North Carolina's popularity extends beyond its home state, given its record of NCAA tournament success. The Tar Heels are making their 44th NCAA appearance and have posted 108 wins in 149 games, ranking them second in all three categories on the all-time list behind Kentucky. They have won five national championships.
The 6-foot-2 Chennault, a former Neumann-Goretti High star, transferred last May to Villanova and received a hardship waiver to play right away. As the season progressed, he flourished as the Wildcats' sixth man with his ballhandling and tenacious defense.
His defense will come in handy Friday. Having played North Carolina twice while at Wake (a pair of losses), he is familiar with the Tar Heels' high-tempo style of play, which has produced 77.2 points per game this season - 14th in the nation.
"We always have to make sure we get back on defense, because they score a lot of their points in transition," he said. "This is not a typical North Carolina team. They don't have as many big men as they had in previous years. I saw them go small in games this year, but they still get out in transition and score a lot of points."
The Tar Heels lost four players to the NBA after last season, including point guard Kendall Marshall. Chennault said he knows starters Dexter Strickland and P.J. Hairston.
Chennault has been playing more point guard lately, with Ryan Arcidiacono, the usual starter at the point, on the floor.
"He's enabled us to move Ryan off the ball and been able to give Ryan a break," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "He's also been a great defender and a guy that can break down a defense off the dribble, which is going to be important against Carolina. He's getting better and more comfortable every day."
Wright said Chennault tried "maybe kind of too hard" to do what he was asking and now is "really happy for him." Chennault said he needed time and patience to learn his role, and eventually became more comfortable and confident every day.
"I think if you're a competitor, any competitor would be disappointed that things didn't happen for him right away," he said. "But I'm a mature person, so I had to understand it and the mentality, and know it eventually would come."
Contact Joe Juliano at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.