There may be surprises, but not at the top

John Feinstein
Columnist March 11, 2012

The number one seed in this region should be Kansas, if only because the Jayhawks didn’t lose twice to Florida State (a team that did lose to Harvard and Princeton). Still, if this were a beauty contest, North Carolina would win long before the swimsuit competition. At their best, the Tar Heels are spectacular to see.

Forget the vaunted trio up front of Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes. Okay, don’t forget them. But start the conversation with Kendall Marshall, who is the best point guard in the country — period. When someone asked Coach Roy Williams last week who the one player he couldn’t afford to lose was, he said, “Oh, without any doubt it’s Kendall.”

John Feinstein is a sports columnist for The Washington Post and also provides commentary for the Golf Channel and National Public Radio. View Archive

Looking at the draw here, it seems impossible to believe that Carolina and Kansas won’t meet in the final.

Georgetown was very fortunate to be given a No. 3 seed after finishing tied for fourth in its own league and losing in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Even so, the committee didn’t do the Hoyas any favors with an opening game against Belmont, a senior-laden team that has been very close to pulling first round upsets in the past.

Georgetown hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since beating UMBC in the first round in 2008 and has been embarrassed in its first game the last two years. That should give the Hoyas incentive enough to be ready for Belmont and allow them to move on to a second-round game against San Diego State or North Carolina State. SDSU reached the round of 16 a year ago; the Wolfpack is in the tournament for the first time in six years. N.C. State plays well against any team not named North Carolina. They could easily beat San Diego State but will find a way to lose to Georgetown.

If the Hoyas make it to St. Louis, they are almost certain to play Kansas. The Jayhawks aren’t losing to Detroit, one of two teams (Creighton is the other) with a father-son coach/star tandem (Ray McCallum/Ray McCallum Jr.). And they aren’t losing to the St. Mary’s-Purdue winner either. (Go with the Big Ten in toss-ups this year.)

And they probably aren’t losing to Georgetown unless the Hoyas make a lot of threes, which they can do at times. Thomas Robinson is the second-best player in the country behind Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and, their loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament notwithstanding, the Jayhawks have probably improved more start-to-finish than any team in the country. This Kansas team is a lot better than the one Georgetown lost to in Hawaii in November.

North Carolina should be waiting for the Jayhawks n the final. Should be. If the Tar Heels had to play the Creighton-Alabama winner someplace other than Greensboro, they could have trouble with Creighton. Doug McDermott is the real deal, but the Tar Heels have too many “long” (the new word for “tall”) weapons, not to mention Marshall and enough depth to field a second team that could win the Pacific-12. That should get them to a round of 16 matchup with Michigan.

Temple is a very good team (ask Duke) and ought to beat the Cal-South Florida winner to get to a game against Michigan, which just happened to draw a team from Ohio in their opener — but it’s the Bobcats, not the Buckeyes.

Michigan should make enough threes to win that game, and that’s how it could beat Carolina, because the Tar Heels aren’t great at guarding the perimeter. Then again, they might get 50 offensive rebounds in the game, and that should be enough.

Carolina-Kansas? The only thing that is pretty much guaranteed is that Ol’ Roy sheds a tear regardless of who advances to New Orleans. No doubt he still has his Jayhawk sticker handy if he needs it.

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