NCAA Tournament: ACC Sweet 16 Previews

No. 1 North Carolina (31-5) vs. No. 13 Ohio (29-7), 7:47 PM, TBS (St. Louis, MO)

Early male and female versions of the Ohio bobcat.

Kendall Marshall is likely out for this game, so Carolina is going to have to make do without its point guard. The Tar Heels are capable of doing that, but they’re playing an Ohio team that can force a ton of turnovers and will pressure the Carolina backup point guards.

Key to the game: Carolina using its size advantage. The tallest Ohio player is 6-8, and their two NCAA tournament opponents have hit 53.2% of their two-point attempts (Ohio made 46.2% from two). But the Bobcats have won in the tournament by getting to the foul line and hitting three’s (15-of-34, or 44.1%) while their opponents have hit just 9-of-38 three’s (23.7%). Maybe the Bobcats, who shoot 33.8% from three on the year, will go cold. But even if they don’t, Carolina has to make sure it dominates the paint on both ends, which it doesn’t need Marshall to do.

Opponent to watch: D.J. Cooper. The 5-11 junior point guard has been among the national leaders in both assist rate and steal rate since his freshman year, and he has basically been the Ohio offense. Lately, he’s been a tricky matchup for opponents since he’s hitting three-pointers (41.7% in the NCAA tournament) and slashing to the basket. He’s averaging 19.8 points and 6.4 assists over the last five games.

While Kendall Marshall was hardly a defensive dynamo, he still called the defenses for Carolina and helped his teammates get where they needed to be since he knew opponents’ sets. Michigan and South Florida are pretty good defensive teams, and even they couldn’t find a way to contain him. It seems like a tall order for a freshman point guard or even a very solid defensive player in Justin Watts, who is not used to guarding point guards.

Prediction: North Carolina 74, Ohio 65

Random Mascot Facts: Ohio was just known as the “Green and White” until 1925 when they picked the Bobcat “for its reputation as a sly, wily, scrappy animal”. They renamed their mascot “Rufus” in 2006 (because the bobcat species name is Lynx rufus). In 1940, Bing Crosby gave Ohio a live bobcathe had received from an fan of his swing band (called The Bobcats). It went to the Cleveland Zoo and eventually died after it was allegedly poisoned.

And today’s Bobcat mascot is perhaps best known for doing this to the Buckeye:

No. 11 NC State (24-12) vs. No. 2 Kansas (29-6), 10:17 PM, TBS (St. Louis, MO)

The Jayhawk in 1917. No, seriously. It's not a duck.

NC State believes it can win this game, even facing a very good Kansas team in St. Louis (which is just under a five-hour drive from Lawrence). If State can play smart basketball and maintain its self-belief throughout any adversity during the game, the Wolfpack will at least have a chance down the stretch.

Key to the game: NC State’s inside game vs. Kansas. The Jayhawks present all kinds of matchup problems for NC State on both ends with a front line of potential National Player of the Year in Thomas Robinson (6-9) and 7-foot shot-blocking machine Jeff Withey. But C.J. Leslie presents matchup problems for Kansas as well with his athleticism, and Richard Howell can be just as tenacious as Robinson on the glass. And like NC State, Kansas doesn’t have much of a bench. State needs to find a way to get Kansas’ bigs in trouble as they did Georgetown’s. If State is the team in foul trouble, it could be a long evening.

Opponent to watch: Tyshawn Taylor. After a very shaky start to the season, Taylor has been fantastic, leading his team in scoring during the Big 12 season. His strength has been as a scorer (of his 13 games with 20 or more points, 11 have come in the last 19 games). He shoots nearly 50% from the floor and 42% from three, and he takes plenty of shots. Taylor also bounced back from some horrifying turnover numbers (including 11 in a loss to Duke). He committed three or fewer turnovers in 14 of Kansas’s final 21 games.

If he has a weakness, it’s at the foul line where he shoots just 69.4 percent, and he doesn’t rebound very well. That’s a good matchup for State’s Lorenzo Brown, who averages 4.5 rebounds. With as well as Brown has been defending lately, this matchup could help turn the game in the Wolfpack’s favor. Brown seems more than ready to take on the challenge, but it will be a stiff test as Taylor hardly lacks for confidence.

Prediction: Kansas 78, NC State 71

Random Mascot Facts: A Jayhawk is a mythical bird (combination of a blue jay and a sparrow hark) and its usage dates back to 1848, referencing the settlers in the Kansas Territory. A blue jay is known to rob other nests and a sparrow hawk is a stealthy hunter, so as this website says: “Don’t turn your back on this bird.” But the best recent story about the Jayhawk involved a little girl (a Kansas State fan) who refused to color in a picture of a Jayhawk and instead colored in a picture of a Wildcat:

Last week: 5-4

Season: 146-54 (14-7 Postseason)

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