The Tar Heels are eager to redeem themselves after a shaky performance in the ACC tournament, where they were upset by Georgia Tech in the semifinals, and All-American center Sean May has vowed not to let them go out like that again.
Of course, May's efforts won't matter unless the Tar Heels get back to basics, such as playing defense and boxing out for rebounds.
Connecticut (22-7) received the second seeding in the marquee bracket. The defending national champion might have nabbed a No. 1 seeding had it won the Big East tournament, and now the Huskies potentially have to battle the Tar Heels to escape the regional.
If they get that far.
A potential showdown with third-seeded Kansas (23-6) looms in the Sweet 16. It's one thing for the NCAA Division I men's basketball committee to put two powerhouse programs here, but three?
The Jayhawks have the nation's top Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking, according to Internet sites that attempt to re-create the formula the committee uses as a selection tool. They rolled to a 14-0 start and were ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll but struggled in losing six of their last nine games.
Then there is fourth-seeded Florida (23-7), which routed Kentucky, 70-53, in the Southeastern Conference tournament final and has won seven games in a row.
The Syracuse Regional could be a monster, but the Tar Heels should advance because of the return of swingman Rashad McCants, back from intestinal problems; May's will, and point guard Raymond Felton's speed and toughness.
If not, it's going to be another sad off-season in Chapel Hill, and they have had quite a few of those lately.
1. NORTH CAROLINA
Location: Chapel Hill.
* Record: 27-4.
* RPI: 7.
* Record against tournament field: 8-3.
* Road record: 8-2.
* Record in last 10: 8-2.
* Impressive victories: Dec. 4, Kentucky, 91-78; Feb. 13, at Connecticut 77-70; March 5, Duke 75-73.
* Disturbing losses: Nov. 19, Santa Clara, 77-66.
* Top players: Jr. Sean May, F, 16.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg; Jr. Raymond Felton, G, 12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.9 apg.
* Skinny: Coach Roy Williams has the country's most talented team playing together. Since the early loss to Santa Clara, the Tar Heels have looked like a team going to St. Louis.
* Graduation rate: 69% (student-athletes), 80% (school).
* Little-known fact: In case you hadn't heard, ESPN sports anchor Stuart Scott is a North Carolina alumnus.
* Record: 22-7.
* RPI: 16.
* Record against tournament field: 5-5.
* Road record: 7-3.
* Record in last 10: 8-2.
* Impressive victories: Feb. 7, at Syracuse, 74-66; Feb. 26, at Pittsburgh, 73-64; March 5, Syracuse, 88-70.
* Disturbing losses: Dec. 9, at Massachusetts, 61-59; Jan. 22, Pitt, 76-66; March 11, Syracuse, 67-63.
* Top players: So. Charlie Villanueva, F, 13.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg; So. Josh Boone, C, 12.7 ppg, 3.0 bpg; So. Marcus Williams, G, 9.2 ppg, 8.1 apg.
* Skinny: The Huskies want a transition game, as they were 4-4 when they scored 69 points or fewer. With Boone, Villanueva and Rudy Gay, Connecticut is No. 1 in blocked shots (9.1).
* Graduation rate: 62%, 69%.
* Little-known fact: Defending champion Connecticut (five) trails only Kentucky (six) for the most elite eight appearances since 1994.
* Record: 23-6.
* RPI: 2.
* Record against tournament field: 9-4.
* Road record: 6-4.
* Record in last 10: 5-5.
* Impressive victories: Jan. 9, at Kentucky, 65-59; Jan. 29, Texas, 90-65; Feb. 27, Oklahoma State, 81-79.
* Disturbing losses: Feb. 19, Iowa State, 63-61 (OT); March 6, at Missouri, 72-68.
* Top players: Sr. Wayne Simien, F, 20.2 pgg, 11.1 rpg; Sr. Keith Langford, G, 14.7 ppg; Sr. Aaron Miles, G, 7.3 apg.
* Skinny: Health questions surround Langford, who twisted his ankle in the regular-season finale. No questions surround Simien, the Big 12's player of the year, who had a league-best 14 double-doubles.
* Graduation rate: 64%, 57%.
* Little-known fact: James Naismith, basketball's inventor, had a 55-60 record in his nine seasons as the Jayhawks' coach, making him the only coach in school history with a career record under .500.
* Record: 23-7.
* RPI: 19.
* Record against tournament field: 5-4.
* Road record: 6-4.
* Record in last 10: 9-1.
* Impressive victories: Jan. 15, at Vanderbilt, 82-65; Feb. 5, Alabama, 85-54; March 6, Kentucky, 53-52.
* Disturbing losses: Dec. 4, Miami, 72-65; Jan. 2, at Florida State, 82-69; Jan. 19, Tennessee, 83-76.
* Top players: Sr. David Lee, F, 13.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg; Jr. Anthony Roberson, G, 18.4 ppg, 47.8 FG%; Jr. Matt Walsh, G/F, 14.1 ppg, 47.2 FG pct.