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April 03, 2016

A brief history of Villanova-North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament

The last two times that the North Carolina Tar Heels cut down the nets at the Final Four, they had to go through the Villanova Wildcats. The only time that ‘Nova won it all, they went through UNC.

Monday night’s national title will mark the seventh time that the two schools meet up in the NCAA Tournament. UNC leads the all-time series 5-1, so maybe ‘Nova is due? Anyway, this is how we got here:

1982, Elite 8

Winner: North Carolina, 70-60

The “Expansion Crew” of Dwayne McClain, Gary McLain, Ed Pinckney, who would go on to win a national title as seniors, were freshman on this No. 3 seed that won three games in the tournament. Another freshman named Michael Jordan scored 15 points for UNC in this regional final.

The Tar Heels would win the national title a week later, when that same freshman knocked down a late jumper against Georgetown

1985, Elite 8

Winner: Villanova, 56-44

Hey, they won this one! It wasn’t easy, though. ‘Nova only managed 17 points in the first half, and their fortunes turned around when Rollie Massimino gave the famous “Pasta Speech.” From Mark Whicker’s story in the Daily News:

"Do you know what I'd really rather be doing now than anything? Than being here in this room? I'll tell you. I'd rather be at home, sitting behind a big, steaming, heaping plate of spags (spaghetti). Yeah, that's right! Macaroni! Linguini with clam sauce! I'd rather be doing that than losing this damn game! Now get out there and do what got you here in the first place!"

Oh yeah, 'Nova won the national title a week later.

1991, Second Round

Winner: North Carolina, 84-69

This game, a 1-9 matchup in the second round, isn’t all that interesting. George Lynch, Rick Fox, Hubert Davis, and Eric Montross all played for this UNC team. So, yeah, not all that interesting.

2005, Sweet 16

Winner: North Carolina, 67-66

Without star power forward Curtis Sumpter in the lineup, the Wildcats gave birth out of necessity to the famous four-guard offense on this night in Syracuse. Freshman Kyle Lowry (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals) was the best player on the floor, but ‘Nova came up short, at least in part thanks to the terrible controversial Allan Ray travel call:

Most champions need some luck on the way (although you can argue ‘Nova or UNC haven’t required much so far this year), and the Tar Heels sure had some on this night.

2009, Final 4

Winner: North Carolina, 83-69

ESPN recently ranked all of the 77 title teams, and these Tar Heels surprisingly only finished 30th. They were a juggernaut, complete with 2016-level inside play, plus an elite point guard (Ty Lawson) and legitimate three-point shooting (Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green).

‘Nova ran into a buzzsaw. UNC beat Michigan State in the championship by 17, a game that wasn’t even as close as the score would indicate.

2013, First Round

Winner: North Carolina, 78-71

‘Nova was playing with house money, as freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and a young Wildcats team closed strong down the stretch. That 2012-13 season laid the groundwork for the last three. In the first round, they ran into an under-seeded UNC team led by the shooting of P.J. Hairston (23 points) and Reggie Bullock (15 points).

Arch, Daniel Ochefu, Marcus Paige, and Brice Johnson all played in this game as freshmen.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann