Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Madness - South Region

The South region is the most important region to me as it features my favorite team the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels come in as a question mark as the health of their best player, Ty Lawson remains in question. Lawson is expected to play in the tournament but if he isn't fully healthy Carolina is definitely vulnerable. It doesn't help that the Heels may end up facing the SEC regular season champion LSU Tigers in the Second Round.

Best Game

#7 Clemson (23-8) vs. #10 Michigan (20-13)

Clemson comes into the tournament with no momentum, losers of 4 of their last 5. Michigan is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade. These two teams styles match the style of play in their conferences. Michigan plays tough defense and scores just enough while the Tigers are all about offense, and play defense when necessary. I like Manny Harris to carry the Wolverines to victory.

Player to Watch

North Carolina Guard Ty Lawson

Even without the mystery that surrounds Lawson's health he would still be the player to watch. He has officially taken the reigns away from Tyler Hansbrough as the Tar Heels best player. The drop off at guard from him to Bobby Frasor or Larry Drew is astronomical. Lawson has had the type of season that should have him leaving school after this season. Without him the Heels have no chance at winning the tournament, he makes that big of a difference.

Lowest Seed to Make It Through the Weekend

#12 Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers made a run last year to the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed and I think they can do it again this year. They are a well balanced team that who I believe has very favorable matchups against Illinois and potentially Gonzaga. Illinois has trouble scoring so if they can't slow down the Hilltoppers guards A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez than they could get run out of the building. Gonzaga consistently disappoints in the tournament and I wouldn't be surprised to see them do their usual disappearing act.

Best Potential Game

#8 LSU vs. #1 North Carolina

I didn't think it was possible but the selection committee had even less respect for the SEC than the general public did. Just three teams made the tournament from the SEC, and one of those, Mississippi State, only made it because they won the conference tournament. LSU, despite going 26-7 and 13-3 in the SEC, is an 8 seed. LSU is a very scary second round game for Carolina. They score a lot, averaging 74 points a game and are led by guard Marcus Thornton, who could give Lawson trouble if he is a step slow. One benefit for Carolina is if the pace gets real fast then the Heels can probably run any team in the country out of the building.


First Round

#1 North Carolina over #16 Radford

#8 LSU over #9 Butler

#12 Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois

#4 Gonzaga over #13 Akron

#11 Temple over #6 Arizona State

#3 Syracuse over #14 Stephen F. Austin

#10 Michigan over #7 Clemson

#2 Oklahoma over #15 Morgan State

Second Round

#1 North Carolina over #8 LSU

#12 Western Kentucky over #4 Gonzaga

#3 Syracuse over #11 Temple

#10 Michigan over #2 Oklahoma

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