GAME NOTES: The North Carolina Tar Heels get their postseason started on Friday, as they meet the Florida State Seminoles in quarterfinal action of the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels got off to a slow start this season, as North Carolina struggled to gel early on. UNC used strong play down the stretch to finish up 22-9 overall and 12-6 in conference play, good for third place. A loss to arch rival Duke in the regular-season finale ended a six-game win streak for North Carolina, which remains as dangerous a tournament team as there is in the field. UNC is second in ACC history with 17 tournament titles, although its last came in 2008.
Leonard Hamilton's squad finished the regular season at 17-14 overall, including an even 9-9 in conference play. However, it was considered a down year for a team that was supposed to take the next step after winning this event a year ago. Still, the Seminoles took a step in the right direction in terms of successfully defending their tournament crown with Thursday's 73-69 win over Clemson in the first round.
This is a rematch of last year's championship game won by Florida State. Overall, North Carolina holds a 44-12 series advantage after sweeping a pair of regular-season matchups this year.
The winner of this game will move into Saturday's semifinal round against either Maryland or Duke.
Moving among the ACC elite this season for FSU was derailed by inconsistent play, especially at home, where the Seminoles were a disappointing 10-7 on the year. Part of the problem was a lack of offensive firepower, with Florida State netting a modest 67.0 ppg on .442 shooting. Despite that, no player in the conference proved to be more clutch when it counted most than Michael Snaer (14.5 ppg). The senior guard has won more than his share of games with buzzer-beating shots in his career, including a couple this season. Okaro White (12.2 ppg) has provided some scoring help and is tops on the team in rebounding (6.1 rpg).
White opened tournament play in grand fashion, tallying a career-high 24 points in the win over Clemson. Devon Bookert and Terrance Shannon each added 12 points, while Snaer finished with 10 points and five assists.
Scoring points wasn't an issue for North Carolina, which put up 77.0 ppg this year. Sophomore James Michael McAdoo may not have lived up to all the hype surrounding him coming into the year, but he still put up big numbers, leading his team in both scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg). Players like Reggie Bullock (14.2 ppg) and P.J. Hairston (13.6 ppg) provide plenty of scoring support for UNC. Dexter Strickland (7.8 ppg) and Marcus Paige (7.6 ppg) don't add much to the scoring column on a regular basis, but contribute much more as facilitators, each going over 100 assists this season. Just a freshman, Paige leads the team with 137 assists, with Strickland (124) not far behind, ranking fourth and sixth in the conference, respectively.
North Carolina's offensive arsenal should once again prove to be too much for FSU, as the Tar Heels complete the three-game sweep of the Seminoles and move on to the next round.
Game Date and Time