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North Carolina, KU plot collision course

March 12, 2012
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North Carolina was regarded as the best team in the country when the season began, and the Tar Heels may prove to be the best team when the final game is played in New Orleans.

Roy Williams’s team opens in Greensboro, N.C., against Lamar or Vermont. Alabama is talented enough to bother the Tar Heels, Creighton isn’t. Neither will pull off the upset.

South Florida and Temple figure to have a huge tug-of-war in Nashville - provided South Florida beats California. Michigan might beat either of those teams after it takes care of Ohio.

In the bottom half of the bracket, North Carolina State might emerge as a sleeper if the Wolfpack can play the way they did in the ACC tournament. The Wolfpack should be able to get past San Diego State and perhaps even Georgetown, should the Hoyas dispatch Belmont.

The other half of the bracket looks like it should belong to Kansas. Saint Mary’s should be one-and-done against Purdue, and Kansas should then roll over Purdue.

Georgetown should knock off Belmont, but beating Kansas will be a different matter.

That will set up a Kansas vs. North Carolina regional final in St. Louis, which says the edge belongs to Kansas. But UNC has more talent.

Upset specials: N.C. State over San Diego State, N.C. State over Georgetown

Teams moving to St. Louis: N.C. State, North Carolina, Kansas, Temple

Regional champion: North Carolina

1. North Carolina (29-5) A nine-game win streak was snapped by Florida State in the ACC final, but the Tar Heels have the country’s best point guard in Kendall Marshall. John Henson’s wrist injury could be a blow.

2. Kansas (27-6) The Jayhawks dominated the Big 12 behind Thomas Robinson (17.9 ppg and 11.8 rpg) and Tyshawn Taylor (17.3 ppg, 4.8 apg).

3. Georgetown (23-8) The Hoyas win with balanced scoring (Jason Clark’s 13.9 ppg leads team), good shot selection, and solid defense.

4. Michigan (24-9) Scintillating freshman point guard Trey Burke (14.8 ppg) leads the way.

5. Temple (24-7) The Owls have an outstanding guard in Ramone Moore (17.7 ppg) but have failed to advance out of the first round under Fran Dunphy in three tries.

6. San Diego State (26-7) It is defense first for the surprising Aztecs, who keep opponents to only 39 percent shooting.

7. Saint Mary’s (27-5) The key to success is usually the play of forward Rob Jones (14.8 ppg).

8. Creighton (28-5) The best-shooting team in the nation (50.9 percent) has the best unknown player in 6-foot-8-inch forward Doug McDermott (23.2 ppg).

9. Alabama (21-11) The Tide are back for the first time since 2006, and are led by senior forward JaMychal Green.

10. Purdue (21-12) Robbie Hummel is averaging a career-best 16.3 ppg.

11. N.C. State (22-12) A late four-game win streak pushed the Wolfpack into the field. How long they last might depend on C.J. Leslie (14.6, 7.5).

12. California (24-9) Guard Jorge Gutierrez (13.1 ppg) is the Pac-12’s player of the year.

12. South Florida (20-13) The Bulls have held 10 straight opponents under 60 points.

13. Ohio (27-7)

D.J. Cooper, a 5-11 lefty, is the crafty leader of the Bobcats, averaging 14.6 ppg and 5.7 apg.

14. Belmont (27-7) The deep, battle-tested Bruins are deep, play fast, and score a lot (81.5).

15. Detroit (22-13) Guard Ray McCallum (15.6 ppg) spurned offers from larger schools to play for his father.

16. Lamar (23-11) Pat Knight, son of Bob, can coach, too.

16. Vermont (23-11) The Catamounts are in the NCAAs for the fifth time in 10 years.

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