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Snowflakes: Tar Heels are the Tourney's Favorite

Posted: Mar 20, 2008

The best postseason in sports is upon us with the NCAA Tournament beginning. Brackets will soon be ruined as productivity takes a break for a couple of days in offices across the country. College football will seemingly always be king in our Swampland region (with a few exceptions like Kentucky and North Carolina), but the ‘Madness’ of March rivals anything in sports for drama and excitement. While the regular season in football keeps us riveted for over three months, the postseason certainly defines college hoops for most fans. No matter how good a run a team has during the winter, success in March will determine how coaches, players, and fans remember their college basketball season. Here’s a look at some of the storylines for the teams in our part of the country.

* North Carolina will be heart broken if they do not reach the Final Four. While the East region seems to be the toughest of the four, the Tar Heels could not have asked for better locations as they will play the first round in Raleigh and the Sweet 16 in Charlotte. Last year, the Tar Heels led Georgetown for most of their regional final game before missing 22 of their final 23 field goal attempts late in the game and overtime. Look for Roy Williams’ club to be extra motivated to get to San Antonio this season.

* Tennessee looks to be the SEC’s only shot to make the Final Four, but the Vols got a brutal draw with potential matchups against Butler, Louisville, and North Carolina in the East regional. Bruce Pearl’s wide open system has worked wonders during the regular season, but it remains to be seen if the high-flying Vols can continue their success in the Big Dance. Tennessee allowed an alarming 179 points in two games in the SEC Tourney, so Pearl must get better defense from his team if they want to advance in the postseason.

* Texas and Kansas have been the class of the Big 12 all season, and both clubs have a great chance to win the Championship. It will be an especially important Tournament for KU coach Bill Self, who has yet to make a Final Four since taking over the program five years ago. The fan expectation in Lawrence is enormous, and the Jayhawk faithful were very vocal with their criticism after first round losses in the ’05 and ’06 Tourneys. However, Self did lead Kansas to the Elite Eight last year and looks to have his team prepared for a deep run. As far as the Longhorns, the guard tandem of D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams will be a tough matchup for any club in the South region. With the second round of the Tourney in Houston, look for Texas to have a great shot against a Stanford or Memphis in the regionals.

* John Calipari is another coach looking to reach the elusive Final Four with his current club Memphis. He got there with Massachusetts back in 1996, but he hasn’t been able to get back during his tenure with the Tigers despite winning over 30 games for three years in a row. Memphis has overcome the stigma of playing in the weak Conference USA by reaching the Elite Eight two years in a row. However, with super frosh Derrick Rose leading the way, anything less than a trip to San Antonio will be highly painful for Calipari’s program.

* As far as the smaller schools in our region, you have to like the chances of both Davidson and Western Kentucky to pull off first round upsets. Both clubs play other “mid-majors” and will not be intimidated by the pressure of the Big Dance. I have written all season about Stephen Curry, and I believe he could shoot Davidson past Gonzaga. Courtney Lee is a super talent and will be the best player on the floor when Western Kentucky takes on Drake.

- Patrick Snow

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