All eyes will be fixed on North Carolina’s Roy Williams

It could be a memorable day for North Carolina coach Roy Williams in more ways than one.

If his eighth-seeded Tar Heels get past No. 9 seed Villanova on Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., in a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region, it will be his 700th career victory, a plateau few have reached.

‘‘That is a great accomplishment for him and I am honored to be a part of it,’’ said Tar Heels guard Dexter Strickland.


Said star shooter Reggie Bullock, ‘‘It would mean a lot to me and this team. He has been a great person to us. We definitely want to make him get to that point.’’

Get Breaking Sports Alerts in your inbox:
Be the first to know the latest sports news as it happens.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

A total of 418 of those wins came during Williams’s 15 years at Kansas. And the thousands of Jayhawk fans who will cram the Sprint Center to see their team play Western Kentucky later Friday know it well.

Many were bitter when Williams left for North Carolina three years after turning the Tar Heels down and vowing to remain a Jayhawk for life. Many are still bitter, even though Kansas has faced Williams’s North Carolina teams twice in the NCAA Tournament since then, and won both times.

This is the first time Williams has brought his team just a few miles from the Jayhawks’ storied Allen Fieldhouse. The reception will be interesting.

If Kansas and North Carolina both win, they’ll meet for a third time with Williams a Tar Heel in the third round on Sunday. Williams and his players say it’s nothing they’ve given a thought to.


‘‘When I came back to North Carolina, it was a very emotional thing,’’ Williams said. ‘‘It’s a very emotional thing when I didn’t go the first time and it was when I did go the second time. I realize some people were upset when I left. Hopefully, time is going to cure a lot of those problems.’’

North Carolina (24-10) has developed a top-flight 3-point shooting team.

That could be a problem for Villanova (20-13) because perimeter defense has been a bugaboo for the Wildcats.

Carolina has hit 255 3-pointers — almost eight a game — and accelerated the pace as the season wore on. Complicating things for anyone trying to guard the perimeter against the Tar Heels is the height of some of their top shooters, Bullock (six feet, seven inches) and P.J. Hairston (6-5). Hairston, a part-time starter, is 81 for 208 from behind the arc while Bullock is 84 for 192.

The Wildcats have given up 30 more 3-pointers than they’ve scored.


For top-seeded Kansas, the Sprint Center is becoming a welcome sight.

After all, the Jayhawks are 6-0 in the building this season.

‘‘It’s kind of weird,’’ said freshman star Ben McLemore, ‘‘but you know, we've worked hard to come back here, and now we just have to go out there and perform.’’

The Jayhawks (29-5) earned a top seed and the right to play a 30-minute drive from their Lawrence campus by winning the regular-season Big 12 title, and running roughshod through the conference tournament last weekend at Kansas City’s downtown arena.

They'll try to keep their success going against No. 16 seed Western Kentucky (20-15).

‘‘It feels like the Big 12 tournament, to be honest,’’ Jayhawks center Jeff Withey said. ‘‘I think being so close to home will be a great advantage for us. We’re far enough away that we don’t have the distractions, but close enough that we'll still have the support of our fans.’’

Kansas is in the tournament for the 24th consecutive year, second only to North Carolina for the longest streak, and is a No. 1 seed for the fifth time in the past seven tournaments.