There are a lot of similarities between North Carolina and Connecticut and their NCAA tournament success during the '90s. They all seem to end with the game they will play today.
The top-ranked and top-seeded Tar Heels (32-3) will meet second-seeded and sixth-ranked Connecticut (32-4) for the East Regional championship. The winner goes to the Final Four - a place North Carolina is very familiar with and a place the Huskies have never been.North Carolina has the most round of 16 appearances this decade with seven, and Connecticut is one of four schools with six.
The Tar Heels have gone on to the regional title game five times in the past eight years and are riding a four-game winning streak in those games, with a Final Four berth in every odd-numbered year during the decade.
This is the Huskies' third regional final in the '90s; in the previous two they lost to Duke and UCLA.
"There are so many things involved in reaching the Final Four, and that includes luck sometimes," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Friday. "But if I put Jim Calhoun or my expectations in front of the team, I am defeating everything we want to do. The University of Connecticut is trying to get to San Antonio, not Jim Calhoun."
While Calhoun and his 520-254 record over 26 seasons as a coach, the last 12 at Connecticut, seem to deserve a shot at the Final Four, Bill Guthridge, North Carolina's 60-year-old rookie coach, wouldn't be undeserving either.
Guthridge is one win shy of being the winningest first-year Division I coach ever. The leader is Bill Hodges, who led Indiana State to a 33-1 mark in 1978-79.
The teams took different routes to the regional title game. North Carolina beat Michigan State 73-58, while Connecticut needed a rebound jumper at the buzzer to beat Washington 75-74. They are similar in their reliance on their perimeter games and propensity for running.