Men's NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Sweet Sixteen Breakdown
The big news heading into Sweet Sixteen for North Carolina is the wrist injury to Kendall Marshall. In the Tar Heels 87-73 victory over Creighton, Marshall tallied 18 points and 11 assists. Marshall is the playmaker on this team…any scoring is just a bonus. North Carolina did not avoid any major injuries or suspensions prior to the NCAA Tournament, like fellow #1 seeds Michigan State and Syracuse, when they lost John Henson. Those two teams have had a couple games to figure out life without one of their players. The Tar Heels will be thrown right into the Sweet Sixteen without Marshall. The good news is Henson came back and tallied 13 points and ten rebounds against the Bluejays. But there will only be one game where UNC was really at full strength.
Fortunately for UNC, the opposition could have been tougher as they will face off against #13 seed Ohio. The Bobcats managed to out shoot Michigan and then buckle down and run an efficient offensive game plan against South Florida’s suffocating defense.
The Bobcats are capable of beating good teams when they are hitting from long range, but North Carolina is way too big for them in the paint. Both teams can get up and down the floor, but UNC can get into the paint with Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes and finish above the rim or with their back to the basket. Ivo Baltic and company will not have much success defending those guys. But the Bobcats can get some three-pointers and that could keep them in the game.
Beating San Diego State was one thing, but few expected the Wolfpack to get by Georgetown to reach the Regional Semifinals. North Carolina State did not get a great game by any one player, but the seven who played all did a great job. All five starters scored between nine and 14 points and Lorenzo Brown did a little bit of everything. For the most part the Hoyas played their style of game, but NC State had answers for everything except Hollis Thompson. But Thompson could not win the game on his own.
The Wolfpack now run into Kansas, who beat Purdue in a thrilling game. The Jayhawks were down from the start thanks to the hot hand of Robbie Hummel, but Kansas kept chipping away and finally took the lead in the second half and held on to the win. Thomas Robinson was shut down for most of the game and ended up with 11 points. Robinson did do plenty of work on the glass though while the backcourt trio of Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Tyshawn Taylor did a bulk of the scoring.
Kansas may need more consistent offensive production against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack will attempt to do what Purdue did and stop Robinson and force the perimeter players to win the game. It worked pretty well for Purdue for the better part of 39 minutes. For the Wolfpack to win they will likely need one of their many scoring options to step up and take over. Nobody did that in the scoring department against Georgetown, but this should be a higher scoring game and Howell will need to dominate in the paint, Brown will need to hit some three’s or Leslie will need to attack the basket effectively.