NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: 5 Best Teams UNC Must Beat To Win It All
North Carolina shouldn't be disappointed with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The road to glory is never easy in March Madness, no matter how highly a team is seeded.
The Tar Heels should cruise through their first matchup against LIU, but then they'll have to face five tough teams in order to take home the trophy.
Here are the teams I think UNC will have to defeat to completely conquer their side of the bracket, and ultimately to become National Champions once again.
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Unless the 'Heels suffer an embarrassing upset to the Long Island Blackbirds, they will face either the No. 7 seeded Washington Huskies or the No. 10 seeded Georgia Bulldogs.
The Huskies will have to travel cross-country to Charlotte to take on Trey Thompkins and the Georgia Bulldogs in what should be a tight game.
Washington will enter the tournament fresh off an overtime victory over No.15 Arizona, in which junior guard Isaiah Thomas beat the buzzer to give the Huskies their second consecutive Pac-10 championship.
When they meet the Bulldogs, who arguably play in a stronger conference, it will be one of the best first round matchups on the bracket this March.
I'm picking Washington, on the expectation that they will come out hot and keep it going under Thomas' leadership.
UNC will have to contain Thomas, who averaged 16.8 points per game, if they don't want to get knocked out in the second round.
The Tar Heels should beat the Huskies or the Bulldogs, but they can't afford to underestimate them or they'll find themselves scrambling to stay alive.
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Odds are that if the 'Heels can get past Washington or Georgia, they'll have to face Syracuse in the regional semifinals.
Although 'Cuse finished with a 12-6 record in the Big East, it is the most respected conference in college basketball.
UNC will have a tough time taking down the Orange, but if they play their best ball it is far from an impossibility. They'll have an advantage in the post with Zeller and Henson, but Syracuse's zone will force them to hit a few outside shots.
The Tar Heels must not dig themselves into a hole early in the game. Their defense isn't capable of creating a comeback, especially not against a Syracuse offense loaded with talent like Triche, Jardine, Jackson and Joseph all averaging double digits.
Ohio St. Buckeyes
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Barring any major upsets of the Buckeyes, North Carolina will travel to Newark to take on top seeded OSU in the Elite Eight.
Ohio State tied Kansas for the best record in college basketball in 2010, with only two losses and earned the first overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Among OSU's four starters who average double figures towers freshman forward Jared Sullinger.
The first year superstar will challenge the 'Heels in the paint, as he's one of the best big men in the game, averaging a double double throughout the Buckeyes' 32 win season.
If UNC is to make it to Houston, it will be through Ohio State. The Tar Heels will have to be at their best to reach the Final Four, and they must handle the pressure, something they have yet to prove they are capable of.
There's no doubt defeating the Buckeyes will be a tough task for an inexperienced team like Carolina.
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If UNC pulls off an upset in the Elite Eight, they'll either get another chance at arch rival Duke or take on the Huskies in Houston.
I'm taking UConn over the defending champs in the Elite Eight, but Duke definitely has the talent to repeat. If Duke has a bad shooting night it could be their downfall, especially against Kemba Walker's talented team.
Walker's ability has the potential to carry the Huskies to the National Championship, but so does the Blue Devil's backcourt duo of Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
If the Tar Heels hope to reach the biggest game of the big dance, Harrison Barnes will have to have a better offensive performance than Kemba if the two teams meet up.
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Nobody expects a rematch of the 2008 Final Four matchup between these teams, but if UNC is back in the title game, I don't see anybody else coming out of Kansas' side of the bracket except the Jayhawks.
But if it happens, the same result is likely.
UNC isn't strong enough to contend with the Morris twins and Kansas this year, but if they live up to their potential next season and no one departs to play pro ball, next season could be Tar Heel time once again.