Sunday, April 19, 2009

SEC Spring Football Rankings

Nobody takes spring football as seriously as the folks in the SEC do. With eleven of the twelve teams having played their spring game, lets take an early look at the SEC in 2009. In case you were wondering who is still out there, its Kentucky, and football is in the trunk right now compared to basketball with the hiring of John Calipari.

SEC West

1. Alabama

The Tide surprised everyone in 2008 by going 12-0 in the regular season in Nick Saban's second year.

This year's team has 15 returning starters, including nine on the defensive side.

The biggest question marks will be at QB with Greg McElroy likely taking over for John Parker Wilson and on the offensive line where three starters need to replaced, including All-Americans Antoine Caldwell and Andre Smith. The offense will need RB Mark Ingram and WR Julio Jones to step up early.

The Tide defense should be even nastier than last year's group that ranked 3rd nationally in total defense. The dangerous Javier Arenas is back returning kicks.

Alabama has been very focused this off season to shake off the "bleeping way we finished last season" according to Saban.

Another stellar recruiting class was signed in February that many ranked #1.


2. Ole Miss
Hopes are high in Oxford and why not when you have a Cotton Bowl winning team that returns 15 starters.

QB Jevan Snead had an impressive spring and he will have his top five rushers from last year joining him again this year. Three of the top four receivers are back as well including the multi-talented Dexter McCluster. The offensive line will be a point of emphasis come fall with three starters to replace.

The defense will have to replace four of the top five tacklers, but does get back its leading tackler Kendrick Lewis.

3. LSU
The Tigers return 13 starters from a disappointing 8-5 team in 2008.

The QB battle will be an interesting one to watch with Jordan Jefferson and true freshman Russell Shepard duking it out into the fall.
Back are the top four rushers from last year and three of the top four pass catchers. Up front the Tigers have three starters back.

Defensively, four of the top five tacklers return despite just six starters coming back. Another stellar recruiting class was signed in February that some ranked #1.

4. Arkansas
Year two under Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks are hard at work installing his high powered offense.

Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett will likely take the helm at QB for an offense that returns eight starters. Leading rusher Michael Smith returns as do the top five pass catchers. The o-line is a point of concern where All-American C Jonathan Luigs will have to be replaced.

Defensively, the Hogs return nine starters including their top five tacklers from last year. This should help a unit that was the 93rd best in scoring defense.

5. Auburn

Gene Chizik and his 5-19 career record hope 16 returning starters and 47 letterman will get the Tigers back in the SEC West race this year.

QB Kodi Burns looks to be the starter heading into fall practice in new OC Gus Malzhan's spread offense. The Tigers get their leading rusher back, Ben Tate, and three of their top four pass catchers back. The o-line has three starters back from a year ago.

The defense returns seven starters and four of the top five tacklers.

Chizik spent much of his time in the off season dodging his credentials, but also hiring a staff with a lot experience and recruiting expertise.

6. Mississippi State
First year coach Dan Mullen has a lot of to do in Starkville and just 13 returning starters to do it with.

Tyson Lee returns at QB, but it remains to be seen how well he can run Mullen's spread offense over the long haul. The top four running backs also return, but the Bulldogs ranked near the bottom of the NCAA in rush offense last year. The good news is that four starters are back on the o-line.

Just five starters return defensively and only one finished in the top five in tackles last year.

SEC East

1. Florida
Tebow. That is all you really need to say about the 2009 Florida Gators to draw interest. But if we must go on...

The Gators return a whopping 20 starters from their national championship team, including all 11 on defense. A weak point though could be the offensive line where two veterans were lost. Also, someone will have to step into the role of 'game changer' left void by the early departure of Percy Harvin.

Brandon Spikes leads the defense that appears to have no weakness. In addition to not losing a single starter, Florida lost just three letterman.

The Gators have been fighting complacency this offseason as well as tweaking the offense to make it even better.

2. Georgia

The Bulldogs enter 2009 in a much different state of mind than in 2008 which came with a preseason number one ranking.

Gone are QB Matt Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, and four other offensive starters. In step senior Joe Cox (QB), and a bevy of talented, but unproven tailbacks. WR AJ Green becomes the go to guy in the passing game. Also back are five starting offensive lineman under one of the best coaches in the country, Stacy Searels.

The Georgia defense returns six starters and 24 letterman from a unit that really struggled down the stretch last year. Tackling was heavily emphasized this spring.

Even with the star power loss, Mark Richt thinks this club is more of a team and better because of it.

3. South Carolina
Steve Spurrier has his starting QB, but is it the one he really wants?

Stephen Garcia looks to have cemented his place under center, but he must improve on his decision making to keep it.
Tthe Gamecocks lost their top two receiving targets and top rusher from a year ago. Three starters return on the offensive line for a unit that finished last in the SEC in rush offense.

Six starters are back on defense led by sack artist Eric Norwood. The d-line should be a strong point with three first teamers back.

4. Tennessee

Lane Kiffin has gotten under just about everyone's skin and he did most of that before spring Practice even began.

Kiffin needs returning starter Jonathan Crompton to pick up his game at QB and lead the other six starters returning to a better performance than 2008. Leading rusher Arian Foster is gone, but three players with significant time return.

Six starters return from a defense that finished third in the SEC in scoring defense. Eric Berry, who may be the best defensive player in the country, leads the way at Safety.


5. Vanderbilt

The Commodores are looking to start a bowl streak in 2009 and have 19 starters returning for Head Coach Bobby Johnson.

QB Mackenzie Adams returns and he will have leading rusher Jared Hawkins and five offensive lineman to work with. The Commodores lost leading receiver Sean Walker, but return the next four.

The defense lost All-SEC CB DJ Moore, but returns nine other starters. Three players return who had more than 100 stops a year ago.

6. Kentucky
The Wildcats are the lone program still practicing and are hoping for another bowl win this year.

13 starters total return from last year, including QB Randall Cobb who transformed the Wildcats late in the year with his running ability. Mike Hartline will challenge Cobb and likely get playing time next year. Dicky Lyons is gone so Kentucky will need to find a new go to guy. Derrick Locke may fit that bill if he can stay healthy.

Just two of the top six tacklers return from a below average defense in the SEC. But Micah Johnson continues the recent trend of standout Kentucky linebackers.



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ACC Spring Football Rankings

ACC Teams have largely finished up their Spring practices (VT, BC, and Maryland Spring Games are April 25), so now is a good time to take a look at the conference and some early projections for 2009.

We'll check back in the Summer with some in depth projections also taking a look at the oh so important schedules.

1. Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson enters year two in Atlanta coming off a surprising 9-4 campaign last year.

He will have 19 starters and 62 letterman returning to work with from a squad that tied for the Coastal Division Title.

QB Josh Nesbitt is back to lead the spread triple option offense along with ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer at B-Back. WR Demaryius Thomas returns to hoping to take advantage of a more open offensive attack this year.

Defensively, the front four will have three starters to replace. The back seven returns intact from the second half of the season.

The downfall of Ga Tech this year could be their special teams. K/P Scott Blair returns but early reviews have been far from rave.

2. Virginia Tech
The Hokies are going for a third straight ACC Championship in 2009 and are hoping 16 returning starters will help them reach Tampa again.

Tyrod Taylor is now in full control at QB and has the luxury off all of his skill guys returning around him. Three starters return on the o-line with a combined 75 starts.

The always stout defense welcomes back seven starters from a unit that ranked 7th nationally in total defense. To illustrate the depth of DC Bud Foster's defense, leading returning tackler Cody Grimm was not even a starter last year.

The Hokies open the year with a bang in Atlanta against Alabama, but Frank Beamer has his concentration on his team this spring.

3. Florida State
Bobby Bowden returns for his 34th season and welcomes back 13 starters from the Champs Sport Bowl team.

The offense finally has some continuity at QB with Christian Ponder returning for his second season starting. Even more good news on the line where all five starters return. The 'Noles will have to find new receivers, but those usually grow on trees in Tallahassee.

The front seven will have to be rebuilt after the departure of DE Everette Brown and his 13.5 sacks.

Also, FSU will have some work to do on special teams replacing kicker/punter Graham Gano and returner Michael Ray Garvin.

4. North Carolina
The Tar Heels are the hot pick to jump up this year and possibly grab an ACC Title in Butch Davis' third year in Chapel Hill.

UNC returns 16 starters from an eight win team a year ago, including QB TJ Yates and RB Shaun Draughn. The Heels will have to find replacements for their two WRs including school leader in receptions Hakeem Nicks.

The defense brings back nine, but lost 2nd Team All American Safety Tremaine Goddard. The d-line will lead this unit getting all four starters back from last year.

5. Boston College

Longtime defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani takes over for the departed Jeff Jagodzinski as head coach for a team with two straight ACC Championship Game appearances.

The Eagles return 16 starters, 7 on offense and defense, and both specialists. The headliner is 2008 ACC Player of the Year Mark Herzlich who will lead a unit that ranked 7th nationally in rush defense and pass efficiency defense a year ago.

However, BC will have to replace two stalwarts in the middle as both DT's are gone.

The biggest hole to fill on offense will be at QB. Sophomore Dominque Davis started the final three games last year after Chris Crane was injured.

Davis will compete with redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle for the spot. Four starters return on the o-line with 84 career starts.

6. Clemson
Dabo Swinney has lost the interim title and is now the head Tiger in Clemson. Swinney went 4-3 after taking over for Tommy Bowden mid-season.

Clemson returns 15 starters - 7 on offense and 8 defense. CJ Spiller decided against entering the NFL Draft and will be the featured back this season after pairing with James Davis the past three years.

Clemson will have a new QB this year and the battle is shaping up between sophomore Willy Korn and Kyle Parker. The new QB will have five returning starters on the o-line protecting them, a breath of fresh air for Clemson.

The defense returns six of the front seven and 71% of the tackles made a year ago. Kevin Steele has come over from Alabama as defensive coordinator.

7. Miami
Randy Shannon welcomes the second most starters back in the ACC with 18 back this year and 58 total letterman.

Robert Marve has transferred leaving the door open for sophomore Jacory Harris to take the reins at QB. Also back are the backfield tandem of Graig Cooper and Javarris James. Both wideouts are back and so are three offensive lineman.

The defense returns eight starters, but lost its two top tacklers from a year ago. LB Sean Spence leads a young defensive crew comprised mostly of sophomores and juniors.

K/P Matt Bosher also returns coming off 2nd Team All-ACC performances at both positions as a sophomore.

8. NC State
The Wolfpack have high hopes in 2009 after returning to bowl play last year. Third year coach Tom O'Brien has 15 starters back, including ACC Rookie of the Year QB Russell Wilson.

Wilson suffered through injuries his freshman year but managed to lead the 'Pack to four straight victories to end the regular season. Toney Baker returns to run the ball after missing almost all of the last two years. Both receivers return as do three lineman.

The top three tacklers return with seven starters total back in Raleigh. This unit should be very strong against the run as they held their final five opponents to under 100 yards per game on average.

9. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe has to be excited about the offense he has returning in '09 with nine guys back.

QB Riley Skinner is a senior and has five lineman back to protect him. Skinner is the most accurate passer in ACC history but will have to find new targets as both starting WRs are gone.

Grobe's excitement is tamed somewhat by a defense returning just four starters. Gone is likely top 10 pick Aaron Curry at LB as is CB Alphonso Smith who earned consensus All American honors. The Deacs must replace nearly 65% of their tackling and 80% of their turnovers forced.

One of the best kickers in ACC history Sam Swank is gone too.

10. Maryland
The Terps have the fewest returning starters of anyone in the ACC with just 11.

On the offensive side of the ball, six starters are back including QB Chris Turner and RB Da'Rel Scott who finished second in the ACC in rushing. Top target WR Darius Heyward-Bey will have to replaced.

The Terps defense returns just four starters and just two of the front seven from last year. But nearly 50% of the tackles from last year return.

11. Virginia
Al Groh barely survived his eighth season as UVA Head Coach having to fire his Offensive Coordinator and son Mike Groh.

13 starters and 33 letterman return to the Cavaliers squad. The offense has QB Marc Verica back and four lineman, but no skill position players. Only 21% of the receiving yards and 18% of the rushing yards return. Also, Verica is not guaranteed the starting job with former CB Vic Hall (running the spread) and former starter Jameel Sewell entering the mix as well.

The defense returns at least five starters (we'll have to see what happens with Hall). The Wahoos will have to replace a strong linebacking corps that lost all three starters.

12. Duke
David Cutcliffe comes into his second season at Duke with 12 starters and 33 letterman returning.

The Blue Devils will have the luxury of having their starting QB, 2nd team All-ACC Thaddeus Lewis, back for a second year in Cutcliffe's system.

Despite losing both their fullback and starting tailback, Duke returns over 70% of its rushing yards. Re'quan Boyette returns after missing all of 2008.

The defense will be led by the defensive line which is undersized, but athletic.



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Friday, April 17, 2009

ACC Spring Football Update: Tech's Johnson Confident In Offense

Back with more from Barnhart who this time travels around some of the heavy weights in the ACC as they wrap up their Spring Practice.

Four ACC teams have already concluded practice and five more take to the field for the final time on Saturday, including Georgia Tech.

Tony writes that Tech head coach Paul Johnson is not concerned about teams catching up to his offense in year two.

“When we were at Georgia Southern we played the same teams every year,” said Johnson, implying that things turned out okay in Statesboro, where he won five straight Southern Conference championships and a pair of national championships"

“People may get better at defending it but we’ll get better at running it, too” Johnson said. “That much I do know.”
Sounds about right to me. Only the physical superiority of LSU stopped the offense cold in the Chick Fil A Bowl, much like Miami did to the former Big 8 teams in the 80s.

Tide Not On Hokies’ Minds….Yet
“Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said that Alabama, the Hokies’ opening opponent on Sept. 5 at the Georgia Dome, will not be discussed this spring.

“We’re trying to get ourselves better right now. We’re concentrating on trying to get Virginia Tech better” - Frank Beamer
Va Tech will put up a much tougher test than Clemson did last year for 3 reasons:
1. Frank Beamer is a better coach than Tommy Bowden
2. Nobody will be underestimating Alabama this year
3. See point #1

Korn Not Guaranteed Clemson QB Job...
Former HS All American Wily Korn is in a battle with redshirt freshman Kyle Parker for the starting QB job at Clemson. Many thought Korn would beat out Cullen Harper his freshman year, but the former Byrnes HS star has yet to overly impress the Clemson staff.

Parker’s baseball career could play into the decision as well.
“Someone asked Swinney if he would lean toward playing Parker because Parker might decide to concentrate on baseball if he doesn’t win the job.” - Tony Barnhart
More of Tony’s College Football Ramblings



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SEC Spring Football Update: Florida Tweaks Offense, Fights Complacency

Tony Barnhart, aka “Mr College Football”, has five questions for SEC teams heading into their Spring Games. Eight teams will have their final spring scrimmage this weekend.

LSU’s Highly Touted Shepard Will Stick at QB…For Now
“Expect LSU to come up with a package of plays for [Russell] Shepard because he is too good an athlete not to be on the field somewhere" - Tony Barnhart
The true freshman Shepard has been described as a Vince Young type athlete so it is highly likely he will play early. What I found most interesting was that Jarrett Lee was still in the mix after his 16 interception performance in 2008 (7 of which were pick-sixes).

Tim Tebow taking snaps from center?
“Teams are doing a much better job of defending what we do. So we do a lot of quality control on our offense. One of the things we want to do is put Tim under center says Urban Meyer”
I find it interesting Meyer is saying teams are defending his offense better considering what his team did down the stretch last season.

Meyer hired formed Michigan QB coach Scott Loeffler in the offseason to help Tebow and the Florida QBs with their mechanics and technique. Loeffler worked with Tom Brady and Chad Henne among others while in Ann Arbor. But I imagine when push comes to shove that Tebow will be in the shotgun when the Gators need a first down.

In addition to the
tweaks to the Gators’ offense, Florida is also trying to fight complacency with a rugged off season.

Elsewhere in the SEC…
Tony says Jonathan Crompton is likely to be the QB for the Vols despite being the blame for Tennessee’s offensive failures last year.

Greg McElroy is way ahead in the Alabama QB race.

And Auburn doesn’t really have a QB to run Gus Malzhan’s offense. Looks like It will be tough for Chizik to double his career win total from 5 to 10.

Tony Barnhart’s College Football Ramblings



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College Baseball Regional Projections: ACC, SEC Looking Strong

Updated 5/21: Regional Projections as of May 21

The College Baseball Blog has updated Regional Projections from April 16. They have Cal State-Fullerton as the top seed with Arkansas (3), Miami (5), North Carolina (6), LSU (7), and Georgia Tech (8) also in the top 8 seeds. The top 8 typically host Super Regionals if they advance.

Other ACC and SEC teams hosting Regionals are Georgia (paired with GT) and Clemson (paired with LSU). The ACC has 7 teams total and the SEC 9 teams.

SE Baseball’s latest projections from 4/14 differ somewhat with Georgia as a top 8 seed and Miami and North Carolina dropping out of the top 8 into the top 16 range.

Warren has a baseball RPI out and Georgia Tech is #1 with the ACC rated as the #1 conference and the SEC as #2.

SEC Weekend Preview from the College Baseball Blog
First place Georgia hosts second place Arkansas this weekend.

ACC Weekend Preview
Miami travels to North Carolina this weekend for a match up of top 10 teams.



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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

QB Greg Paulus, Spring Practice Updates, and Other Thursday Links

Some Links to Chew On Thursday...

New Trash Talk Material...
Ever wonder how well your team has fared since the inception of the AP Poll? Well, now you have
all new trash talk material for your friends and co workers. Michigan leads in football for all time appearances and North Carolina for basketball. But you can look by decade, number one appearances, etc.

Georgia's Spring Game Still Leaves Questions...
Georgia had their spring game the past weekend televised by ESPN.
The AJC brought up these questions afterwards. The two teams combined for only 16 points. Does that mean UGA has a bad offense or a good defense? Probably somewhere in between.

Bonfires and National Championships in High Speed...
A little old, but here is a video of
Franklin Street after North Carolina’s National Championship win last Monday. I was able to be in Chapel Hill on Franklin St last year for their win over Duke in Durham and the scene was about 1/10th of this because the students were on Spring Break.

Contrary to Popular Belief, Duke Basketball Has Athletes?
Remember Greg Paulus? The guy who started as a freshman for Duke and became a bench warmer by his senior year?
Green Bay wants to look at the kid for QB in the NFL. Well Paulus was a very highly touted QB coming out of HS and turned down Notre Dame football for Duke basketball. Gotta give the kid some due because he had the opportunity to play the two most polarizing positions in college sports. UPDATE: And now Rich Rod has offered the kid a scholarship at Michigan!

Football Replaces Shopping After Thanksgiving...
CBS moves the
Auburn-Alabama game to Friday after Thanksgiving giving the Paul Finebaum show topics during an otherwise dead period. The rationale behind this move is that CBS wants to have FSU-Florida and Auburn-Alabama on this year. With both on Saturday, they could only choose one.

South Carolina Spring Practice...Nothing We Didn't Already Know
Steve Spurrier is in year 5 and still does not have a legitimate SEC QB. His prized recruit
Stephen Garcia finished Spring Practice as the #1 QB, but until he shows he can not throw interceptions for a considerable span of the season, the Gamecocks are looking at the third in the SEC East at best. More on South Carolina’s Spring Game

What Ever Happenned to...
Mitch Mustain? Mustain was the #1 recruit in the nation a few years ago coming out of HS in the same class as Stafford and Tebow. He transferred to USC after Gus Malzhan left Arkansas. Well now he is stuck behind two All Americans at Southern Cal, including a true freshman who should still be at Mater Dei High School.

Georgia Tech Is Fumbling Less This Spring...
Georgia Tech Spring Practice Update. The offense looks much better than the fumbling, bumbling version seen this time last year. GT's Spring Game is this Saturday.

Brandon Spikes Just Can't Leave Tebow...
Brandon Spikes returned to Florida in a surprising move considering his NFL Draft prospects. I heard Meyer said he didn’t have to worry about his team being focused with all the hype building last year. Tebow took care of the offense and Spikes on the defense.

Comparing the Creams of the Crop....
If you want to
compare North Carolina’s national championships here is a good link from one of the best UNC blogs. I think this year’s version is better than the 2005 version which won some very close games in that Tournament run. The 2005 version had more NBA ready talent, but 2009 was much more dominant.

Man Boobs...
Andre Smith finally
makes a good NFL Draft move . If you want to see something disgusting then google for Andre Smith’s 40 yard dash at his pro day. Pamela Anderson is jealous.

And finally, the
One Shining Moment Video.



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Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Carolina-Michigan State Prediction National Championship Game Pick

After three weeks and 62 NCAA Tournament Games it all comes down to Monday Night in Detroit for the 2009 National Championship.

The Michigan State Spartans are the feel good story playing in front of a home crowd at Ford Field in a city and state that has been rocked for years by a souring auto industry. If you thought Sparty had a large contingent on Saturday, just wait until Monday.

But many Tar Heel fans will be making the trip from parts all over (they are the nation's most popular team) hoping for their second title in five years. It is only fitting these two teams meet for the championship as they are arguably the top two programs over the past five seasons.

Now that we have set the stage, lets move to that 800 pound gorilla over in the corner...North Carolina Beat Michigan State by 35 in December in the stadium. But What Does That Mean?

Not as much as the CBS commentators and ESPN talking heads will make it out to be. Sparty had just played three games in four days the previous weekend and Tom Izzo was also without center Goran Suton.

After the loss, Michigan State promptly went on a 12 game winning streak beating Texas, Kansas, Ohio State, Illinois, and Penn State.

But the blowout win in December does mean North Carolina has a lot of confidence heading into Monday Night. The Spartans know they have their work cut out for them even before the tip, but I think that is the way Izzo wants it.

I have said it all Tournament, if North Carolina is hitting their shots then they are almost impossible to beat. In all four of their losses this season they have shot less than 45 percent.

They shot 48 percent back in the December win and also forced 22 turnovers from Michigan State who averages just 13 on the season.

North Carolina's much maligned defense has been much improved in the Tournament allowing more than 70 points just once so far after giving up 76 per game in ACC play. The Tar Heels held Villanova to 33 percent shooting and eight points under their season average.

Michigan State has the best X's and O's coach in the nation, momentum from winning two straight as underdogs, and the home town crowd behind them. But that does not make up for the talent difference at every position.

Michigan State will have to grab nearly every loose ball, close out on shooters, and slow down the pace to pull off the upset. I think this game needs to be in the low 70s and Carolina have an off night shooting for Sparty to pick up their second title this decade.

But it will be the Tar Heels, not the Spartans, matching Florida with two titles capping off Tyler Hansbrough's college career as one of the best ever.

Pick: North Carolina

source: reuters

Season: 47-29 SU through 4/4



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Sunday Links

With nothing going on until Monday Night's Championship game - North Carolina vs Michigan State, I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some reading. These links also appear on the right hand side. We have a wide variety of topics from coaches salaries, Spring Practice reports, and Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady.

Click "read more" if you want more links (got about 60 this week)


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Friday, April 3, 2009

North Carolina-Villanova Prediction: Talent Lifts Tar Heels

#1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs #3 Villanova Wildcats

UNC makes its second straight appearance in the Final Four with redemption on their mind after being run out of the Alamo Dome by eventual National Champion Kansas last year. They will face a red hot Villanova team that is the decided under dog in Detroit. Many expected UNC and UConn to be here and Michigan State is the home town team. But can Villanova channel some magic from an even bigger Cinderella, their 1985 national championship team?


The favored Tar Heels are the most talented team on the offensive end of the floor in college basketball. Villanova does not have the stars that Carolina has, but they do have five players who average more than nine points per game – UNC’s five starters average in double figures. Like North Carolina, Villanova is a good free throw shooting team hitting 75 percent on the season including 22 of 23 in the win over Pitt.

Villanova’s defense is small, but athletic, and has multiple players who can guard multiple positions. Head Coach Jay Wright’s team held a hot shooting Duke team to under 30 percent from the floor in the Sweet 16 thrashing of the Blue Devils. But Wright will have much tougher questions to answer on Saturday night guarding Carolina. Do they double down on Hansbrough and leave Ellington, Greene, and company open from the outside? In the win over Pitt, DeJuan Blair was double teamed much of the game. But the Panthers do not have the outside shooters to hurt Villanova like Carolina has. And when Blair was left alone he was 9 for 9 from the field. The Wildcats have to play great defense and not allow easy shots because when Carolina hits 45 percent or better they are undefeated.

It has been three paragraphs and you are probably wondering about Ty Lawson’s injury and how will affect his play. What injury I ask? I have not seen any ill effects from his toe in the last two games. If you are injured then you are not playing and if you are playing then you are not injured. He will face his sternest test of the tournament when matching up with Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds whose style is very similar. But everywhere else you look on the floor, North Carolina will have the advantage.


You might think I am glossing over North Carolina’s biggest weakness, their defense. But if the Heels are hitting their shots I do not think it matters. In their four losses this season, North Carolina has shot under 45 percent in all four. The Tar Heels defense is improving as the stakes are raised in this tournament. In the Elite Eight win over Oklahoma, Blake Griffin scored 23 points but it was a very quiet 23 points largely due to the double teams he faced on every touch. The Sooners were just 2 for 19 from three point land.

As well as Villanova is playing, I still like North Carolina to advance to the Championship Game. Former UNC coach and player Matt Doherty compared this Tar Heel team to Noah’s Ark because they have two of everything. They have two inside scorers in Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson. They have two three point shooters in Wayne Ellington and Danny Greene. They have two point guards in Ty Lawson and Bobby Frasor. And they even have two shot blockers named Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller in their “weak” defense. Remember Davis’ name for Monday’s game. His size and athleticism could be a great equalizer against UConn or Michigan State.

See how I didn’t even mention one North Carolina player twice in their Ark of Talent? That is how deep this UNC team is and only a poor shooting night can prevent them from making it to Monday night’s Championship Game.

Pick: North Carolina

Season: 46-29 SU through 3/30


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