North Carolina, Hatchell ready for another run
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sylvia Hatchell now has something else in common with Roy Williams.
The North Carolina natives with down-home personalities have used similar up-tempo, fast-breaking styles over the years to lead the Tar Heel men and women to national championships. Now, they'll spend this season under the same roof at the spacious Smith Center while the school renovates the women's venerable home arena, Carmichael Auditorium.
While Hatchell's team has occasionally played big games inside the men's building, she hopes the massive, 21,750-seat arena can continue to intimidate visitors before the Tar Heels do.
"I've seen this happen, where other teams walk in here and it's like, 'Wow!' And it's an hour or two later that the 'wow' is starting to wear off," Hatchell said. "By that time, hopefully, we already have a pretty good lead."
Of course, that also has something to do with how talented her powerhouse program has performed through the years.
The Tar Heels were picked to claim a fifth-straight ACC crown, have the nation's best winning percentage during the past four seasons and are the only team to capture No. 1 seeds in every NCAA tournament since 2005.
"We feel like we're one of the top teams in the country, and I think the last four years, we've proven that," Hatchell said. "The challenge is to keep that going because everybody wants what we have."
North Carolina is looking to reload after losing the heart of its roster to graduation, with all-ACC pick Erlana Larkins and league defensive player of the year LaToya Pringle gone. Rashanda McCants, who averaged a team-best 15.8 points last season, returns as the focal point of a fast-paced offense that reeled off 86 points per game.
"What I'm trying to do now is embrace our freshmen and sophomores so they can pass on the torch," McCants said.
Hatchell, who enters the season 16 victories shy of 800 for her career, has long pushed her teams to play for fast breaks.
That strategy helped the Tar Heels lead the nation with 86 points per game during last season's 33-3 finish. That won't change with several underclassmen -- including sophomores Cetera DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas and freshman She'la White -- in the lineup.
"I want women's basketball to be exciting, the way we played the last four or five years, someone said it's organized chaos," Hatchell said. "But it is very organized. We know where we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to do, but I'm not going to slow us down to look more organized.
"I want us to have the up-tempo game, lot of possessions, lot of scoring. Fans like to see you score, and our players like to play that way. We play more like men's teams, I guess you could say."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press