North Carolina Tar Heels (23-9, 13-5 ACC)-No team had more of a Jekyl-and-Hyde regular season than the Tar Heels, who became the first team in history to beat the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 teams in the AP poll. They also lost to Belmont and UAB. Things looked bleak for the ‘Heels in early February after losses to Wake Forest, Miami, Syracuse and Virginia, but UNC rebounded to win 12 in a row before finishing the season with losses to Duke and Pittsburgh.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige has mirrored the team’s inconsistency, putting up huge scoring totals (35 against NC State, 32 against Louisville) in some games and disappearing in others. Paige is also the team’s assists leader (4.5 apg). If he finds his groove early, he could lead the ‘Heels to a deep tournament run.
James Michael McAdoo (14.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is another wildcard for the ‘Heels. He has the talent to be one of the better players in the country, but needs to be more aggressive at times. Senior Leslie McDonald (10.7 ppg) provides a steady, veteran presence in the backcourt.
9th Rebounds per Game (39.9)
21st Assists per Game (15.7)
46th Steals per Game (7.4)
46th Blocks per Game (4.9)
11. Providence Friars (23-11, 13-8 Big East)- Providence marched through the Big East tournament behind all-conference guard Bryce Cotton, who may be unheralded but is one of the best point guards in the country. Cotton put on a performance reminiscent of Kemba Walker in the Friats’ championship game defeat of Creighton, .
It was Providence’s first Big East tournament title since 1994. The performance put a stamp on Cotton’s spectacular season. He’s averaging 21.3 points and 5.9 assists per game, and is the unquestioned leader of this club.
6-6 junior forward LaDontae Henton does everything well, and leads the team in field goal percentage (45.1%) and steals (1.4). He also pulls down 7.6 boards per game. 6-9 sophomore forward Tyler Harris has been outstanding of late, and put up 17 in the Friars’ semifinal win over Seton Hall. He could be an x-factor for the Friars in the NCAAs.
This isn’t the same old Big East, but if you don’t think the Friars can at least win a game in the tournament, you’re wrong.
83rd Points per Possession (1.09)
138th Three-Point Percentage (35.2%)
262nd Field Goal Percentage (42.6)
PREDICTION: North Carolina