66 win as a 2½-point underdog. The teams combined for only two points in a span of 2:18 late in the game to keep the game from going over the 142-point total.

It is not often that a No. 8 seed would be favored by 8½ points in a regional final, but when the opponent is 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s, it is certainly understandable.

The Peacocks were able to gain confidence throughout the tournament by their ability to hang around and make enough plays to eliminate Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue.

North Carolina had other ideas as the Tar Heels held Saint Peter’s scoreless for the first five minutes and never trailed in a methodical 20-point win.

The Peacocks had no answer for Armando Bacot, who finished with 20 points and 22 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. The 69-49 final came nowhere close to the total of 139.

The college spreads list North Carolina as a four-point underdog despite its impressive win at Duke in the last meeting between the bitter rivals.

Final Four History

North Carolina has won five of its last six games at the Final Four, including wins by one point against Oregon and by six against Gonzaga to win the 2017 national title.

North Carolina has covered in four of its last six games at the Final Four and has won its last three national semifinal contests.

Those results were with Roy Williams calling the shots. He will be in the standings cheering on the Tar Heels as first-year coach Hubert Davis looks to keep things rolling heading into the next basketball game for North Carolina.

Injury Report

North Carolina’s depth took a hit in when guard Anthony Harris and forward Dawson Garcia went to the sidelines. Harris hasn’t played since Jan. 8 and Garcia’s last game was on Jan. 22, so the Tar Heels adapted without two of the nine players to average more than 10 minutes per game. If the game doesn’t feature too many whistles, a seven-player rotation works just fine and it gives North Carolina’s best players more time on the court.

Players to Watch

Armando Bacot: The 6-foot-10 junior is the third-leading rebounder in the country, pulling down 12.8 per game. In two games in the ACC tournament and four in the NCAAs, he is averaging 14.7 rebounds . When North Carolina rolled past Duke in the regular-season finale, he was 10 of 11 from the field after struggling in the first game of the season against the Blue Devils.

Caleb Love: The sophomore guard is a bit on the streaky side as he went from scoring five points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to erupting for 30 against UCLA. When he is on and looking for his shot, this is a different North Carolina team. He is just 7 for 27 from the field in two games against Duke, so how well he can create his own shot will be a key to the national semifinal.

Brady Manek: The former Oklahoma star is a tough matchup as a 6-foot-9 forward who is 16 of 34 from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament. He is averaging 21.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament and has stayed out of foul trouble, which was not always the case this season.

 

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