NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Predictions: Midwest Region 1. North Carolina vs. 13. Ohio

By: Kels Dayton

Alright, so your bracket is busted. So is everyone else’s. Now it’s time to put away the tissues, wipe your nose on your old bracket and start over. Get back in the game with a Sweet-16 pool, because from here on out the tournament is much more predictable. You can still win something on this thing—even though it won’t feel as glorious as it would have had you picked Lehigh to knock out Duke. So, sit back, relax, and read up on the tournament from here on out. Because everybody deserves a second chance–except Duke. They’re out.


1   North Carolina (31-5, Atlantic Coast Conference)

All the talk around the Tar Heels surrounds point guard Kendall Marshall's status for the rest of the Tournament. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: North Carolina defeated 16th-seeded Vermont 77-58, in the Round of 64 before outgunning Creighton, 87-73 in Round 3. The Tar Heels just had too many athletes for the Catamounts and Bluejays, and cruised to the Sweet 16.

BURNING QUESTION: Will Kendall Marshall be able to play? And if so, how effective can he be? Marshall suffered a fractured bone in his non-shooting wrist in the win over Creighton, and Tar Heels fans have been in an all-out panic ever since. The injury has a chance to derail what could have been a national championship season for Carolina, and we likely won’t know whether or not Marshall can even suit up until game time on Friday. Even if he can give it a go, he’s not going to be the same. Marshall had been playing his best basketball of the season of late, scoring 18 points and dishing out 11 assists before leaving the Creighton game with 7 minutes to play. He had scored in double figures in five straight games after averaging just 7.8 points per game during the season.

KEYS TO WINNING THE REGION: The Heels still have one of the most talented teams in the country even without Marshall, but someone is going to have to step up and fill his shoes. The most likely candidate is freshman Stilman White, who played just five minutes against Creighton and has played more than 10 minutes only once all season–in a 50-point blowout of Nicholls State. Senior Justin Watts could also fill the role, although he plays very sparingly and saw just 2 minutes of action in the Round of 32. If Roy Williams decides to go elsewhere, he could look to Harrison Barnes or Reggie Bullock to bring the ball up the floor. Neither of them has played the point in their collegiate careers.

X-FACTOR: Whoever replaces Marshall. That is the biggest question surrounding the Heels right now, and will have an immeasurable impact on North Carolina’s chances going forward.

Harrison Barnes is going to have to step up for North Carolina. (Photo: Draft

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Marshall can play, and he gives the Heels at least 50% of his former production. Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller step up big-time, and Carolina cruises to a win over overmatched Ohio. The Heels’ depth proves to be too much for 2nd-seeded Kansas or 11th-seeded N.C. State in the Elite Eight, as big contributions from John Henson, P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo allow them to cut the nets down in St. Louis.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Carolina is discombobulated without its leader and floor general, and struggles to score in the half-court. The ‘Heels have the depth and talent to push past Ohio, but Kansas proves too tough to handle. The Jayhawks get the best of UNC once again on the big stage, and Roy Williams is hounded with questions about losing to his former team for the next eight months.

CHANCE TO WIN REGION: 42%. It’s hard to say how much the Heels will miss Marshall, but this is still a tremendously gifted team. Harrison Barnes (17.4 ppg) will need to step up big-time, but Carolina is still the slight favorite to advance to New Orleans. That’s where things will get tricky for this club.


13  Ohio (29-7, Mid-American)

D.J. Cooper has been a Tournament star for the Bobcats. (AP Photo)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Ohio took out Michigan in a stirring upset on Friday night, then outlasted South Florida in Round 3. The Bobcats were very impressive in taking out USF, controlling the pace of play and putting up 41 points in the second half against a team that gives up just 51 points per game.

BURNING QUESTION: Can Ohio out-gun the Tar Heels in the Regional Semis? You would think not, but anything is possible without Marshall in the lineup for North Carolina. Bobcats point guard D.J. Cooper is a major talent playing at the mid-major level, and Walter Offut can catch fire. It’s going to be an interesting matchup for sure.

X-FACTOR: Bobcats big men. 6-8 forwards Reggie Keely (9.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Ivo Baltic (8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) are going to have to play big inside against the likes of Tyler Zeller and John Henson if Ohio is going to stand a chance of upsetting the Tar Heels.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper controls the pace of the game, Walter Offut goes off for 25-plus, and the Bobcats force plenty of Tar Heel turnovers in a stunning upset. The Bobcats benefit from N.C. State knocking off Kansas, and take out the Wolfpack en route to their first-ever Final Four.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: North Carolina is out to prove it can win without Marshall. The Heels swarm the Bobcats, and cruise to the Elite Eight.

CHANCE TO WIN REGION: 3%. Never say never with mid-majors in this tournament, but the cards seem to be stacked pretty high against Ohio U. They may be the coolest team in the Sweet 16, but unfortunately, they probably won’t be in the Elite Eight.

PREDICTION: North Carolina   

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