After yesterday, I proved to myself once again that among individuals watching more than 50 hours of college basketball per season, I am the worst bracket picker of the lot. But while Wichita State and Long Beach State let me down, there’s an entire region kicking off today that will save my spirits. If the Midwest plays out like my bracket, I’ll be one happy camper for the foreseeable future, and obviously that’s because I have UNC advancing out of it to the Final Four.
For the first time in what seems like forever, Carolina got a decent draw. You will certainly remember last year’s bracket of death with Ohio State, Kentucky, Syracuse and Marquette thrown in the mix with UNC. Even in the 2009 title year, UNC’s bracket included Blake Griffin-led Oklahoma and the Wes Johnson/Johnny Flynn Syracuse team, which had several members of this year’s Orange squad as well. Gonzaga then fielded one of its best squads in years. Even some of the lower seeds were dangerous in 2009 with All-American James Harden on 6-seeded Arizona State.
This year is no cakewalk, but it’s certainly a fair draw. Below is a breakdown of UNC’s potential opponents if the higher seeded team advances, and then a few more in case of upsets.
Vermont – The Catamounts advanced to play UNC after beating Lamar in the First Four. Their starting front line doesn’t include anyone over 6’8″. We’ll keep this short. A 16 has never beaten a 1, and we dont’ anticipate this being the first time that happens, even if John Henson doesn’t play.
Creighton – The storyline here is that Creighton’s leading scorer, All-America candidate Doug McDermott, played high school ball with Harrison Barnes. The Blue Jays are first in the country in field goal percentage, and seventh in scoring. Carolina ranks 54th and second in those categories respectively. Both teams like to run and put up points, however Creighton is 90th in rebounding, where UNC is fourth. The Jays don’t like defense, and are 182nd in the country in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom.com. Carolina is eleventh. Could this game end up with more than 200 points scored? Possibly. Would Carolina lose this game? Probably not.
Temple – The Owls put up respectable scoring numbers (around 30th in the country in major categories) but rebound even worse than Creighton. They don’t have a ton of height, though their guard play makes up for that. If Henson is healthy, we see a fate similar to Vermont’s for Temple.
Michigan – The likely opponent for the Heels, Michigan sports a good tactician in Coach John Beilein, and potent scorers in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. While they’re not far behind UNC in adjusted offensive efficiency, they are significantly behind in defensive efficiency (Kenpom). They’re also TERRIBLE at rebounding (311th in the country), which is one of Carolina’s strengths. If Hardaway or Burke get’s hot, it could make this a tough match-up, but as long as the Heels put their heads down and play their game, it’s a winnable game.
Kansas – Here’s where it gets dicey. Is it possible that Georgetown or even Belmont could put on Cinderella’s slipper and upset the Jayhawks? Yeah, it’s possible. Is it likely? Absolutely not. Kansas is well-coached and has Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson. Robinson, however, isn’t the only problem Kansas presents for Carolina. PG Tyshawn Taylor has been a scoring machine in Big 12 play and would be a tough guard for Reggie Bullock. Couple that with 7′-0″ Jeff Withey’s improvement, and the Jayhawks are one of the only teams in the nation that can stack up with UNC’s size. We all remember what happend the last time UNC played Kansas in the tourney, and we’d rather that not happen again. Hopefully that game got all of Roy’s jitters about playing KU out of his system, and this time the Heels will just get down to business.
The best part is that Kansas has plenty of time to get upset before the Elite Eight, the worst part is that if they make the Elite Eight, the game is close to home for them in St. Louis.
We think the draw for Carolina is pretty good. While any team could prove a challenge in the early going, on paper at least, it’s not likely that there will be a really tough game until the Elite Eight against the 2-seed. This is much better than previous years, and it has us excited for the run.