CHARLOTTE, N.C. - If North Carolina beats Washington today, the Tar Heels will match Kentucky for the most NCAA tournament wins.
On Saturday, the Huskies seemed respectful of the Tar Heels’ standing as NCAA royalty. But they also sounded determined not to give them their 104th NCAA tournament victory without a fight.
“You look at North Carolina, you know the legacy of them and what they’ve done in the past,” UW junior Darnell Gant said. “That’s something to look at, but this is a different North Carolina team than all those other teams, and they’re just another team that we play this weekend.”
North Carolina has appeared in 42 NCAA tournaments, including 27 in a row from 1975-2001 – the longest streak in NCAA history. They have won at least one game in 27 of their last 28 NCAA tournaments.
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They have reached an NCAA-record 18 Final Fours – including at least one in each of the past seven decades. Their all-time tournament record is 103-39.
Kentucky, which beat West Virginia on Saturday, has won 105 on the floor, but had two 1988 wins vacated by the NCAA.
The Tar Heels are 28-1 in NCAA tournament games played in North Carolina; and they are 10-0 in Charlotte, where they will face Washington today.
“You just know there’s going to be a lot of baby blue in the crowd,” junior Isaiah Thomas said. “They’re going to be hyped, and this is the kind of games you play for. Big-time players make big-time plays in big games, and I’m going to be ready.”
ICE CREAM IMBROGLIO
When coaches Roy Williams and Lorenzo Romar met the media on the eve of the big game, that was distinctly secondary to the Great Ice Cream Incident of San Antonio, Texas.
It all began when Williams was asked what he thinks of Romar.
“I don’t really like him,” Williams said, smiling. “And be sure and tell him I said that, OK? Last time we were together, I had to buy the daggone ice cream. He didn’t bring any money with him.”
Naturally, Romar was asked for his side of the story.
“He’s unbelievable,” Romar said, also smiling. “He begged me to walk to the store with him to go get ice cream, first of all. I was minding my own business, ‘Would you please, I don’t have anybody to walk with me? Would you please walk with me to the store so we can get some ice cream. I’ll buy.’
“OK, all right, I guess I didn’t want to be rude to him. So we went, yeah, bought some ice cream.”
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Traveling with his UW teammates is Abdul Gaddy, the sophomore guard from Tacoma who has been out since tearing an anterior cruciate ligament during practice on Jan. 4.
“I’m missing being in,” he said. “But I’m happy for my team, and I’m going to be the No. 1 fan out there cheering my teammates on.”
UW seniors Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton understand that any game could be the last of their college careers.
“You think about that all the time,” Overton said. “It’s win or go home. It’s time to see the best come out of everybody.”