A look at the Sweet 16 at FedExForum: by the numbers

“Talk about a tough road”.

No. 1 seed North Carolina (30-7) advanced to the regional title game against the victor of the other semifinal between No. 2 seed Kentucky (31-5) and No. 3 seed UCLA (31-4).

It took 60 games for this year’s edition of March Madness to live up to its nickname, with our first overtime and first buzzer-beater coming on the sixth day of NCAA Tournament play. FedExForum. Doesn’t get much better.

“This is a sudden end to one of the greatest teams I’ve ever been around”, said coach Chris Holtmann, who earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors after leading the Bulldogs to a second-place conference finish.

The Wildcats have won eight national championships, second to only UCLA. But North Carolina was so dominant early that it didn’t matter. Kentucky has played in 12 national championship games.

North Carolina players weren’t surprised to see Jenkins behind their bench Friday night, and to hear he is rooting for them. Kentucky has been to 17. North Carolina is at 48. Dadgum Roy vs. Coach Cal. He plays different than other Carolina big men, a forward capable of spotting up beyond the arc.

North Carolina and Kentucky can go toe-to-toe when comparing dazzling success. The gentlemanly Smith once allegedly called Kentucky center Rick Robey an impolite name.

Carolina, which reached the Elite Eight for the 27th time, will face the victor of Friday’s second game between UCLA and Kentucky. Instead, top-seeded North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kentucky will meet Sunday in the South Regional final that will make more history featuring teams with the most combined NCAA Tournament wins.

Mark Few, Gonzaga coach, irritated when asked if he felt like the monkey was off his back after the Zags advanced to the Elite Eight for the third time.

Kentucky’s 103-100 victory in December is still fresh in Isaiah Hicks (4) mind. North Carolina proceeded to lose to Marquette in the NCAA finals. When you’re rebounding four of every 10 shots you miss from the field, you’ve got quite a margin for error. Pitino walked, as well.

North Carolina controlled the glass, out rebounding Arkansas 45-32, including 18 offensive boards. “It was just up to me to step up and knock in the shots”.

Key reserves: F Wenyen Gabriel 6-9, Fr., 4.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, G Dominque Hawkins* 6-0, Sr., 4.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg, F Isaac Humphries 7-0, So., 2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, G Mychal Mulder 6-4, Sr., 4.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg. Kentucky was the No. 4.

It’s easy to dismiss Nate Britt as not much of a scoring threat, but he is exactly the type of player that can get hot and torch you. DeAndre Liggins handcuffed Harrison Barnes. And they’re giving Wisconsin a slight edge over Baylor to reach the Final Four. But doesn’t it nearly always happen that way?

I know the general story surrounding this game is that both teams have improved over the course of the season and while that may be true, that adage points to the Wildcats more than the Tar Heels. They still must finish their crawl through the minefield South, a date Sunday with the victor of UCLA vs. Kentucky awaiting. Now they are meeting up in the Elite Eight Sunday in a No. 1 verses No. 2 matchup. But for now, the Tar Heels seemed to have righted the ship and are on course for another trip to the Final Four.

With three freshman starters that he recruited away from North Carolina John Calipari has drained talent away from North Carolina