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NCAA Regional Semifinals: #1 UNC vs #4 Gonzaga

Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
When: Friday, March 27th, approx. 9:57 PM
Livestats: SCACC Hoops
Liveblogging: Yes
Records: UNC 30-4, Gonzaga 28-5
NCAA Results: UNC-def. #16 Radford, def. #8 LSU; Gonzaga-def. #13 Akron, def. #12 WKU

Go time.

In November, 2006 these two teams met in the Preseason NIT.  After running out to a 10-0 lead, UNC slowly withered ultimately losing the game by eight. Many of the same players who saw significant action in that game are back for this one. For UNC Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington were just freshman playing in their fourth game ever.  In fact Lawson and fellow freshman Deon Thompson were also sporting white head bands in that game, something that went away after the Heels lost that game.  Tyler Hansbrough played one of the worst games of his career only scoring nine points while Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt had probably his best.  Overall, Gonzaga controlled the game and forced UNC to take 26 three points of which they only hit six.

Fast forward to the 2009 NCAA Tournament and these two teams will meet again. This is about as tough a #4 seed as UNC could have asked for. Gonzaga has a legitimate center in Heytvelt, a speedy guard in Jeremy Pargo, a great shooting guard in Matt Bouldin and an athletic big man in Austin Daye. Gonzaga can match UNC at almost every position.  Almost.  I think you can reasonably call it a push when you put Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Deon Thompson and Tyler Hansbrough against Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Austin Day and Josh Heytvelt.  That leaves to fairly important X factors named Danny Green and Ed Davis. Green's struggles have been documented.  UNC needs him to get on track in a major way because it gives UNC another weapon. Assuming the Heels can get the kind of games they have been getting from Lawson, Ellingto, Hansbrough adding an on target Danny Green makes them scary. Davis has also played extremely well and could be the most important player on the floor when it comes to taking away anything Gonzaga might want to do on the inside. As for Thompson his defense has been suspect which is why he lost mins to Davis versus LSU.  That cannot happen tonight.

In the end, folks will focus on Lawson's toe which is apparently no better than a week ago.  It is what it is at this point.  The swelling did not return after the LSU game which means all we are talking about now if pain.  Lawson played well in pain last week and will be asked to do that as long as the Heels are alive in this tournament.  It is what it is and I am going to stop talking about.

The Heels have the experience, talent and the motivation from a senior class who wants a title.  If they gets mixed in with a well played game, the Heels can take care of business.  The wacky nature of the NCAA Tournament frays the nerves of the average fan severely.  I will choose confidence that the team that turned back LSU's frantic run will show up huge tonight.

UNC 84 Gonzaga 76