No. 1 North Carolina (28-6) vs. No. 16 Eastern Kentucky (21-11)
Winston-Salem, N.C. - Lawrence Joel Coliseum
9:50 p.m., CBS (Dick Enberg, Jay Bilas)
"North Carolina is a great transition team. They're faster than anyone in the country. We have to slow them down somehow." -- EKU Coach Jeff Neubauer
“I wasn’t expecting to see North Carolina. That was shocking. But we have to step up to the challenge. They’re historically a great team; they’re a great team now. It’s going to be a fight." -- EKU Guard Mike Rose
Season to Date: After a last-second loss to Tennessee State on Jan. 25, Eastern Kentucky was 10-9 (5-6 in conference) and an NCAA Tournament berth seemed more like a fantasy than a real possibility. But the Colonels then won seven in a row and ended up finishing second in the Ohio Valley Conference. In the OVC Tournament, EKU cruised past Morehead State in the opening round, held off Tennessee Tech in the semifinals and then knocked off top-seeded Austin Peay in a thrilling title game on March 3. Reserve freshman Josh Tyler drove the lane and hit a runner with 2.9 seconds left for the 63-62 win and the conference championship. Guard Mike Rose's 19-point, nine-rebound performance earned him Tournament MVP. In winning 11 of its last 13 games, EKU shot 47.5 percent from the floor while holding the opposition to 59.8 points per game.
Mutual Opponents: The Colonels have played three common opponents with UNC -- Ohio State, Kentucky and UNC-Asheville. EKU lost by 29 at Ohio State, was tied with Kentucky early in the second half before losing by 13 points, and beat Asheville by 19 points.
Sharpshooters: The three-point shot is vital to EKU's success. The team averages 23.0 three-point attempts per game and most of them are taken by the prolific young duo of Adam Leonard and Mike Rose. Leonard (40.0% 3pt), just a freshman, is three three-pointers away from breaking the school record. He shot 6-of-6 from beyond the arc at Kentucky earlier this season. Rose (39.9% 3pt), a sophomore, is the team's leading scorer and was the aforementioned OVC Tournament MVP after a 4-of-5 three-point shooting performance in the title game. The duo combined to average more than 14 three-point attempts per game.
Senior Leader: In the four years before Julian Mascoll joined the EKU program, the Colonels averaged less than eight wins per season and hadn't had a 20-win season since 1979. Now Mascoll leads the program into its second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last three seasons. Mascoll, at 6-4, is third on the team in scoring (11.1) and rebounding (3.9), and is ranked among the top three in the conference in field goal percentage (55.1%), assists (4.9) and steals (2.2).
Post Vulnerability: With no one in the starting lineup over 6-8 or weighing more than 225 pounds, opponents have keyed on taking advantage in the paint against the Colonels. EKU is -3.4 on the boards and surrenders an average of 10.8 offensive rebounds per game. In the OVC title game against Austin Peay, EKU was nearly doubled in points in the paint (30-16). 6-7 senior Michael Brock and 6-8 junior Darnell Dialls start in the middle, with 6-7, 250-pound junior Jamaal Douglas coming off the bench. Dialls is the leading scorer of the group, at 8.4 points per game, and while not getting frequent scoring opportunities, he is shooting 65.9 percent from the field over the last seven games.
Beilein Branch: EKu head coach Jeff Neubauer, 36, is a member of the John Beilein coaching tree. In the last couple years, Beilein has gained national recognition for his success at West Virginia and Neubauer coached under Beilein for eight seasons (three at West Virginia and five at Richmond). Neubauer's not a newcomer to the NCAA Tournament, as it'll be his fifth appearance -- he went twice as a point guard at La Salle, once as an assistant coach at Richmond and once as an assistant at West Virginia.
OVC Again: For the second straight year, the Tar Heels will play the Ohio Valley Conference champion in the first round. Last season, UNC (as a No. 3 seed) narrowly escaped No. 14-seeded Murray State, 69-65. This is the first time since 1990 that the OVC representative in the NCAA Tournament was given a No. 16 seed.
Series History: EKU and UNC have only met once before - during the 1950-51 season. The Colonels prevailed, 85-62.
Location: Richmond, Ky.
Conference: Ohio Valley
Colors: Maroon & White
Head Coach: Jeff Neubauer
Record at EKU: 35-27 (2nd year)
23 Julian Mascoll (6-4, 200, Sr.) – 11.1 ppg, 4.9 apg
10 Adam Leonard (6-0, 185, Fr.) – 12.4 ppg, 2.6 apg
20 Mike Rose (6-3, 189, So.) - 15.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
21 Darnell Dialls (6-8, 208, Jr.) - 8.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg
15 Michael Brock (6-7, 225, Sr.) – 5.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg
34 Jamaal Douglas (6-7, 250, Jr.) – 6.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
24 Josh Taylor (6-7, 220, Fr.) – 2.8 ppg
Roster & Bios
Mascoll ....... Leonard
Dialls ....... Brock
Douglas ....... J. Taylor
(Photos courtesy EKU Sports Info)