WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Dean Smith won't be nervous for North Carolina's game against Colorado today when a victory would place him alone atop the career coaching list.
"When I'm nervous is when everybody thinks we should win by 25," he said Friday. "I call them `contests,' when it should be a good game. That's when I'm in good shape. This will be a contest."
The top-seeded Tar Heels (25-6) have won 13 straight games, and a 14th against the ninth-seeded Buffaloes (22-9) in the second round of the NCAA tournament would be Smith's 877th. That would move him past Adolph Rupp, who won 876 at Kentucky over 41 years.
"I hear people saying, `He won this many' and `He will move to the top of this list,' but there's a difference if you're the performer than if you're the coach who directs the performer," Smith said. "It reflects on all our guys."
Assuming the Tar Heels will win is something Smith would never allow himself or his players to do. With Colorado coming off an 80-62 dismantling of Indiana in the opening round, that's smart thinking.
Still, the questions were asked and the answers were what would be expected of Smith's program which has been so successful over the past 36 seasons.
Will you carry coach Smith off the floor?
"I don't think he'd like that," sophomore guard Vince Carter said, smiling.
Will there be a Gatorade shower after victory No. 877?
"I won't be the one to do it," Carter said, laughing. "Maybe someone else is bold enough. Serge (Zwikker) is big enough, maybe Makhtar (Ndiaye), not me."
Smith also laughed, for a moment, when posed the same questions.
"I don't want to have to wear a jump suit or anything," he said. "I hope they realize what a tough team we're playing. I think they do."
The Tar Heels struggled before beating 16th-seeded Fairfield 82-74 in the opening round.
"We didn't play as well as we could," Carter said. "Maybe we were too excited, maybe we weren't focused, but we maintained our poise."
In today's other second-round game, fourth-seeded Villanova (24-9) plays fifth-seeded California (22-8). The winners advance to next weekend's East Regional at Syracuse, N.Y.
Colorado was impressive against Indiana, especially sophomore guard Chauncey Billups, who had 20 of his 24 points in the first half.
"What doesn't he do?" Smith said. "He has quickness. He can put the ball on the floor. He's an 85 percent free throw shooter. He enjoys playing defense and he certainly knows how to lead a team."
Colorado coach Ricardo Patton was upset after the victory over Indiana, saying his team hadn't received its proper due entering the tournament. The Buffaloes are getting it now and Patton was a lot calmer Friday.
"I think regardless of what happens tomorrow, the program has made a good stand, has made a statement that Colorado is on its way up," he said. "By no means are we a finished product, but as long as we can continue to get good players and those players come and work hard, I think what we accomplished this year will go a long way toward the future success of the program."
Villanova almost seemed happy to be facing a physical team like California after running and gunning its way to a 101-91 opening-round win over Long Island University, the nation's leading scoring team which kept the game at a frenetic pace.
"The contrast is obvious, physical versus finesse," Villanova coach Steve Lappas said. "This will be a more conventional game, but it will be a very physical game."
The Wildcats are OK in that department with Jason Lawson, Chuck Kornegay and freshman Tim Thomas, and they are glad to be done with a small, running team.
"It's like night and day," Lawson said. "California tries to get the ball inside and they have three, four guys who play on the block."
One of them is Tony Gonzalez, the future NFL tight end and opening-round hero in the 55-52 win over Princeton, who will be matched up with Thomas.
"He's one of the best players in the country. He has a jumper. He's quick. It's the whole package," Gonzalez said. "I'm looking forward to it to see how good I can play defense."
Bears guard Randy Duck turned an ankle against Princeton, but Cal coach Ben Braun didn't seem overly concerned.
"Duck walked through at practice," he said. "He'll be ready to play tomorrow. I don't know the extent but we'll take a look as the game goes on. If Randy can't play, Anwar McQueen steps in and he'll play significant minutes anyway."
The Bears are 3-1 since leading scorer and Pac-10 player of the year Ed Gray broke a foot.
"We can't go out wishing Ed was here or Randy was 100 percent," center Michael Stewart said. "We'll play with who's here."