South Regional Tar Heels face Wildcats in battle of titans
memphis, tenn.» Roy Williams wanted another chance at Kentucky after his North Carolina Tar Heels lost to the Wildcats in December.
John Calipari is certain someone knew he hoped not to see North Carolina in the same bracket.
Well, Williams got what he wanted, even if college basketball’s most storied programs might’ve wanted to meet at the Final Four. Instead, top-seeded North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kentucky will meet Sunday in the South Regional final that will make more history featuring teams with the most combined NCAA Tournament wins.
“That’s what we come to college basketball for, and it doesn’t get any better than this,” North Carolina junior guard Joel Berry II said Saturday. “We lost to them early in the season, so it was kind of another revenge game for us . ... These are the type of games we want to be in.”
This will be the fourth time these teams have met in the tournament, all regional finals. North Carolina has a 2-1 edge so far.
Kentucky (32-5) just got its own payback for a regular-season loss Friday night, beating UCLA 86-75 in a regional semifinal pairing of college basketball’s glamor teams that wound up setting the table for an even bigger showdown.
North Carolina and Kentucky can go toe-totoe when comparing dazzling success.
The Wildcats not only have more victories than anyone else, the program built by Adolph Rupp also has the most NCAA Tournament wins with 124 and berths with 56. No coach has more than Calipari’s 26 tournament wins since he took over Kentucky.
North Carolina is second only to Kentucky with its 48 NCAA Tournament appearances and 120 wins. The Tar Heels (30-7) advanced by beating Butler 92-80 as they try to get back to the national championship game lost a year ago on the final shot of the season.
Kentucky is trying to get back to the Final Four for the fifth time in Calipari’s eight seasons.
“Every game for Kentucky is going to be big, I think,” Wildcats freshman Malik Monk said. “So that’s the biggest key why we came here.”