- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

SOUTH

The committee savaged North Carolina for its sins in the ACC tournament. Even if the most important big toe in North Carolina weren’t swollen, it would be difficult to pick the Tar Heels to reach Detroit.

For one, Gonzaga is the most complete No. 4 seed in the tournament. Gonzaga is the only team in the field that ranks in the top 10 in both field goal percentage defense (No. 2, 36.9) and field goal percentage (No. 8, 48.8). Coach Mark Few has experience and talent at the critical point guard and center spots in seniors Jeremy Pargo (5.1 assists) and Josh Heytvelt (14.9 points, 6.7 rebounds), a confident gunner in Matt Bouldin (13.7 points) and a dazzling sophomore talent in Austin Daye (12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds).

The Bulldogs are also overdue to take down a heavyweight after losses to Memphis and Connecticut. Something has been off about the Tar Heels all season; perhaps that’s what happens when folks crown you six months before the season starts. In any case, North Carolina will have to survive both Gonzaga… and potentially Oklahoma en route to Detroit. If guard Ty Lawson doesn’t return to full speed, the point is moot (see turnover-happy Florida State).

The Sooners are one of the teams that folks have wanted to see the Tar Heels face all season because everyone wants to know how three-time All-American and Tobacco Road demigod Tyler Hansbrough would fare against Oklahoma pivot and runaway national player of the year Blake Griffin (21.9 points, 14.3 rebounds). The guess is not well, though the rest of UNC’s roster, particularly its backcourt, is vastly superior to the Sooners’ spare parts. That said, it’s the game most would like to see, if for no other reason than to put the quietus on the Hansbrough hubbub.

Among the flameouts, Syracuse definitely merits a nomination. Nobody does what the Orange managed in the Big East tournament and has anything left for the big bracket.

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