Preview: 'Bama vs UNC Tonight in Sweet 16

March 28, 2024 by Staff

North Carolina's RJ Davis, Purdue's Zach Edey, Tennessee's Dalton Knecht and Houston's Jamal Shead are the finalists for the Naismith Trophy, a National Player of the Year award presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. All four finalists are competing this week in the Sweet 16.

North Carolina's Davis is the only one playing on Thursday when the 1-seed Tar Heels face 4-seed Alabama in Los Angeles with tip-off set for approximately 9:40 ET. That contest follows the 2-seed Arizona vs. 6-seed Clemson matchup.

UNC is a -4.5-point favorite against the Tide, as of 2:20 Thursday afternoon with an over/under total of 173.5. In the first game, Arizona was giving 6.5 with a much lower over/under of 152.5.

The Tar Heels defeated Wagner and Michigan State in Charlotte to advance to the Sweet 16.

Carolina is one of four Atlantic Coast Conference teams to win both of its games in the field of 64 to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Six of the ACC's wins were by double digits and the league compiled an average winning margin of 18.4 points per game.

The Tar Heels won their first two games by 28 points over Wagner (90-62) and 16 over Michigan State (85-69) in Charlotte. The Tide beat College of Charleston a (109-96) and Grand Canyon 72-61 in Spokane, Washington.

Head coach Hubert Davis has led the Tar Heels to a 7-1 NCAA Tournament record in his first three seasons as head coach (5-1 and an appearance in the title game in 2022 and 2-0 this season).

Carolina has the most wins in NCAA Tournament history (133), most Final Fours (21), second-highest winning percentage (.731), second-most games (182) and third-most NCAA titles (6). The Tar Heels won NCAA titles in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009 and 2017. They've also played in the national championship game six other times (1946, 1968, 1977, 1981, 2016 and 2022).

This is Carolina's 18th No. 1 seed, most all-time. UNC is 65-12 as 1 seed.

Carolina is the only team to play in the Final Four and a national championship in nine straight decades (the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s).

The success transcends head coaches as Davis is the fourth Tar Heel head coach to lead a team to a No. 1 seed. Dean Smith and Roy Williams each did so eight times. Bill Guthridge managed the feat once.

Carolina is 8-5 all-time against the Tide. They last met on November 27 of the 2022 season in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland with Alabama prevailing 103-101 in an epic four-overtime battle.

Carolina is 2-1 against Alabama in the NCAA Tournament (see above chart). Alabama beat Carolina in 1976 in the first round in Dayton, the Tar Heels edged the Tide in 1982 in Raleigh en route to winning the NCAA title and won a second round matchup in Cincinnati in 1992.

'Bama players to watch are Armando Bacot, who broke the ACC record for games played in his final home contest vs. Notre Dame, and RJ Davis.

Bacot passed the 161-game mark set by Virginia's Kihei Clark from 2018-23 (the NCAA record is 178 by Iowa's Jordan Bohannon). The Alabama game will be Bacot's 169th game and 168th start. He has started more games than any other individual in ACC history has played. He needs one double-double to tie Antawn Jamison (8) for the UNC record for most career double-doubles in NCAA Tournament games.

RJ Davis has scored 768 points this season, the most since Tyler Hansbrough scored 882 in 2007-08. He is 13th Tar Heel to hit or pass the 700-point mark, and the first since Justin Jackson scored 731 in 2016-17.

The Tar Heels are 6-2 against AP-ranked opponents this season with wins over No. 20 Arkansas, No. 10 Tennessee, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 16 Clemson, No. 7 Duke and No. 9 Duke (rankings when UNC played those teams).

The Crimson Tide are facing the No. 1 team during the non-conference season for the second time in program history and first since January 28, 1983 when they defeated No. 1 UCLA, 70-67. They are 3-7 all-time vs. No. 1 teams.

The last time Alabama faced the No. 1 team in the nation during the regular season was on January 31, 2015. That game resulted in a 70-55 loss to Kentucky. Alabama's last win over a tourney 1-seed came on March 20, 2004, a 70-67 win over Stanford.

Players to watch for Alabama include Brandon Miller and Charles Bediako.

Miller is averaging 20.5 points per game, the most by any freshman in the country and No. 26 overall. Bediako averages 3.0 offensive rebounds per game.