We’re down to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, and what a first weekend it was. We had monumental upsets, half-court buzzer-beaters, crazy collapses, Cinderella stories and redemption runs (who had Syracuse vs. Gonzaga in the Midwest?)
We can’t wait until it starts up again on Thursday, but until then, we’re previewing all of the games in the regional semifinals:
1. North Carolina
First round: Def. 16 Florida Gulf Coast, 83-67
Second round: Def. 9 Providence, 85-66
The Tar Heels vanquished their first two opponents on the strength of big second-half runs, oustcoring FGCU 42-27 in the final 20 minutes and mauling Providence, 51-36 in the second half of their 85-66 win. That’s what the ‘Heels do–they wear you down with their pace and talent, and wait for the knockout blow.
North Carolina also boasts perhaps the best frontcourt in the country, with 6-9 senior Brice Johnson, who put up 21 and 10 in the second-round win over the Friars, and 6-8 Justin Jackson (12.1 ppg, 4 rpg), who scored 15 in that game. They’ll look to out-run the Hoosiers, who also play a high-scoring, up-tempo style.
First round: Def. 12 Chattanooga, 99-74
Second round: Def. 4 Kentucky, 73-67
The Hoosiers sent a message to doubters in the first weekend of the tournament, making easy work of Chattanooga and then taking out Kentucky in impressive fashion. Indiana was tougher, deeper, and more balanced in that second-round game, getting 19 points from freshman center Thomas Bryant, 18, 5 rebounds and 4 assists from point guard Yogi Ferrell, and 13 from Troy Williams.
This team can score points in bunches, and likes to play up-tempo, but that may not be a good thing against North Carolina. The Hoosiers will have to beat the Tar Heels at their own game, which is going to be tough.
Indiana is going to need a big game from senior point guard Yogi Ferrell, who will have a lot to play for in Philadelphia on Friday. He’s not ready for his fantastic college career to come to an end just yet.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 83, Indiana 80. We’ll take North Carolina, because of its better and more experienced front line, and because we trust the Tar Heels to make one more run than the Hoosiers. But this one should be close.