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InsideHoops [NCAA Home]

NCAA Tournament Preview





/ Mar. 15, 2005

The 2005 NCAA Basketball Tournament promises to be as action-packed as fans have come to expect. The NCAA Tournament has four regions. Here's a preview of the Syracuse region of competition. The teams in the "Who's looking sweet" section are predicted to reach the round of Sweet 16.


1. North Carolina
2. Connecticut
3. Kansas
4. Florida
5. Villanova
6. Wisconsin
7. Charlotte
8. Minnesota
9. Iowa State
10. North Carolina State
11. Northern Iowa
12. New Mexico
13. Ohio
14. Bucknell
15. Central Florida
16. Oakland/Alabama A&M

Who to watch out for: North Carolina State, New Mexico, Bucknell

Who’s looking sweet: North Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, Villanova

Just imagine the possibilities in this Syracuse region. How about Roy Williams’ Tar Heels vs. Roy Williams’ former employer, Kansas, with a trip to the Final Four on the line? What about Jim Calhoun and UConn vs. Williams and UNC in that same scenario? And don’t forget about the critical play-in game that kicks off the tourney featuring Oakland (12-18) and tournament first-timer Alabama A&M. This region is loaded with talent, and is the most stacked out of all of the regions. Florida is arguably playing as good as anyone in the country right now, fresh off of their SEC tournament championship win over Kentucky. Villanova had a very good showing in the Big East tournament, and was a bad foul away from reaching the title game against Syracuse. The Wildcats are a very dangerous team. The possible 4/5 match-up between Florida and Villanova in the round of 32 has instant classic written all over it.

Intriguing teams include Bucknell and New Mexico. The Bucknell Bison have already won AT Pittsburgh this season, and are no joke. Kansas has already had first round trouble with the Patriot League, as well. If you can think back to 2002, the top seeded Jayhawks narrowly escaped from 16-seed and Patriot League champion Holy Cross. If the Jayhawks are looking past the Bison, then we could see a massive bracket-busting upset.

The New Mexico Lobos beat Utah for the second time this year to grab the Mountain West Conference’s automatic bid, and have a premier player in Danny Granger (19 points per game, 8.8 rebounds). It seems like every year at least one 12 seed knocks off a five seed and the Lobos are solid enough pull off the job. The one large question mark about New Mexico this season was its strength of schedule, which ranked 299th in the country. The Lobos will have to pass its toughest tests of the year, and Granger will have to be on his game for them to move on.

North Carolina State figures to be an interesting team in this region. The Wolfpack were thought to be NIT bound until a late surge by a finally-healthy squad propelled them into the NCAA tournament. Senior Julius Hodge is finally getting the support from his teammates, specifically three-point sharpshooter Ilian Evtimov, and swingman Cameron Bennerman, and the Wolfpack are no longer a walkover. Their 7/10 game with Charlotte should be a great one featuring two teams with different styles of play. NCST runs a Princeton-style, slow paced game based on backdoor cuts and many three pointers. Charlotte loves to run up the score, and has a frontline of stars Curtis Withers and Eddie Basden to accompany three-point gunner Brendan Plavich, who will shoot from anywhere on the floor if given an inch of space. The winner of that game will have a tough time facing up against Coach Calhoun’s Huskies, the defending national champions.

Connecticut, although missing out on the Big East championship, is playing as well as anybody in the nation. The front line of Rudy Gay, Josh Boone, and Charlie Villanueva is downright freakishly talented, and point guard Marcus Williams has finally peaked at the right time, finding consistency with his shot and his passing abilities. UConn can put a scare into anybody in this bracket, but in a potential Elite Eight match-up against North Carolina, the Tar Heels will come out on top, just as they did in Hartford a month ago.

North Carolina is the class of this star-studded region. Sean May looks as if he’ll play his way to a tourney Most Outstanding Player trophy, as he dominates the low post, and has great hands to catch the great passes from star point guard Raymond Felton. That inside-outside combination is among the most lethal in the college game. Rashad McCants is going to have to regain some of the strength he lost from sitting out because of an intestinal disorder in order for the Tar Heels to be the complete team they need to be to move on to St. Louis. If the versatile, can-score-from-anywhere-on-the-floor McCants shows up to complement Felton’s playmaking, May’s low post dominance, and the bench support from freshman star Marvin Williams and role players David Noel and Melvin Scott, Carolina will have no problem emerging from this extremely difficult region.

Predicted Region Champion: North Carolina Tar Heels

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