A look at why each Carolina school (remaining) in NCAA Tournament won't make it past the first weekend. And a look at why they will.
(vs. Texas Southern, Friday, 4 p.m., TNT)
WHY THEY WON'T: I'd say the Tar Heels, a one-seed, losing to 16th-seeded Texas Southern is impossible, but did you learn nothing from the 2016 NBA Finals, World Series, College Football championship, Super Bowl and election?
A No. 16 has, of course, never defeated a No. 1. And the last time UNC lost in the First Round, Bill Guthridge was the coach, and Ademola Okulaja led the team in scoring (1998-99).
But the Second Round could provide a tough matchup in Greenville. I like Seton Hall to beat Arkansas, and the Pirates schedule is littered with lots of games, and lots of wins, over NCAA Tournament teams. Just last week they nearly upset defending National Champion Villanova in the Big East semifinal.
WHY THEY WILL: Deep, complete, skilled, and motivated. This North Carolina team is built better than anyone in the field to win it all. They can beat you anyway you want them to (but they're gonna need to play defense at some point).
NICK'S PICK: North Carolina will make it past the first weekend, and beyond. I have them winning it all.
(vs. Troy, Friday, 7:20 p.m., TBS)
WHY THEY WON'T: If second-seeded Duke doesn't make it to the Sweet 16 in NYC, it won't be because of a loss to Troy in the First Round. Even Troy can't believe Troy is in the NCAA Tournament. They won the Sun Belt as the No. 6 seed.
The Blue Devils should be more worried about what comes on Sunday -- either a matchup against hot-shooting Marquette, or more likely, a game against a nice South Carolina team in their home state.
Duke has also lost twice in the Second Round in the last five tournaments (they also mixed in their fifth National Championship).
WHY THEY WILL: Duke gonna Duke, and Duke is Duke-ing. Playing their best ball in March. Their run through the ACC Tournament was indicative of their toughness and resiliency. Grayson Allen is finding his way, Luke Kennard is one of the best players in the country. Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson could be household names, too. And Harry Giles could finally play a big role as well.
NICK'S PICK: I have Duke getting past the Second Round, and going to the Final Four, losing to Arizona (mostly because when the heck is Arizona gonna do this thing?).
(vs. Marquette, Friday, 9:50 p.m., TBS)
WHY THEY WILL: Basically a home game in Greenville for the Gamecocks, in their first NCAA Tournament since 2004. It's Lancaster native Sindarius Thornwell's time to shine. The SEC Player of the Year could become a household name with two wins, delivering South Carolina to its first Sweet 16 since 1973 under Frank McGuire.
The Gamecocks defense will come up big against Marquette.
WHY THEY WON'T: Uh, Duke.
NICK'S PICK: I like South Carolina beating Marquette. But the Blue Devils are going to NYC.
(vs. Butler, Thursday, 1:30 p.m., TNT)
WHY THEY WON'T: Butler has two wins this year over defending National Champion Villanova, and also has a win over Arizona, which is in my Final Four. They're tough, smart and talented. And even if you beat them, you're looking at a really overlooked Minnesota team or even MTSU, probably the best 12 seed.
WHY THEY WILL: 13-4 upsets are the new 12-5, and I'll bite on the Eagles beating Butler. I liked what I saw from Winthrop in the Big South Tournament. It's a fun group with a made-for-March-Madness point guard in Keon Johnson, a tough-as-nails, 5-7 sharp-shooter with nothing to lose.
NICK'S PICK: I have Winthrop beating Butler, but losing to Middle Tennessee State
(vs. Virginia, 12:40 p.m., TruTV)
WHY THEY WON'T: As much as you probably don't like it, Virginia's defense can take it a long way. UNC-Wilmington may just end up like Louisville (twice), North Carolina, and others did this year -- stymied.
And if you take the Cavaliers out, you'll probably face Florida, which can also grind you down.
WHY THEY WILL: Kevin Keatts is one of the most sought after coaches in the country for a reason. North Meck product C.J. Bryce is good enough to take the Seahawks for a ride. And get past Virginia (no seriously please do this because I cannot watch them for prolonged periods of time) and Florida is ripe for an upset, too.
NICK'S PICK: I have UNCW beating UVA (for America) and losing to Florida. Although while typing this, I really like them beating Florida, but it's 1 a.m., and I have to drive to Greenville in the morning. No time to change the bracket.
Good night, and good luck!
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