North Carolina could very easily win the whole tournament. The ACC regular-season champs appear to have gotten a favorable draw, and this is a team that will go far. The Tar Heels only lost five games this year, all to teams who are six seeds or better, and they have a great inside presence with the trio of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson.
With all due respect to both Barnes and Creighton’s Doug McDermott (if you haven’t heard of him yet, you will soon), the best player in the Midwest is Kansas forward Thomas Robinson. The national Player of the Year candidate averages 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds a game, and he has scored in double digits in all but one
game this year. Robinson is the engine that makes the Jayhawks go, and he will have to be at the top of his game if Kansas wants to get to New Orleans.
This bracket seems pretty straightforward for the most part, but one team that could change things is No. 7 seed St. Mary’s. The Gaels have a lot going for them, from having one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball in Randy Bennett to possessing a tough inside-outside combo in forward Rob Jones and guard Matthew Dellavedova. The WCC champs have beaten Gonzaga twice this year and could pose a threat to Kansas in the second round.
Best Potential Game
This one is easy: UNC vs. Kansas in the Elite Eight for the right to go to New Orleans. This game pits the top two teams in the region, two of the top players in the country, Robinson and Barnes, and some good old-fashioned animosity toward current Tar Heel and former Jayhawk head coach Roy Williams. This would really be a dream matchup for fans.
Second round: UNC, Creighton, Michigan, Cal, San Diego State, Georgetown, St. Mary’s, Kansas
The only upset here will be Cal beating Temple, thanks to its outside scoring threats. The 8-9 and 7-10 matchups could both be interesting, but I see the two favorites winning there.
Third round: UNC over Creighton, Michigan over Cal, Georgetown over SDSU, Kansas over St. Mary’s
No upsets here. These four teams are clearly the class of the region, and I think Kansas will be able to fight off St. Mary’s.
Sweet 16: UNC over Michigan, Kansas over Georgetown
The Wolverines will run into the UNC buzzsaw, and Kansas will knock off Georgetown in a rematch of a Maui Invitational first-round game that Kansas won.
Elite Eight: UNC over Kansas
The dream matchup becomes reality. Barnes and Robinson put on a show, but depth wins out, and the Tar Heels have much more of it.
Reach reporter Daniel Rubens at email@example.com or on Twitter @drubens12.
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