Whatever memories, inflections, or emotions North Carolina head coach Roy Williams may have about the Kansas Jayhawks will have to be set aside for an afternoon.
But the fact that he won his 700th career game before taking on his former school may be in the back of the coach’s mind.
The No. 8 Tar Heels will face No. 1 seed Kansas in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The 62-year-old spent 15 years stalking the Jayhawks' sideline, reaching three Final Fours, and winning nine regular season conference titles.
Williams left after Kansas fell to Syracuse in the 2003 title game, and subsequently won two national titles with the Tar Heels, while the Jayhawks moved on with their own championship in 2008 under current coach Bill Self.
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Williams has faced the Jayhawks twice, losing each time in the tournament. Kansas eliminated the Tar Heels in last year’s Elite Eight, and in the 2008 Final Four en route to the title.
Led by senior big man Jeff Withey’s 17 points, six rebounds, and an astonishing seven blocks, the Jayhawks advanced to play their former coach after dropping Western Kentucky 64-57 in the second round.
Travis Releford and Ben McLemore each tallied 11 points. Top scorer in the regular season, McLemore also pulled down six rebounds, but was one of two Jayhawks with four turnovers.
Overall, the Jayhawks struggled against the No. 16 seeded Hilltoppers, coughing up 17 turnovers and missing all six of their 3-point attempts.
Defense and deft free throw shooting saved Kansas. Western Kentucky shot 32 percent from the field, and 3-for-20 from three, and Kansas was 24-for-30 from the charity stripe.
Smaller North Carolina will look to continue their hot shooting from its 78-71 second round victory over Villanova on Friday.
Point guard P.J. Hairston shot an electric 7-for-11 from the field, with five 3-pointers, en route to 23 points, and sophomore James Michael McAdoo broke out of his slump for 17 points. North Carolina is now 6-2 when Hairston scores 20-plus points this season.
Forward Reggie Bullock contributed 15 points and Marcus Paige had 14 points, but 17 turnovers and a 35-23 rebounding discrepancy also plagued the Tar Heels.
The game tips-off at 5:15 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Kansas is favored by 6.5 points.
Over/Under: 144 points
Prediction: The Jayhawks have the size advantage, but if McAdoo is back, and playing the type of basketball that made him a top pro prospect last season, he could be a bit of a matchup problem. Hairston should dominate again along the perimeter, and Bullock could bring Withey out of the paint if he’s knocking down threes. Kansas's fate will be in McLemore's hands, and he should carry the Jayhawks to another victory over Williams.
Predicted Score: Kansas 72, North Carolina 68