Photographs by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas fans cheer during the final minutes of the Hog's game against Seton Hall Friday Mar. 17, 2017 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. Arkansas won 77-71 and will advance to the second round, playing Sunday at the same location.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- It is more than a challenge; it is an opportunity.
After Saturday's news conferences, it was obvious Coach Mike Anderson has been preaching that to his team since the Arkansas Razorbacks' opening-round win over Seton Hall.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville's shot today against North Carolina is not something to fear; it is an opportunity to embrace against one of the most storied programs in the country.
The Tar Heels, an academic giant, have the third-most wins in the history of college basketball. They have won five national championships, been to the Final Four 19 times and the Elite Eight 27 times.
Since seeding began in the NCAA Tournament in 1979, the Tar Heels have been a No. 1 seed 16 times, the most of any team.
Roy Williams, an alumnus who studied under the legendary Dean Smith, is the only coach in the country to have more than 350 wins at two different Division I schools.
He had 418 at Kansas, the second-winningest program in history (Kentucky is No. 1), and has 393 at North Carolina.
Williams won his first national championship in his second season at North Carolina in 2005 and his second title in 2009.
Like Anderson, Williams prefers to cultivate, educate and watch his kids mature, so he's mostly stayed away from the one-and-done route.
Williams spoke at length and elegantly about his respect for "Michael" Anderson and Nolan Richardson.
He said he didn't expect Anderson or the Razorbacks to change anything at this point in the season, and Anderson said the same about Williams.
Both like to run and gun and play hard-nosed defense.
The big difference is the Tar Heels are a rebounding machine (see Bob Holt's story on that in today's paper), and that is not the Razorbacks' strength by any stretch of the imagination.
Anderson knows that and said that if his players get beaten on the offensive boards today like they did against Seton Hall -- which had 46 rebounds, 21 offensive -- then the game will be over early.
Don't expect it to be over early.
North Carolina has more height, more depth and more experience, but there was something about the Razorbacks on Saturday and the way they are approaching this game that was noticeable.
Usually on the podium, they are laughing and joking around. They are close, and it shows in the way they tease each other.
Not Saturday. Their jaws were set and their eyes glared. It was a little reminiscent of those days when Richardson would put a chip on his team's shoulder, an us-against-the-world attitude, and go out and beat an elite program.
That's not a negative, but more of a quiet confidence and an intense focus that seem to have come over this team.
Anderson touched on something else, that the Razorbacks have had help off the bench with this guy or that guy, but today everyone needs to answer the call.
"No one is giving us a chance," he said. "This is David and Goliath. It will take more than one guy."
If Dusty Hannahs -- the most consistent outside shooter -- Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon could get hot in the same game, and Moses Kingsley builds off his show against Seton Hall, and Dustin Thomas repeats his Friday performance, then all bets are off.
It is a huge challenge. The Tar Heels not only outrebounded their opponents by an average of 13, but they also averaged 85.4 points per game, 15 more than they allowed.
"They play right into our hands," said Kennedy Meeks, one of six Tar Heels who played in the 87-78 win over the Hogs two years ago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Or vice versa. The Razorbacks see this is an opportunity.
Sports on 03/19/2017
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