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NCAA regional previews: North Carolina vs. Kentucky; South Carolina vs. Florida

College basketball: Kentucky gets payback against Tennessee
Kentucky guard Malik Monk, driving against Tennessee’s Jordan Bone during an SEC game in February, scored 47 points against UNC during a December game in Las Vegas. (James Crisp / Associated Press)
(James Crisp / Associated Press)

A look at how the teams match up for the NCAA tournament’s regional finals in the South and East on Sunday:

South Regional

at Memphis, Tenn.

No. 2-seeded Kentucky (32-5) vs. No. 1-seeded North Carolina (30-7)

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Time: 2:05 p.m. PDT. TV: Channel 2

Bottom line: No NCAA tournament game has featured as much history as this regional final. North Carolina and Kentucky have combined for 13 national championships (eight for Kentucky, second all time) and 244 tournament wins. This is Kentucky’s 56th NCAA berth, the most ever, with North Carolina second on the list with 48. North Carolina has earned the most No. 1 seeds (16); Kentucky is second with 12. Nobody has made more Final Fours than North Carolina (19), and now the Tar Heels are a win away from making their 10th Final Four as a No. 1 seed.

Rematch: Kentucky avenged a regular-season loss against UCLA in the regional semifinal. Now the Tar Heels seek payback for a 103-100 loss on Dec. 17 in Las Vegas. Justin Jackson scored 34 points for North Carolina in that game, only to be topped by Malik Monk’s 47 for Kentucky, including the game-winning three-pointer. North Carolina didn’t have top defender Theo Pinson for that game but did have guard Kenny Williams III, who later suffered a season-ending injury.

Tar Heels’ edge: North Carolina leads the all-time series 23-15 and is the only school with both 10 or more wins and a winning record against the Wildcats. This will be the fourth game between the programs in the tournament — all in regional finals with the Tar Heels holding a 2-1 edge.

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Numbers to know: Kentucky has momentum with a 14-game winning streak, longest in the nation. Both teams average 85.2 points a game. The key likely will be on the boards; Carolina leads the nation in rebounding, averaging 43.7 a game.

Did you know? North Carolina Coach Roy Williams has 73 tournament wins, second only to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (91). Williams is 8-4 in the Elite Eight, including 4-3 at North Carolina. But nobody has more tournament wins since 2010 than Kentucky’s John Calipari with 26.

East Regional

at New York

No. 7-seeded South Carolina (25-10) vs. No. 4-seeded Florida (27-8)

Time: 11:20 a.m. PDT. TV: Channel 2

Bottom line: The Southeastern Conference rivals have never met in a bigger basketball game than they will Sunday at Madison Square Garden. South Carolina is looking for its first Final Four appearance. The Gamecocks have been maybe the biggest surprise of the tournament, beating No. 2 seed Duke and blowing out third-seeded Baylor. Florida is trying to get to the Final Four for the sixth time overall and first since 2014 — and for the first time under Coach Mike White. In 2015, White replaced Billy Donovan, who guided the Gators to two NCAA championships and four Final Fours in 19 seasons. The last time SEC teams played a game to go to the Final Four was 1986 when Louisiana State edged Kentucky, 59-57.

Rubber match: The Gators and Gamecocks split two meetings this season, with each team winning at home. South Carolina won the first game, 57-53, despite shooting 29% from the field. Florida then took the game in Gainesville, 81-66.

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Pretty ugly: South Carolina admittedly likes to play a style that is not always aesthetically pleasing. “It’s beautiful to us,” Coach Frank Martin said. Florida also likes to mix it up. The Gators turned around the Wisconsin game when they increased the pressure on the defensive end. They ended up getting 16 turnovers against Wisconsin, which came in averaging 11.8. “We’re both two tough defensive teams and we take pride in the defensive end,” White said after beating the Badgers with an overtime buzzer-beater. “We know each other well, so it’s going to be a grind-it-out game, probably down to the wire just like this one.”

Slump busted: Lost in a bit in the drama of Florida’s Sweet 16 victory on a three-pointer as time expired by Chris Chiozza was the career game from KeVaughn Allen. The Gators’ leading scorer had managed only 11 points in their first two NCAA games, but he had a career-best 35 against the Badgers. He started the tournament five for 31 from the field.


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