UNC Tar Heels Vs. LIU Blackbirds: NCAA Tournament First Round Prediction

J FCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 05:  The mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels crowd surfs during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 5, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When the 'Heels fell to Duke in the ACC Championship, they threw away any shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But hey, a No. 2 seed isn't so bad after failing to even make the big dance last season.

Besides, there isn't too much of a difference between the level of competition a second and first seed must face in the first round (which is technically the second round in this year's tournament).

UNC will match up with the NEC Tournament winning Long Island Blackbirds on Friday, March 18.

The Blackbirds last played on March 9th when they defeated Robert Morris in OT to punch their ticket to the most important tournament. The overtime victory was probably their best of the season as they had lost to the Colonials earlier in the year, and the best competition they faced was Northwestern, a team they lost to by 16.

LIU may come from a low level conference, but they have won 13 straight and 21 of their last 22. A streak that long is impressive in college basketball no matter who you play.

However, Carolina's biggest win in 2010 was a 103-54 trouncing of St. Francis, who beat LIU by 15 in one of their three matchups. The Blackbirds won the other two.

Friday's matchup will be their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1997. While the Blackbirds have four players that average double digits, forward Julian Boyd is their best player, averaging 12.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

UNC must also be aware of LIU forward Jamal Olasawere who averaged 12.9 points and 6.8 boards this season, and dropped 31 in the NEC Championship.

Long Island was 27-5 to finish the season, so although North Carolina should have no problem disposing them, they cannot take the Blackbirds lightly.

UNC will be able to contain their top two scorers, and Tyler Zeller and John Henson will be too much for LIU in the paint. Harrison Barnes should have a field day against the 15 seeded Blackbirds, and the 'Heels will dominate both the boards and the turnover battle.

The Long Island Blackbirds won't pull of a huge upset and become this year's Cinderella team.

UNC 93 LIU 52