Lincoln - In a marquee matchup of 2013 NCAA Tournament teams, Nebraska will travel to North Carolina for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the conferences announced on Thursday, May 16.
The Huskers, who advanced to the 2013 NCAA Sweet 16, will face a Tar Heel team that earned a trip to the NCAA second round. On paper, the two teams provide an extremely interesting matchup.
Nebraska (25-9, 12-4 Big Ten) finished No. 16 in the final NCAA RPI in 2012-13, while North Carolina was No. 18. The Huskers closed the season at No. 18 in the final USA Today/Coaches Top 25, while North Carolina (29-7, 14-4 ACC) came in at No. 19. NU entered the NCAA Tournament at No. 24 in the final Associated Press Poll, while the Tar Heels were No. 13.
The Huskers were the Big Ten regular-season runner-up, while North Carolina matched Maryland for second in the ACC final standings.
Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said the game should provide a major early season road test for the Huskers.
“North Carolina has been a traditional power in the ACC for nearly 30 years under Coach Sylvia Hatchell," Yori said. "They won 29 games last year and will have a roster filled with talented athletes, just like they do every year. They go to the NCAA Tournament and win 20 games almost every year because they have talented players. It will be a huge test for our team, especially on the road.”
The game will be the first for the two schools in women's basketball since Dec. 20, 1995. Nebraska won that game, 81-75, at the Carolinas Beach Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in the only previous matchup between the programs. The rematch will come 18 seasons later, this time at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The addition of North Carolina to Nebraska's schedule will give the Huskers 11 regular-season games against teams that advanced to the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Overall, the Huskers will play 18 regular-season games against 2013 postseason teams. To purchase your season tickets for Nebraska women's basketball, visit Huskers.com/arena or call 1-800-8-BIG-RED.
Nebraska, which earned its second NCAA Sweet 16 bid in the past four years in 2013, returns four starters and nine letterwinners from last season's squad, including two-time All-American and National Player-of-the-Year candidate Jordan Hooper. Two-year starters Emily Cady and Hailie Sample also return for their junior campaigns, while Big Ten All-Freshman Team pick Rachel Theriot comes back to the NU starting five.
North Carolina advanced to the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, falling to Elena Delle Donne and Delaware in Newark, Del. UNC ended the 2012-13 campaign after earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina advanced to the ACC Tournament championship game with wins over Boston College and top-10 Maryland. The Tar Heels fell to rival Duke, 92-73, in the ACC title game. In fact, three of North Carolina's seven losses in 2012-13 came at the hands of the Blue Devils, while a fourth came to Maryland and a fifth to Florida State - all common opponents to Nebraska a year ago. The No. 5 Blue Devils defeated the Huskers, 53-45 in the NCAA Sweet 16 in Norfolk, Va.
The Tar Heels lose three senior starters from last year's team, including Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. The 5-10 guard led UNC in scoring (15.5 ppg), assists (4.4 apg), steals (2.6 spg) and minutes (30.5 mpg). Second-leading scorer, No. 3 rebounder and top shot-blocker Waltiea Rolle also departs. The 6-6 center averaged 12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 2012-13. Krista Gross was the only Tar Heel to start all 36 games last year. The 6-0 swing player added 6.4 points and a team-leading 8.4 rebounds per game, while ranking second on the team with 2.0 steals per contest.
However, the cupboard will be far from bare for North Carolina. Xylina McDaniel, who averaged 11.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals as a 6-2 freshman forward, will lead a pair of returning players. McDaniel is the daughter of former NBA star Xavier McDaniel, and she was a 2012 WBCA and McDonald's High School All-American. Brittany Rountree, a 5-9 guard, added 7.2 points per game, while leading UNC with 50 three-pointers as a sophomore starter in 2012-13.
Key reserves Megan Buckland (5.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg), Danielle Butts (4.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Latifah Coleman (3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg) all gained some starting experience a year ago, while playing significant roles off the bench.
Coach Sylvia Hatchell will be guiding the traditional ACC power Tar Heels in her 28th season at the helm. Hatchell has notched 636 wins at North Carolina and more than 900 all-time victories in her 38 seasons as a collegiate head coach. The Tar Heels have made 24 NCAA Tournament appearances under Hatchell, including the 1994 NCAA championship.
North Carolina had made 10 straight appearances in the Big Dance before missing the cut in 2012, despite finishing with a 20-win campaign. In fact, the Tar Heels have won 20 or more games in 15 of the last 17 seasons, including four 30-plus victory campaigns. They have also appeared in 15 of the last 17 NCAA tournaments, since being beaten by the Huskers in 1995-96.
Other featured matchups in the 2013 Big Ten/ACC Challenge including first-year ACC competitor and NCAA Final Four regular Notre Dame taking on two-time Big Ten regular-season champion Penn State in University Park, Pa., on Dec. 4. In the other battle between 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifiers on the challenge's opening night, Michigan State will face Florida State in Tallahassee.
Following four challenge games on Wednesday, Dec. 4, eight games between Big Ten and ACC conference members will take place on Thursday, Dec. 5, including Nebraska's showdown at North Carolina. A battle of Big Ten and ACC Tournament champions will be taking place between Purdue and Duke in Durham, N.C., just a few minutes down the road from the clash between the Huskers and Tar Heels.
2013 Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Wednesday, Dec. 4
- Notre Dame at Penn State
- Michigan State at Florida State
- Illinois at Georgia Tech
- Virginia Tech at Indiana
Thursday, Dec. 5
- Nebraska at North Carolina
- Purdue at Duke
- Syracuse at Iowa
- Ohio State at Maryland
- Michigan at Virginia
- Miami at Minnesota
- Boston College at Wisconsin
NC State at Northwestern