(1) North Carolina vs. (8) Creighton: Midwest Region
North Carolina 30-5, 14-2 ACC (Regular-season Conference Champions)
Creighton 29-5, 14-4 MVC (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 5:15 p.m. Sunday
Location: Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.
First round results
North Carolina def. Vermont, 77-58
Creighton def. Alabama, 59-58
Winner will face: (12) South Florida or (13) Ohio, Friday at St. Louis
North Carolina No. 4 AP; No. 5 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Creighton No. 19 AP; No. 20 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
North Carolina 4
Line: North Carolina -8½ (O/U 159)
Players to Watch
North Carolina: F Tyler Zeller, 7-0 Sr. (16.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 55.5% FG); G Kendall Marshall, 6-4 So. (7.8 ppg, 9.7 apg, 1.2 spg); F Harrison Barnes, 6-8 So. (17.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 37.7% 3s). Marshall earned his fifth double-double of the year – and his fourth in the Heels’ last five games – with an 11-point, 10-rebound performance in Friday’s win over Vermont.
Creighton: F Doug McDermott, 6-7 So. (23.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 61% FG); G Antoine Young, 6-0 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.1 rpg); C Gregory Echenique, 6-9 Jr. (9.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 61.4% FG). McDermott earned his 10th double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 boards in Friday’s win. The sophomore, who is the nation’s third-leading scorer, has scored in double-figures in every game this season.
Why Each Team Dangerous
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are a chic national championship pick for good reason. They lead the nation in points per 40 minutes (72.7), total points (2,864), rebounds per game (44.8), offensive rebounds (548) and defensive rebounds (1,021). They’re second in points per game (81.2) and third in rebounding percentage (56.2). UNC is long, athletic and skilled. On Friday, they held Vermont to 39.7 percent from the field, 16.7 from the 3-point line, blocked six shots and forced 19 turnovers, even without C John Henson, who missed his third straight game with a wrist injury. Behind Marshall, the Tar Heels are sixth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.45-to-1) and fourth in college basketball in assists per game (17.3).
Creighton: The Blue Jays are one of the best shooting teams in the country, making them a threat to beat anyone on any given day. The Blue Jays are one of only three teams that shoot better than 50 percent from the field and they lead the country at 50.8 percent. They’re also one of three teams to shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line at 42.5. They are ninth nationally at 79.4 points per game and second in points per possession. Creighton allows offensive rebounds on 26 percent of opponents' shots and they have a 1.47-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
North Carolina: Henson’s injury continues to be an issue. He was expected by many to return Friday. While his absence may have been a precaution against a physically inferior Vermont team, Tar Heel fans have to be concerned. Without Henson, the Heels were out-rebounded by the Catamounts for just the seventh time against season. UNC is not a great perimeter shooting team and will not be able to go blow-for-blow with the Blue Jays from deep.
Creighton: The Blue Jays have decent size, but not when compared to UNC. The Tar Heels have forwards taller than Creighton’s center. They only out-rebounded Alabama 30-29 and Alabama is no North Carolina. Creighton applies almost no pressure to opposing offenses, getting steals on only seven percent of opponent’s possessions and forcing just 10.4 turnovers per game. That could allow Marshall to survey the Blue Jay defense and pick it apart.
The Bottom Line: If John Henson doesn’t play and Creighton hits 3s, which it is capable of doing, this could game could upset a lot of brackets.
The Pick: North Carolina 84, Creighton 77
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 216-165-6 (Through Friday, March 17)
Round of 32 Against the Spread: 19-12-1