Carolina BBQ (Welcome Creighton)

rwillett@newsobserver.com UNC's Tyler Zeller (44) applauds the reserve players after taking a place on the bench with teammate John Henson late in the Tar Heels' game against Clemson. Zeller scored 14 points and Henson had 13 in the Tar Heels' 74-52 victory.

On Saturday night the North Carolina Tarheels showed the world why they were ranked preseason No. 1.  North Carolina went to Duke and thoroughly defeated a team that will be a No. 2 seed at the least.  It was one of the more impressive performances I’ve seen this season and served notice to Syracuse and Kentucky that there’s one more legit contender for the national championship.

The Tarheels have possibly the best frontcourt in the nation with John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes to go along with perhaps the best pure point guard in Kendall Marshall.  This is a scary team to face because they can beat you with so many guys.

Defense and point guard depth is a concern, but good luck to any team that plans on outscoring the Heels.  They have their mojo back and are serious threats to cut down the nets.

MID-AMERICAN: This will be a competitive tournament as usual.  The MAC is one of the best mid-major conferences in the country and the action in Cleveland should be entertaining.  Akron won the regular season championship, but that was only by one game over Buffalo, who swept the season series.  Neither Akron or Buffalo will have to play until the semifinals, but it won’t matter as Ohio will get the automatic bid.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC: I’ve never liked how the MEAC stretches its tournament out.  A league that’s constantly fighting to stay out of Dayton should be doing everything it can to make sure it’s best teams have the best chance of winning.  For that reason I don’t trust regular season champion Savannah St to win.  I’m going with the experience of Fang Mitchell’s Coppin St club to go dancing.

SOUTHLAND: Texas-Arlington cruised through league play and lost it’s only conference game in its last game.  It has been consistent all year and appear to be the favorite.  I’m not choosing the Mavericks though.  Ever since Pat Knight ripped his Lamar Cardinals they’ve been playing like a different team.  I expect that to carry over to an automatic bid.

SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC: Mississippi Valley State’s 17-1 conference record is an impressive feat.  The Delta Devils lone loss came on the last game of the regular season and I think it’ll serve as a wake-up call.  The fact that second-place finisher Southern is ineligble for postseason play on solidifies my belief that the Delta Devils will dance.

WESTERN ATHLETIC: I’ve seen the Nevada Wolfpack play multiple times and I’ve come away impressed every time.  They have a gaudy 25 wins and should have the support of plenty of Wolfpack fans in Las Vegas.  New Mexico St and Idaho will be threats, but won’t be good enough.

BIG WEST: The last thing the rest of the Big West needed to happen was to have Long Beach St lose it’s final regular season game.  The 49ers now have the extra motivation of avenging their only regular season conference loss.  I’m convinced that Long Beach St is among the best 35-50 best teams in the country and none of their Big West mates are even close.  Long Beach St will dance.

Today’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Tennessee, Virginia Commonwealth, Northwestern, Colorado St

Last Four Out: South Florida, California, Oregon, NC State

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Stony Brook/Savannah St Louisville

8.Saint Louis9.Cincinnati

5.UNLV12.Northwestern/Virginia Commonwealth Portland

4.Gonzaga13.Long Beach St

6.Wichita St11.Southern Mississippi Albuquerque

3.Baylor14.Belmont(ASun)

7.Florida St10.West Virginia Columbus

2.Michigan15.Montana

WEST

1.North Carolina16.Bucknell Greensboro

8.Memphis9.Mississippi St

5.Creighton(MVC)12.BYU Albuquerque

4.Georgetown13.Oral Roberts

6.Notre Dame11.Xavier Columbus

3.Wisconsin14.Denver

7.New Mexico 10.Alabama Omaha

2.Missouri15.UT-Arlington

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.UNC-Asheville(BSouth)/Mississippi Valley St               Omaha

8.Louisville9.Virginia

5.Temple12.Drexel Nashville

4.Indiana13.Colorado St/Tennessee

6.Florida11.Miami(FL) Louisville

3.Marquette14.Akron

7.Kansas St10.Harvard Pittsburgh

2.Ohio St15.Loyola(MD)

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.St. Mary’s9.Purdue

5.Murray St(OVC)12.Texas Portland

4.San Diego St13.Nevada

6.Vanderbilt11.Washington Nashville

3.Michigan St14.Davidson

7.Iowa St10.Connecticut Greensboro

2.Duke15.Valparaiso

In Graphical Form

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