ROUNDBALL DAILY

NCAA Tournament Predictions: Midwest Region 1. North Carolina vs. 16. Lamar/Vermont

By: Kels Dayton

 North Carolina (29-5, 14-2 ACC)-The Tar Heels are impressive by any measure you take. They have a fantastic transition offense, led by point guard Kendall Marshall, who finished second in the nation in assists per game (9.7). They also boast one of the nation’s premiere swingmen in 6-8 forward Harrison Barnes, who averaged 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Barnes will be a lottery pick whenever he enters the NBA Draft.

Forward Harrison Barnes (Getty Images)

The Heels are also big inside, with 7-0 stud senior Tyler Zeller (16.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and 6-11 junior forward John ‘The Big Muppet’ Henson.

Henson averaged 13.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, and is the Tar Heels’ answer to Kentucky forward Anthony Davis. He is a big-time factor defensively, and can change games with his length and size inside.

North Carolina isn’t the most experienced team, particularly at the decision-making positions, and has suffered some puzzling losses, namely a 90-57 blowout at the hands of Florida State in January. Still, this is, along with Kentucky, one of the two most talented teams in the nation. (Just look at the game at Duke for more proof of that.)

If they put it all together, the Tar Heels could waltz to the Final Four and cut the nets down once they get to New Orleans. If they falter, it’s likely going to be due to inexperience and defensive breakdowns, which plagued UNC in losses to Duke and Florida State twice.

KEY STATS:

2nd Points per game (82.0)

1st Rebounds per game (45.2)

4th Assists per game (17.6)

Team stats courtesy www.espn.com.

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 16 Lamar (23-11, 11-5 Southland)

Lamar responded after head coach Pat Knight "threw them under the bus." (David J. Phillip/AP)

The winner of this First Four matchup will be the sacrificial lamb in a second-round game against North Carolina. Lamar is coached by Pat Knight, son of legendary Indiana coach and ESPN analyst Bob Knight. The Cardinals won the Southland Conference tournament after their coach lit into their work ethic in a public press conference. Lamar is led by senior guards Mike James (17.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Anthony Miles (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.1 apg).

KEY STATS:

45th Points per game (73.9)

10th Rebounds per game (39.6)

 16 Vermont (23-11, 13-3 America East)

Vermont is a defensvie-minded team, so this figures to be an interesting First Four matchup on truTV on Wednesday. The Catamounts struggle to score, but leading scorer Four McGlynn is a clutch shooter and the team has proven it can find ways to make winning plays down the stretch in games.

KEY STATS:

123rd Rebounds per game (35.4)

24th Points Allowed per game (60.5)

PREDICTION: Lamar 

Second-Round PREDICTION: North Carolina 

Team stats courtesy www.espn.com.

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