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March 13, 2011

UNC's path lies East

North Carolina's so-called 'Run to the Final Four' will stay on this side of the country again this year, as the Tar Heels earned the No. 2 seed in the East Region.

The Tar Heels play Long Island University at 7:15 Friday evening in Charlotte.

Following the announcing of the brackets, UNC released quotes from head coach Roy Williams talked about his seventh NCAA invitation as head coach of UNC.

"I am ecstatic about the making the NCAA Tournament field once again," said Williams.

"It was kind of hard to enjoy the Tournament last year as it was the only time in 23 years that one of our teams had been eligible to make the field and did not," he added.

"Tonight our guys were very excited when they saw 'North Carolina' show up early on the selection show."

Carolina's celebration was a little subdued coming off Sunday's dominating effort by Duke in its win over the Tar Heels for the ACC championship.

But UNC has made plenty of deep runs in the Big Dance coming off tough losses in the ACC Tournament in the past.

"Of course, it was a little reserved because of the fact we had just lost to Duke about three hours before the show came on, but we have to congratulate the Blue Devils for playing so well," Williams said.

While playing in the NCAA Tournament is obviously nothing new for a North Carolina program that for decades has considered it almost a birthright, it's actually something very new for the majority of the Tar Heel players.

Only Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts have NCAA experience going in, which might be a slight bit of concern heading into Friday's matchup with the 15th seeded Blackbirds (27-5), the champs of the Northeast Conference.

"After we were selected, I looked around and realized that there were only two players in the room that had ever played in an NCAA Tournament game," said Williams.

"It shows how the culture of college basketball has changed. Two years ago we were the national champions and now after missing just one season we will go into the Tournament with such a young and inexperienced team."

"But I am extremely proud of my team and I congratulate them on the great run they've had since mid-January," Williams continued.

"Not many people would have thought that when we left Atlanta after the loss to Georgia Tech that we would have won the ACC regular-season championship, played in the ACC Tournament final and earned a number two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now we have to get back to work and play better than we did this weekend in Greensboro."


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