If you like fast break basketball with a lot of scoring, this is the Sweet 16 game for you.
Both North Carolina and Gonzaga like to push the ball up the court, and why not? When you have speedy point guards like UNC’s Ty Lawson, and the Bulldogs’ Jeremy Pargo, the transition game comes naturally.
When the game settles in the half court, we have an outstanding post match up with Tyler Hansbrough going head-to-head with Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt.
Will someone step up outside of the big four and lead their team to the Elite Eight?
How They Got Here…
#1 North Carolina d. #16 Radford 101-58, d. #8 LSU 84-70
#4 Gonzaga d. #13 Akron 77-64, d. #12 Western Kentucky 83-81
Keys To The Game:
1. Does Pargo=Lawson Kryptonite?
Jeremy Pargo is a scoring point guard who can go coast-to-coast in a hurry. His style is similar to that of Boston College’s Tyrese Ric,e and Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague; Teams North Carolina lost to in January to open the ACC season 0-2.
Lawson is the engine that makes the Tar Heel Train run. He did not show any serious effects of the toe injury last weekend, but it could flare up at any time.
2. The Fast and The Furious
North Carolina plays as fast as any team in the nation, averaging over 90 points per game. Gonzaga likes up tempo basketball more often than their opponents, but they have to be careful to not play at a pace they don’t want to in this game. Some really good teams have tried to match UNC’s pace of play and got burned...like Duke.
If North Carolina can force Gonzaga to play at a faster pace than they want, they gain a physical advantage with their depth and overall talent.
3. Getting Offensive On The Boards
A big part of North Carolina’s scoring ability is their domination of the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Tar Heels put up a lot of shots, and make 48 percent of them. They also grab 15 offensive boards per game, ranking eighth in the nation.
The Zags give up 11.9 second chances per game, which ranks just 225th nationally. Post guys like Heytvelt and Austin Daye have to do a good job of sealing off on the block.
I said it in my Duke-Villanova preview…when you get to this point in the NCAA Tournament, each game is more about the head-to-head matchup than who is the better team.
North Carolina is the better team, but Gonzaga presents a tough matchup for the Tar Heels because of Pargo’s speed, and Heytvelt’s size and athleticism on the interior.
I see the combination of Pargo/Heytvelt equaling Lawson/Hansbrough. Where North Carolina has the advantage is in their next six players. I think guys like Danny Greene, Wayne Ellington and an up-and-coming freshman Ed Davis will step up, allowing North Carolina to advance to the Elite Eight.
North Carolina Wins By 4-9 Points
Season: 43-29 SU through 3/25