East Region: No. 1 North Carolina (30-4) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (28-5)
When: Thursday, 9:57 p.m., EDT
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
1) Make it Wayne Let's get this out of the way for those waking from comas: Tyler Hansbrough is the ACC's all-time leading scorer and Tywon Lawson's got an injured toe. If the Heels make some noise in the Big East Invitational, it will be because two OTHER players step it up. Wayne Ellington has been on fire, shooting 50% from beyond the arc in March. At times he's been the best player on the court, leading the team in scoring three of the last four games. However, he's been strangely inconsistent at the free throw line.
2) Special Ed Because of injuries and suspensions, bench production has been a bit thin. The exception is skinny Ed Davis, a defensive presence and rebounding machine. Against LSU he had more minutes, points, rebounds, and blocks than starter Deon Thompson.
3) The guards smell blood In each of UNC's losses, the opposing backcourt went off and carried the team to victory. That drooling sound you hear? Guards dreaming of shooting down Hansbrough's last shot at a title and becoming the next great Carolina villain. — SPS
1) Rock Chalk, Ex-Jayhawk Gonzaga has been using 6' 9" wing/guard Micah Downs in the starting lineup lately, bringing former starter Steven Gray off the bench—this gives the Zags 3 starters (Downs, Daye, Heytvelt) over 6' 8"— opponents don't usually counter with that kind of size in the lineup, and it presents matchup problems, especially when Downs spots up behind the arc. Downs last played for Kansas under—small world—current Carolina coach Roy Williams.
2) It's like an entire team of Euros Gonzaga lives and dies by the three point shot—and seven guys on the team are legitimate long-range threats, including Daye and Heytvelt, the bigs. All five starters plus Gray have more than 20 3pt makes on the season; Bouldin leads the team in this category with 55 (through the regular season), and Heytvelt, Bouldin and Daye all shoot 40% or better from 3pt range. The guards are all >35% 3pt shooters, and each have over 120 3pt attempts. In the tournament, Pargo and Bouldin each made 3 triples against Western Kentucky. Tight perimeter defense tends to free up Daye and Heytvelt inside—witness their 60+ percent shooting against Akron.
3) Playing while maimed Gonzaga has been down at the half in each of its tournament games, by 3 to Akron, and by 2 to Western Kentucky. In each case, Gonzaga rallied in the second half to hold off their opponents, while coping with rectal tearing and straining from the half-time speech. Coach Mark Few lost his eyebrows at halftime against Akron, prompting a collection to be taken up in Spokane for restorative surgery. — Johninho