What: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
When: Sunday, March 20, 12:00 PM
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
Records: UNC 27-7; UW 24-10
How They Got Here: UNC-ACC Regular Season Champ; at large bid. UW Pac-10 tourney champ; automatic bid.
NCAA Results: UNC def. Long Island 102-87; UW def. Georgia 68-65
I'll take a repeat of Friday night, please.
UNC survived a stiff challenge from a criminally under-seeded Long Island team that came into the tourney with the nation's longest winning streak and the NCAA's 4th highest-scoring offense. As a reward, Carolina now gets to face the 3rd highest-scoring offense in the country and the Pac-10 tourney champ Washington Huskies.
If you're looking for that guard that always seems to go off for a career night against the Tar Heels, UW junior point man Isaiah Thomas might be a great candidate. Thomas hit the buzzer-beater that lifted the Huskies past Arizona for the Pac-10 tourney title, and had 19 points and 7 assists against Georgia in the NCAA opener. But 6-9 senior post player Matthew Bryan-Amaning is no slouch inside, either. He is the team's top rebounder at nearly 9 per game and is the second-leading scorer, but was hampered by foul trouble against the Bulldogs on Friday.
Carolina, meanwhile, put on display what C. Michael has called the best 3-4-5 combination in the nation as Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller combined for 84 points, 36 rebounds, and 9 blocks against LIU on Friday, hopefully breaking out of the ACC Tournament funk. Dexter Strickland added a confidence-building 9 points on 3-5 shooting and Kendall Marshall fed his teammates over and over to the tune of 10 assists and only two turnovers. It wasn't the crispest of nights for the Heels, but the game was never really in doubt and lots of teams would like to put up 100+ on a less-than-crisp night.
There are lots of intangibles in this game that may come into play. This is still a young UNC team, which C. Michael pointed out had only a combined 47 minutes of NCAA tournament experience, and is still subject to lapses in play like those seen Friday against the Blackbirds. Washington, on the other hand, was a Sweet 16 team last year. Then again, Washington is playing 2,800 miles from Seattle in a game that will start at 9:00 AM Pacific time. It should also be a home-crowd atmosphere for Carolina, and the Huskies were a pedestrian 5-6 away from home this season. The Huskies also have a Clemson-esque game-time turnaround as their game ended at nearly midnight on Friday night and they have to play just over 36 hours later (somebody tell me again why the two late-game teams - one of them a west coast team - play the early game on Sunday?).
Again, UNC lucked out in that both LIU and UW are among the fastest-paced teams in the tourney so the Heels will not have to face a pack-it-in, grind-it-out team in the first weekend. Zeller runs the floor as well as any big man in the country and with a wide-open floor, Marshall has room to distribute the ball. Even though the Huskies like it fast, you have to like Carolina's chances if the game gets above 80. Like I said, I'll take a repeat of Friday - a fast-paced game in which the big three shine and UNC is essentially in control all day.
UNC 88, Washington 77