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Of the 16 teams that are left standing in the field, there are only three that won their conference tournaments. One of the three are in action on Friday night in St. Louis, where we make our Sweet 16 picks in the clash between the Ohio Bobcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Sweet 16 Matchup: #4 Ohio Bobcats vs. #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Date: Friday, March 23rd, 7:45 ET
Location: Scottrade Arena, St. Louis, MO
Sweet 16 Odds: North Carolina -10.5
NCAA Tournament TV Schedule: TBS
The Bobcats are one of the three double digit seeds that are left in the NCAA Tournament, and they are going to try to do the best they can to take down one of the top teams in the country. Yes, Ohio has taken out a pair of teams that were from the power conferences, but neither one was truly one of the best in their respective conference, especially beating the South Florida Bulls in their third game of the week.
If Ohio is going to pull off the upset, it needs to play like it did at home this year, where it went a whopping 16-1. The team is going to need big time performances out of its guards, Walter Offutt and DJ Cooper. Offutt is coming off of a game against USF in which he scored 21 points on a rock solid 7-of-9 shooting. Cooper put up 19 points, seven helpers, and six boards in the same game, and he now has five straight games with at least 18 points scored. He averages 14.9 points, 5.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game, so it is clear that even at 5’11”, Cooper can fill up the stat sheet.
Of course, the big question that we have been asking of the Tar Heels all week long is what their backcourt is going to look like. We know that Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes are both tremendous athletes, and now that John Henson is back in the fold, it is clearly one of the best two or three frontcourts in the entire country. However, Dexter Strickland was already lost for the season before coming anywhere near the postseason, and now, Kendall Marshall has a broken wrist that just got out of a cast on Wednesday. Reggie Bullock is probably going to have to step up and do some more of the ball handling duties regardless of whether Marshall plays or not, but if he doesn’t, it is going to be a long game for the UNC guards against a very stingy set of Bobcats guards.
In the end though, the power of the Tar Heels is far going to outweigh the play of Offutt and Cooper. Barnes can handle the ball if need be as well, and as long as the pace of this one keeps up, the Bobcats are going to have no answers for all of the size and athleticism that Carolina has to bring to the table in the paint. The big time rebounding edge is going to go to the Tar Heels, and that is probably going to make all the difference. It has been a nice run for Ohio, but it is a run that is coming to a close on Friday night here in the Sweet 16.
Sweet 16 Free Pick: North Carolina Tar Heels -10.5
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse Projected Final Score: North Carolina 82 – Ohio 68