CHARLOTTE, March 20 -- If there's such a thing as an embarrassment of riches in college basketball, North Carolina is flush with it. Only the Tar Heels have no shame about their overabundance of speed, skill, talent and depth. All were on unapologetic display Sunday, to the delight of an exultant, partisan crowd at Charlotte Coliseum, as top-seeded North Carolina routed ninth-seeded Iowa State, 92-65, to storm into the Syracuse Region semifinals against Villanova.
It's the first time the Tar Heels have advanced beyond the second round of the tournament since 2000. And coming on the heels of a 28-point victory in Friday's first-round game against Oakland, North Carolina's dominant showing Sunday suggests that Roy Williams's bunch is playing with the sort of passion, intensity and teamwork that ought to make it a favorite to win college basketball's national title -- particularly given the early ouster of such powers as Connecticut, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Kansas.
A dejected Curtis Stinson sees it slipping away for his Cyclones against the favored Tar Heels.
(Chuck Burton - AP)
North Carolina (29-4) was led by junior center Sean May, who scored 24 points and pulled down a team-high 17 rebounds. The game featured another dazzling performance by freshman Marvin Williams, who comes off the bench for the talent-laden Heels. Williams contributed 20 points and 15 rebounds in just 26 minutes and compiled a double-double by halftime.
With the big bodies of May and Williams controlling the boards and wearing down 6-foot-10 Iowa State center Jared Homan (19 points, 20 rebounds), North Carolina's guards most likely could have gotten by with an off night. But Raymond Felton poured his heart into every possession, contributing eight assists, adding 15 points and finishing without a single turnover. On nearly every front, it was precisely the type of play Roy Williams had hoped to see from his players, especially after their listless performance in the ACC tournament.
"Today, the focus" stood out, Williams said. "There was nothing casual -- nothing careless."
Iowa State (19-12) is known for its attacking zone defense, but it gave the Heels little trouble because North Carolina's torrid pace simply didn't allow the Cyclones enough time to set up. Still, the Cyclones kept the score within reach through the game's early-going, thanks in part to North Carolina's overzealousness from three-point range (the Tar Heels made 5 of 16 from beyond the arc in the first half).
The Heels finally found their shooting hand to close the half with a 9-0 run that gave them their biggest lead of the game, 45-33. After a talking-to from Williams at the break, in which the coach told his guards to cut down on the low-percentage shots in favor of muscling the ball inside, North Carolina set about padding its lead from there.
May spurred the Heels' second-half assault with a flurry of big plays -- batting away a Cyclones shot, then racing downcourt for two offensive rebounds and two quick scores. May was rewarded with a breather, but his departure was no solace for Iowa State because he was replaced immediately by Marvin Williams, who hit a jumper within 20 seconds to extend Carolina's lead to 52-35.
And with each trip up and down the floor, the Cyclones' fatigue became more evident. So did their foul trouble. With more than eight minutes remaining, three players had four fouls.
"They seemed exhausted," Felton said. "We just kept runnin' 'em, kept runnin' 'em. We just have a feeling that nobody in the country can run with us. We just run people and try to get 'em tired."